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How to Write a Novel in Six Months: One Writer’s Journey

Updated on May 4, 2009
Photo: nuanc,Flickr
Photo: nuanc,Flickr

Most of us who write on a regular basis (and many people who've never used a pencil for more than a grocery list) have the same dream: to write a novel. I'm no different. This fall I'm attempting [again] to write a novel, and this time I've enlisted my entire writing group to join me. As if that weren't enough accountability, I've decided to share the whole experience with HubPages fans, along with anyone else who's interested.

I'll be sharing the ups and downs, tricks that work for me, and resources I'll use along the way in a week-by-week format. Check back here often for new links. This is meant to be a glimpse into my process and I to help you on your own. Wish me luck that maybe come New Year's we'll have a new series called How to Publish a Novel!

My Personal History as a Novelist, or How Not to Write a Novel

I came to the writing life with a bang. One day I was watching Oprah and pouring Cheerios on a high chair tray and the next I was plotting out the next biggest thing. I exploded into writing trying every exercise, reading every book, and of course I jumped right into my first novel. One thing you have to learn if you want to reconcile your yearning to write and your sanity is that writing is a very personal and time consuming process. Not only are there no short cuts, but no one writer's process works for everyone. For me, the writing life has been full of trial and error, stops and starts, and wild fluctuations in confidence and self-esteem.

That first pass at a novel was fueled by a wonderful book called The Marshall Plan, which takes you through a very structured and analytical approach to planning out a novel. The accountant in me loved every bit of it, especially the part where I created spreadsheets to track my the detaila of my scenes. I still think Mr. Marshall has an amazing plan. The problem was I hadn't gotten my fingers limbered up enough to benefit from all the information. Novel number one was abandoned after only a few scenes.

Yes, You Need a Plot

My second foray into noveling (yes, I do make up words) was inspired by Chris Baty's November Nanowrimo and the book, No Plot, No Problem. No offense to Mr. Baty, but not having a plot is actually a very serious problem IF you want another person to read your novel. In fact, the plotless novel I wrote was not only unreadable to anyone else, but fairly painful to read back to myself. It's especially disturbing to come upon a scene starring the town football star I'd killed off a couple of chapters back. Oops.

However misguided I was during the writing of that work, I'm so thankful for it. It gave me the confidence that I could create scenes and characters, and more importantly, that I could type the number of consecutive words it takes to fill a book. That, plus I have a two-inch stack of paper on my shelf that somehow qualifies me to call myself a writer and playdates and cocktail parties. This method is amazing for freeing you up to put words on paper. I would recommend this method in a heartbeat. I just won't personally do it again.


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  • SEXYLADYDEE profile image

    SEXYLADYDEE 3 years ago from Upstate NY

    Found this Hub on Pinterest. I will be reading and taking this journey. (Even if you have finished already). I too have finished a book and started and almost finished a few more. I am ready to get started again and am hoping to use your journey as a way to inspire me to finish. Good luck and yes please do continue with How to Publish.


  • profile image

    whowas 5 years ago

    What a great and generous idea to share so intimately your novel-writing process with the world at large! I shall look forward to reading through your other hubs and charting your progress.

    I think your experience is quite common amongst writers. It is often said that the 'first novel' (to be published) is actually the fourth, fifth or even sixth to have been written. I have four complete novels in my files and all of them are unpublishable. But that is not the point - they have been my education as a novelist and the one I'm writing now benefits from everything I have learned before.

    As Regan Hoffman has said, "It is a case of years and years of putting fingers on keys and bashing the words out. They will eventually come out and they will eventually come out the right way - but there are no shortcuts."

    All the best on your writing odyessy!

  • RichardCMckeown profile image

    RichardCMckeown 6 years ago

    Great strategy, Lela. Thanks for sharing!

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

    Well in my case it wasn't a novel. I wrote a book on relationships as a self-help book. But I relate to your story as it also took me many years to write. I went through the same process you did so I can relate. But I got it done and I am sure so will you.

    I like the way you listed every step required and wrote individual hubs for each, including what you learned to do along the way. I think this will help any author who is also trying to complete a novel.

  • profile image

    Keith Sutherland 7 years ago

    A great read - fab journey...good luck with it all! I hope to get published soon as well. See what you think of my first page...

  • Don Simkovich profile image

    Don Simkovich 7 years ago from Pasadena, CA

    Hey, good luck with your novel. I've never wanted to write a novel until this year. I'm almost done with my second draft and getting ready to send it off to an ebook publisher that does both ebooks and print. An editor there is aware of it. I wrote quite a few short stories in my undergrad days and always liked short story writing. Now, on the verge of finishing my novel is requiring a push, push past some tricky plot points!

  • De Greek profile image

    De Greek 7 years ago from UK

    I have become an instant fan :-)

  • parrster profile image

    Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

    Thanks Lela, great job.

    I too love writing... when I don't hate it. It's a bit like that I've found.

    I'm going to one-up you here, on the time frame of this hubs title that is. I wrote my second novel in 4 months... so there... nanenanenana ;)

    You can glimpse it here if you like

    All the best.

  • Myles54 profile image

    Myles54 7 years ago from somewhere a dash to the left of this wide world.

    Im so excited for you! i see all the other links are live, so i suppose you've made it! but, avoiding a ruined story, i will go week by week, and hopefully your journey will inspire me, and help me on my own! on to week 1...

  • profile image

    Feline Prophet 8 years ago

    Gosh....I am impressed. I would never be able to think of a plot and characters and dialogue and all the other necessities of a readable seems like an impossible task and I wish you all the best. Let me get on with reading the rest of your hubs now. :)

  • starrkissed profile image

    starrkissed 9 years ago from Arizona

    Best of luck!!