How to Write a Novel

10 Steps to Start Writing Your Novel from New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond

Michelle Richmond
Writers on Writing
Published in
13 min readNov 16, 2012


How to write a novel in 10 steps
Novel writing advice from the creator of Fiction Master Class and the internationally bestselling author of THE MARRIAGE PACT

So you want to write a novel. The first thing you need to know about writing a novel is that there are no easy answers. The second thing you need to know is that there is no magic formula. Every novel demands its own structure, its own pace, its own way of looking at the world. Although your first novel will certainly provide lessons you can carry into writing your second novel, that doesn’t mean the second novel will be easy. Nor will the third, fourth and so on.

A joyful adventure

Still with me? Good. Because, as it turns out, writing a novel isn’t just a head-banging exercise in utter frustration (although, trust me, sometimes it is that). It’s also a deep swim into your own head space and a joyful adventure. It’s your world. You get to make it, populate it, cultivate it, complicate it, put your characters through the paces, and bring all of the pieces together.

A learning curve…every time

Every novel presents a brand new learning curve. Trust me. I’ve published six novels with a major publisher, and I spend much of my time coaching aspiring writers through their first novels. Every single novel is a challenge. This is as true for beginning novelists as it is for seasoned writers. That said, there are a few things you can do to make the process go more smoothly.

If you’re ready to take on the challenge, here are 10 steps to help you start writing your novel.

How to Write a Novel in 10 Steps

1. Forget the outline. Start with situation.

Outlines are fine unless they derail you. I’ve seen it again and again: writers who end up spinning their wheels for years, beholden to a failed outline. The good thing about an outline is that it gives you direction. The bad thing about an outline is that it limits your novel’s possibilities and may cause you to get hopelessly stuck.

For the first fifty pages, at least, write your novel without an outline. Start with a situation and see where it goes. It works for Stephen King, who explains in…



Michelle Richmond
Writers on Writing

NYT bestselling author of THE MARRIAGE PACT, THE WONDER TEST, & others. Write with me: Books: