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How I wrote my First Novel.

Updated on August 2, 2016

They say that everyone has at least one novel or book inside them, the trick is knowing how to get it out.

I’ve just had my first novel published, but it has been a long and winding road to get to that stage. It is so different from writing a hub for instance of perhaps 500-2000 words, because it really is a physical and mental marathon to put 70-120k words down on paper.

My book is 105,000 words which makes 350 pages of reading.

Importantly I selected a font, that was easy and big enough to read with ease.

I knew that my writing lacked professionalism, but I was not sure what to do about it. I was determined to get my stories out of my head and onto paper so I eventually signed up for an open university study at home course, for ‘creative writing’. Something you defiantly need is time, what some might call spare time, which few of us do have.

The course dealt with the various aspects of a novel, plot, sub-plots, theme, characters, and so on. These were things that I was aware of, but that I had not really thought about in depth or even identified. I had just written and written and written without any structure or planning.

I had not one story, but eight of them all produced in the same manner. As soon as I began my course, I knew that I had a lot of editing and rethinking to do. Learning writing techniques takes time, practice, and discipline. Writing a novel can be a daunting task over months and sometimes years and to prevail commercially the author needs to exhibit a brand of toughness rarely experienced in other occupations.

Of all the stories, I had written one stuck out for me as being the most interesting and enjoyable. I soon realised that there was more than one book in this story and I was able to split it into three books. I had enough material as an outline so the next step was to make a serious start on the first book.

The idea for this story came to me out picnicking with my family. We used to go to a tumbled down cottage with a wonderful atmosphere and in a most pleasant setting high on the fells above a small Lake District town called Cartmel. My son called the place his secret cottage, and I knew that there must be so many stories that could be written about it; it just looked the part.

Although I had a location and fragments of the story I needed an opening that would set the tone for the first chapters. I must have reworked this opening fifty or more times to make it say just what I wanted.

It was the wildest of nights, on the bleakest of moors.

Ben Stone ran for his life; he was soaked to the skin and

the bitter cold wind cut deep to the bone. With each thud

of his heart and every staggering step, he grew wearier. It

was the insistent, terrifying baying of the chasing hounds

that forced him on.

The rain was driving so hard into his face that he could

hardly see, and most of the time he was just running

blindly on. At times, he staggered forward on the uneven

dirt track; the loose stones twisted his ankles.

at last I was happy with it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Janet's Fosse a magical place.Janet's FosseJanet's Fosse from the top
Janet's Fosse a magical place.
Janet's Fosse a magical place.
Janet's Fosse
Janet's Fosse
Janet's Fosse from the top
Janet's Fosse from the top

Locations from my past

Another location was a place I visited on a school trip in 1959 and I have been in love with ever since. It is called Janet's Fosse near Malham in the Yorkshire Dales.

It took two full days travel to reach the place Mace
was heading for, and everyone was totally exhausted by
the time they arrived. In other circumstances it was a
picturesque place, a well hidden fosse, with a waterfall
that fell thirty feet into a small deep pool surrounded by
overhanging trees.

Church and Cottage

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the little church near the secret cottageThis is the cottage from the road. I think there is even less of it than there was in 1975
This is the little church near the secret cottage
This is the little church near the secret cottage | Source
This is the cottage from the road. I think there is even less of it than there was in 1975
This is the cottage from the road. I think there is even less of it than there was in 1975 | Source

That was in the mid seventies, but I did nothing about it until I had a little time in the mid eighties. There was no way I could have bashed the story out on a typewriter, I did buy an electric one, but I have to admit being probably the worst speller in the world, meant that I was not going to get far. My teacher in English at school once told my parents that I could tell a great story, but that I could not spell it.

I kept the story going in my mind for the next 20 years, and it was only in 2010 that I finally had the time and a spell checker so that I could make a start. I knew the characters so well that I had to make a real effort to remember to explain them to any potential reader.

I found it helped to write the various aspects of each character down separate from the story because sometimes you have to be specific about certain details and it is easy to make a mistake later on. Height, weight, colour of eyes and hair are only part of your character so write it down for later.

We built my little studio and I am in it every day now.
We built my little studio and I am in it every day now. | Source

New Ideas

Book three is up and running, and this time I'm using a very different technique to organise and plot the story. Before I would start at one end and just write which meant that I sometimes had to go back and adjust the plot. This time I'm sketching out chapters and then when they are finished I'll go back write the links. So far, I have about 20k words and it has been really easy to make sure that the plot and timeline keep running smoothly.

Telling your Story

I kept the story going in my mind for the next 20 years, and it was only in 2010 that I finally had the time and a spell checker so that I could make a start. I knew the characters so well that I had to make a real effort to remember to explain them to any potential reader.

I found it helped to write the various aspects of each character down separate from the story because sometimes you have to be specific about certain details and it is easy to make a mistake later on. Height, weight, colour of eyes and hair are only part of your character so write it down for later.


I found writing the synopsis more difficult than writing the whole book, and eventually I asked the lady who had been proof reading for me to write it.

It is a saga of a boy who finds himself in a cruel world protecting another’s honour. The story is a mix of romance and adventure. There are some interesting twists of fate awaiting him.


The story is about Young Ben Stone who is fleeing for his life over the bleak Yorkshire Moors. From being a child, he has been besotted by the local landowner’s daughter Ruth, but after her wicked brother is accidentally killed, Ben fears that he will be blamed. Ruth convinces him he should run; otherwise, her father who is also the local magistrate will probably have him hanged for murder.

Trying to keep out of the way of the law, he runs into a wandering band of thieves. They take him as a prisoner and he is forced to endure a desperate winter in their secret lair. When he does escape their clutches, his fortune changes, and he is taken in by a friendly parson, who runs an orphanage in Cartmel, where Ben finds a new life.

He also finds new interests, and begins working for a retired navigator who owns a chandler’s shop in Barrow in Furness where he learns the skills of map reading and chart making, but this is rudely interrupted when Ben is pressed into the navy. The year is 1801 and the Royal Navy is desperate for men.

Ben takes to life in the navy, and quickly gains promotion. He is set for a promising career, when his past returns to haunt him, in the person of Ruth, who has been married off to the new Governor of Jamaica and needs transporting out to the Caribbean on Ben’s ship.During the voyage, Ruth takes the opportunity to revive Ben’s feelings for her.

When he returns to England, he is confronted by his past and has to face a court-martial over the death of Ruth’s brother. Can he clear his name? What part will Lady Ruth play in his future? Ben is in for many varied adventures before his life is settled.

Guilty of Honour action packed adventure

Banner | Source

Independent Review

Ben Stone has mastered being at the wrong place at the wrong time. His worse instance of bad luck yet – being framed as the murderer of the regional magistrate's son - is what puts the book's main plot in motion.

The chase is an intense one. Dogs and men alike are hounding him, and to make matters worse, the weather is absolutely terrible. Even as Ben is running, he knows escaping will mean never seeing his aunt, uncle, and the girl he was falling in love with behind. Then again, it's perhaps a good thing Ben got away from Ruth, the girl he was falling for. After all, she's the one who has framed him for her accidental murder, and she isn't very guilty about the murder or the framing.

Thanks to quick thinking and the help of a friend, Ben is able to escape with a tangible plan, but getting away from his town doesn't mean he has truly escaped. Being framed for the murder of the magistrate's son, even in the 18th century, is the type of thing one doesn't easily escape from.

Unfortunately, Ben doesn't make it too far before he is kidnapped, rather spontaneously, by a group of people who make a living by hurting and stealing from others. While in that group, he meets Jenny, a girl who helps and falls for him. Even better, he still makes it to the town his friend told him to escape to, just...not in the way he expected to get there.

Again and again, Ben's life takes another sharp turn, but little parts of his past continue to follow him. When Ben and Ruth give themselves to each other for the first time, Ruth tells Ben, “This means you'll belong to me forever.” There's a sinister note to her words.

In a sense, she is absolutely right.

Ben's bad luck when it comes to being at the wrong place at the wrong time, however, works to his benefit. Each time he becomes part of someone else's life as a result of being kidnapped or in a fight, that takes him further away from the town where he was framed for murder. His kindness, work ethic, and great looks also helps him get by fairly well no matter his circumstances.

Guilty of Honour is about survival and escaping from murder, but it's also just the tale of a young man becoming an adult.

After the second kidnapping, I grew to expect that it would only be a matter of time before Ben was kidnapped again. Sometimes that anticipation seemed like a good thing; it gave me something to look forward to whenever the plot slowed down. Other times, my expectation that Ben would be kidnapped the moment he did something as small as slightly deviate from his normal way of doing things made that ongoing plot point seem contrived.

For the most part, I found the story easy to follow. The only sub-plot that really confused me was the one involving the first kidnapping, the one where Ben meets Jenny. Why did the man in charge of the group find it necessary to kidnap Ben and keep him along? I couldn't understand why the leader went through all that work and pain to keep and hunt down Ben. There didn't seem to be much of anything in it for himself, at least not when he first kidnapped Ben.

I had a hand in designing the cover and I think it is exciting in itself. We also came up with this banner to use on Facebook and my blogs.

Hub Pages helped

Writing on hubpages has been a great help, partly because when I was having real motivational problems with the book it meant that at least I was writing something and partly from useful criticism written by other hubbers. I also picked up ideas and saw different ways to deliver a point or express a thought. You may notice that even my recipes tend to be full of little anecdotes and stories, which I think increases the interest and shows that there is more to cooking than ingredients. Similarly, there is more to a story than its plot and just like cooking you need to bring everything together for the right taste, let it simmer awhile to add heat, season it to spice it up and melt it before delivering it hot and tasty to the reader.

I disappear ever day into my studio across the courtyard from the house and bury myself in my writing, painting, or music, and if you are going to write then you really do need your own place to get away.

Long Slog

Writing is a lonely business at times; the only characters you really want to be with are those from your book. I find that even when I’m not writing, I’m still partly absorbed in the story, and whether I’m in the bath in a shop or watching television my characters are lurking somewhere in a recess of my mind. In a way that is important because you need to know them intimately, you have to know how they would react in any given situation.

I’ve recently taken to using speech conversion software which saves typing although to be honest it takes a long while for the software to understand you. Mine is about 90% accurate, sometimes its mistakes are quite funny, at other times it is really frustrating.

Don’t be put off, but if you are going to write a 100k+ book, be warned it is a bit of a slog at times. When it’s done and you see it in print for the first time with a glossy cover and all, then you know why you did it.

My goal seems to have shifted, it was just to get the book in print, but now I want people to read it. I’ve had press releases circulated and a couple of websites [} and [guilty of] and I’m spending my time blogging, tweeting and Facebooking instead of getting on with the second book.

you can buy it as a Kindle book at a very modest price,

Isbn 9781477239339.

© 2012 Tony Mead


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