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.