Rules for Writing a Novel

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
William Somerset Maugham

For me, writing a short story is much, much harder than writing a novel.
Lynn Abbey

My Rules:

1. Plan it.
2. Write it.
3. Edit it.* (see comment)
4. Submit it.

Sounds too simplistic doesn’t it? Except many, many writers get hung up on number 1 and never make it to number 2. I’m sure you’ve encountered many writers who say “I want to write a novel about x but I don’t know where to start.” Unfortunately there’s no magic starting place except for the place where you write or type the first word. My manuscript hasn’t followed any pattern. I started by writing the last chapter or so I think. By the time it’s done it may not be. But I know if I don’t write it it will always be in the planning stage. Some books that have helped me:
This Year You Write Your Novel
Writing the Breakout Novel
On Writing
The Weekend Novelist
See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit
Some links I discovered on my 6 a.m. internet browsing:

The Snowflake Method of Writing a Novel

How Not to Write a Novel

A good blog I discovered through Blog Catalog is David B. Dale’s Very Short Novels. Todays assignment if you choose to accept it- write a novel in 299 words. Not too scary, it’s about a page and a half. Read several of David’s before you start. Now get back to work!

The Writing Nag

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4 Replies to “Rules for Writing a Novel”

  1. What about the most important step:


    The importance of editing cannot be stressed enough. I spend more time editing that I do writing. To my mind the editing IS the writing. I’m not talking here about fixing typos and punctuation but making sure the prose flows from start to finish.

  2. Hey, Writing Nag!

    Thank you for the delightful recommendation. It just so happens I have a formula that works for any kind of writing.

    1. Rough Draft.
    2. Rewrite.
    3. Rewrite.
    4. Rewrite.
    5. Publish.
    6. Regret.

    Hope that’s not too discouraging. OK, enough fun! Back to work.

  3. There’s an old saying about painting that, to me, can be applied to writing. It’s something like this: Only that first brushstroke is entirely free and spontaneous. After that, each stroke is dependent upon the one before and influences those that follow.
    Maybe it’s more apt to compare brushstrokes to the ideas, not the individual words, with which you build your writing.
    Another old saying about painting is that you have to know when to put down that brush, walk away and leave that work alone.

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