My Steps to Writing a Novel

I read a lot about writing the first novel and learned even more by writing one. However, I  would never say I am an expert. What I found out during the whole process was priceless. I discovered that I needed an outline to give me a guide to follow as I wrote the book. I also found that I needed a list of characters with their description. I then decided I needed a timeline so that I could keep things happening in sequence. I also learned that to complete a first draft I needed to write. I learned this lesson by participating in the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. I honestly don’t think I could have written the novel without the structure this provided.

I have written a lot of non-fiction work and never planned to write a novel. I subscribe to organizations that discuss all types of writing, and that is where I learned about NaNoWriMo. The first time participated I jumped right in. I didn’t have an outline or list of characters to help. Unfortunately, I was only able to write 8,000 words.

I waited for a couple of years before trying again. During that time, I also read several books about writing novels. In 2014, I tried again. This time, I had an outline and a list of characters with descriptions. When the competition came along, I tried writing and correcting the text as I went along. I recognized that I would never finish if I kept doing both. I decided just to write and leave the editing for later.

As I began to write, I stayed on course with the outline. I had to add several more minor characters to my list as I went along. Before the 30 day period, I had written over 50,000 words. I was proud of myself. I sat the book aside for several months before I went back to edit. Leaving the book alone was hard to do. I thought if I left it alone too long I would lose my initiative. What I lost was the memory of exactly how the book read.

When I started to edit, I was surprised at what I had written. I even found that one-third of the way through the book I had changed the main character from a man to a woman. Of course, this meant that I had to rewrite the first third of the book all over again. It was worth it. The new character was better than the first.

I edited the book twice before sending it to a professional. The editor reviewed it twice too. The second time after I made the revisions she suggested. After that, I read the book twice more making further edits. However, none of that would have been possible if I had not written the first draft. If I had kept writing and editing, I probably would never have finished.

These probably aren’t the steps you would take, but they worked well for me. The only piece of advice I feel qualified to share is to write, write, and write. The rest will come later, even if you don’t believe it will.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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