Writing Techniques: How To Write a Novel

Starting Point

You've got your plot, you've fleshed-out your characters, and you're ready to start writing your novel. But how do you start? How do you approach this seemingly enormous task?

This HubPage offers practical suggestions to help you on your way to creating the first draft of your novel.

Writing Routine

No novel will get written if you don't sit down at the computer and start it, and also finish it. The best way to achieve this is to set aside a period in your day which is solely for writing. For you this might mean setting the alarm an hour earlier each morning so you write before heading out to work, or it might mean you leave the TV switched off for a few hours each evening (or banishing the TV from your life altogether.) Only you can figure out a time in the day which suits your schedule and circumstances.

Select your Writing Time and make it a daily habit. Explain to other members of your household that you need to be left alone while you write. Stick to your new routine, even when - especially when - you don't feel like it.

Carry a notebook with you always, so ideas don't slip away. And don't throw your notebooks out! Over time they can become a good source of ideas.

The next task is to decide which technique you are going to use to write the first draft of your novel.

Just Some of the author's Books.

The Artisan-Sorcerer Series

To the public they are artists, creating beauty in their shared Liverpool home. In private, they are members of an ancient occult order riddled with intrigues and power struggles.

Will Morgan keep them safe in their turbulent world of dark magic?

Each character steps up to reveal their story - and their piece of the hidden history of the mysterious order which dominates their lives.

The Artisan-Sorcerer Series by Adele Cosgrove-Bray.

Get Ready to Write!

The font used should be Courier New, 12-point. Some agents/publishers prefer Times New Roman but this is not important at this stage; you can always alter the font later should you need to. Use double-lined spacing, one-inch margins, a quarter-inch indent at the start of each paragraph, and print on one side of the paper only.

Keep a copy of your work on disc always. If you keep it only on your computer and your computer dies, your work will die with it. That's probably stating the obvious but I've lost work that way before now.

You will develop your own method over time, but my routine is to write then store this on disc. Then a day later I'll re-read the work, tweak a little (but only a little) then print. The paper copy goes into a ring binder along with a sheet of very brief notes of what happened in which chapter. These notes help when writing a synopsis once the MS is complete, and also help to remind you of any loose threads in the plot. A chapter-by-chapter note of word-count is kept too.

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Three Ways to Write a Novel!

It could be argued that writing requires only one method - that of sitting down and getting on with it - but aside from that, there are three ways of approaching the actual task of novel writing.

These methods are the Intuitive, the Methodical, and the Somewhere-in-Between.

The Intuitive Writing Method

The intuitive writer has absolutely no idea what they're going to write. They just start writing and keep writing and open themselves to whatever pours through. They give little or no thought to plot, structure or characters - consciously, at least - and have no idea which direction their writing will go in. Some claim to enter a dream-like state almost like a trance, and that they are merely the vehicle for their stories.

This may sound chaotic and random, but this method works perfectly well for some people. There is, of course, no right and wrong way - only the way which works for you, and this is something every writer has to discover for themselves over time through experimentation.

The Methodical Writing Method

Methodical writers plan absolutely everything. Their chapters are noted down on file cards. Their notes feature pieces of dialogue and description which they intent to use. Their character charts are filled out to the tiniest detail. Every event in every chapter is planned and thought-through fully in advance of writing even the first sentence of chapter one.

Many authors who aim work at specialised markets where a formulaic novel is demanded use this method to great advantage. Non-fiction writers frequently adopt this method too.

The Somewhere-in-Between Writing Method

Most novel writers fall into this category. I certainly do.  With this approach, the writer has an idea of how they want to start the story and where they want it to finish.  They probably have a few scenes already half-written in their imagination, and know who the main characters are.  But there is also room for spontaneity and creative freedom to change ideas and bring in new people - or to kill a few off.  It's like having half a map, with space left for improvisation and discovery.

How you decide which method to use will be the result of discovering which works best for you, and you can only arrive at that point through experimentation and regular writing practice.

© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray

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Comments 9 comments

Falsor Wing profile image

Falsor Wing 6 years ago from Lodoss the Accursed Isle

I think writers will inevitably end up in their own "right" category inevitably.

AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

It's not so much a matter of genre, but of technique - and this is something which develops over time as a result fo regular practice.

ACSutliff profile image

ACSutliff 6 years ago


This is so practical, and very true. I especially find your Get Ready to Write section very helpful. I wish I had a printer, and the money for ink and paper! Haha.

I used to be a completely intuitive writer, but then my first novel grew to 200,000 words and very nearly crashed and burned before I decided to set it aside for a while. I have already started planning my next one. I knew how the first act would play out before I wrote the first chapter, which I posted. You print off your chapters as you write them, and I post them on hubpages. Both methods have that same sense of 'I'm done for now and moving on to the next chapter' which will keep the writer from tweaking and revising too much (one of my biggest bad habits). It's just a personal preference.

Thanks for helping me along the way!


AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

I'm glad you found this page useful, AC. Glad to be of help any time.

The only potential problem with your putting your work online is that it's then classed as published. Therefore, you may well find it hard to re-sell as most magazines/book publishers ask for First Rights.

margaret 5 years ago


there I was wondering if there is an actual method. I'm only beginning to start to write a novel and do not have a clue where to start. Can some one please help?

AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 5 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

Hello Margaret, and thanks for dropping by this Hubpage. If you read through the article above, this will answer your question.

chrissa 5 years ago

This is very helpful for the newby like me. Thanks for sharing.

AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 5 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England. Author

You're welcome, Chrissa.

nochance profile image

nochance 4 years ago from Duluth, MN

Nice hub with some very useful ideas. I follow the intuitive writing method. I find if I plan too much I get really stuck. I can always edit later to make it make sense.

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