Writing Journal 70: My 3 Best Novel-Writing Tips

Writing Journal 70: My 3 Best Novel-Writing Tips

My writing journal for Tuesday, October 21, 2014. You can find all the writing journal entries here.

Today will be a short writing day. I have three meetings this morning. I’ll get my fiction and nonfiction ghostwriting commitments out of the way, then I’ll need to prepare for my meetings.

The mystery novel flows. Again. I manage another 2,400 words. I have no idea what’s going on. It may seem odd to quibble when a book’s going so well. However, it’s so unusual, that I can’t trust it. What if I suddenly realize that my sleuth is an idiot, and that a child could pick the murderer in the first chapter? Maybe I’ve just got to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. :-)

Onward with nonfiction: 1,400 words.

With those out of the way, it’s time for Honey’s breakfast. She’s a good eater, but she’s also fussy. She prefers her meat without vegetables, and she’d eat kibble all day long – but it has to be her favorite brand. I eat my own breakfast, while skimming through email.

Then a short timer session on the holiday copywriting projects for my client, before I prepare for my meetings.

Back again: mid-afternoon

I’m back. The meetings ran long again, as they always seem to do.

It takes me a couple of hours to write up my notes from the meetings, and add the projects and tasks which emerged from them to my schedule for the next three months. This is the busiest time of the year for some of my clients – this means it’s a busy time for me too.

I’ll be subcontracting some of the projects, so I spend an hour on the phone, discussing briefs and schedules with my subcontractors. I make some notes for the briefs, and send them off.

Then I return phone calls, check clients’ blogs to make sure that scheduled posts have been published, and the working day is over.

With NaNoWriMo coming up in just over a week, readers have asked for some tips.

OK… :-)

My 3 best novel-writing tips

1. Summarize the story as soon as possible

Over the years, I’ve learned how to outline fiction. However, I’m still a pantser by nature. (That is, a person who wings the story, discovering it with the reader.)

Ideally, you’ll outline the bare bones of the story in a paragraph before you start writing.

Something like this:

newly married Sarah witnesses a murder. Her new husband is one of the killers. He threatens to murder her parents and sister if she talks. Sarah knows that her husband wants her dead. Can she escape him and bring him to justice?

That’s not enough to start writing. You need to know the kind of person Sarah is. Over the course of the story, Sarah will grow as a character, from ____ (fill in the blank) to _______ (fill in the blank.)

Once you’ve got that, you can go deeper into developing the characters and plot.

If you’re a real pantser, and your brain freezes when you try to outline, just start writing. I talked about story-starters here.

Big tip: even if you’re a pantser, outline as soon as you can. I’ve found that if I hit 10,000 words, without an outline in sight, the book’s going nowhere. This happened to me a lot in my early years, and dead-end stories are one of the reasons that I force myself to outline, whether I want to or not.

2. Keep writing! Think, right in the project

Once you start your novel, keep going. Write every day. And by WRITE, I mean exactly that. Start tapping the keyboard as soon as you sit down. Keep going, until your writing time runs out.

Talk to yourself about the novel as you’re writing, if the words won’t flow.

Something like this:

OK, now Sarah realizes that one of the men in the group is her husband Ben. How does she react? What’s her first thought? Maybe it’s disbelief — maybe she has to stop herself from calling his name. Etc.

Keep writing.

3. Watch your characters’ arcs: novels are about change

Novels are about people. We read fiction to learn more about ourselves, and others. So, your people are more important than the plot, and in fiction, your characters change. Try to get a handle on your characters as soon as you can.

If I decided to write the novel about Sarah and her murderous husband, I’d think about Sarah. What kind of person is she when the story starts? How does she change over the course of the novel?


Maybe Sarah is the baby in her family. She’s always been protected by her parents and older siblings. She’s never had to think for herself. She’s naive, in a word. Over the course of the novel, Sarah learns to think for herself. She’s much tougher than she ever imagined. How will we show Sarah changing? We need one incident to show naive Sarah early on, and then a similar incident at the end of the book, to show that Sarah’s experiences changed her. She’s tougher, and less trusting, She no longer takes people and situations at face value.

Hmmm…. Sarah’s growing on me. Maybe she’s a widow, with a six-year-old son. Ben’s he second husband, the polar opposite of her first. The child could make the story much more dramatic…

Enough. If I don’t stop now, I’ll end up outlining the novel. :-)

You don’t need to know all the details of a character’s arc. As long as you have an idea of the kind of person a character is at the start of your novel, and how the character ends up, you’re good to go.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, good luck. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Novel-Writing Challenge: Great Fun

Just Write a Book

Our 30-Day Novel Writing Challenge has officially ended. It was huge fun. I loved creating the mini lessons. The members had lots of questions, and wrote like demons.

It’s not too late. If you’d like to take the Challenge now, you can, Write a Novel In 30 Days: Free Mini Novel-Writing Course:

“Want to write a novel?

Perhaps you’ve already started, but find that working on your novel every day is more difficult than you expected.

Initially, our 30-Day Novel-Writing Challenge ran from August 1 to August 30 of 2012. If you missed out, start NOW.

You’ll learn to set goals. You’ll get into the novel-writing habit, and best of all, you’ll have lots of fun.”

Did you send us a message? Please be patient. We WILL answer. We just received way more questions than we expected. Please check the Just Write a Book Blog — you may find an answer there.

Members asked for more tips, so I’ll be posting novel-writing tips and news on that blog regularly. Enjoy. :-)

Kindle Publishing: Write a Book and Get Published

Kindle Publishing  It’s never been easier to write a book and get it published. Once your book is written, you can upload it to Amazon so that it’s available for millions of people to buy.

A research study suggested that 10 per cent of the adult population of the US wants to write a book. If you would like to, it’s no longer a dream. You can act on your inspiration with confidence.

You may be wondering how much this will cost you. Amazon Kindle publication is free. There’s no charge for publishing your book, although of course Amazon keeps a portion of sales. Nevertheless, Amazon will give you a healthy share of the profits. All that’s required is for you to write.

Can’t write? If you’d like to have a book published under your name, but don’t want to write it, you can hire a ghostwriter.

Ghostwriters have always written a good percentage of published books, especially bestselling books. Celebrities, business leaders, and others don’t have time to write, so they hire writers.

Although many people want to publish a book for the satisfaction of having done it, many more want to make money from their efforts.

You can certainly treat writing books as a profitable business.

The first step is to decide what you will write — or what you’ll hire someone to write for you. Published books may be either fiction, or nonfiction. Fiction means novels and short stories. Nonfiction works are factual, and include biographies, how-to books, recipe books and many different kinds of reference books.

If your goal is income, rather than creative satisfaction, you should probably decide to write nonfiction. For nonfiction, writing ability is less critical. On the other hand, fiction is entertainment — you need to manipulate the reader’s emotions. This takes skill.

When choosing a topic, think about your own life experiences. If you can teach a skill, then you already have the topic for your book. Alternatively you can research a topic, in order to write a book based on the experiences of others.

Of course, you won’t be able to publish your book alone. As Kindle publication becomes more competitive, authors are hiring editors and proofreaders as well as cover illustrators to give their books a professional appearance. They want to get as high a reader feedback rating on Amazon as they can; this leads to more sales.

So what are you waiting for? If you want to write a book and get published, start today.

Want help writing your book? Contact me to discuss my book marketing and promotion services.