Novel-writing Strategy

I devised the following list of guidelines to help me work on my next novel. It’s not a perfect process, but it seems to be the typical way I write a book. I find it interesting that the actual drafting is only about 25% of the whole process… It’s all about the revising and rewriting.


Novel-writing Strategy: Multiple-stage Approach

1. Note-taking and free-writing (one month)

  • Write down anything you’d be interested in writing about (or add to list)
  • Jumble together as many cool ideas together as you can
  • Come up with some characters with interesting backgrounds and baggage
  • Create a 2-3 page proposal, written like the back cover copy you’d see on a published book
  • Create a rough outline of the book, chapter-by-chapter if possible

2. Drafting (three months)

  • Using the rough chapter outline, begin filling out scenes, researching as needed
  • Using Delany’s process, be as detailed as possible without slowing too much
  • Remember — in this draft, you’re telling yourself the story (in the revision you’ll tell it to the world)
  • Line-edit previous day’s work, then move into new stuff
  • Try to get four new pages a day (1,000 words)

3. Pre-revision pass:  (after waiting one month, one weekend)

  • After waiting three to four weeks, read the whole book again, as a reader
  • Mark up the manuscript and find the holes, the good spots, the rough spots
  • Try to read the whole thing in a day or in a weekend

4. Second draft (two months)

  • Incorporate notes and fill in holes from reading entire novel
  • Send to first readers, if you dare!

5. Plot pass:  (one month)

  • Ask yourself: Are all the dots connected in a logical way?
  • Do all sub-plots fit into the overall plot and theme? If not, cut them
  • How can I raise the stakes or twist the plot to temporarily fool the reader?
  • Write a draft synopsis, one-paragraph summary, and one-sentence pitch

6. Imagery and pacing pass:  (one-two months)

  • Delany’s approach: Did I notate my unique vision of the story completely?
  • Can I rearrange a scene or move a chapter for better pacing and effect?
  • Is there enough tension in each scene?
  • If not, how can I raise the stakes?

7. Language pass: (one month)

  • Read each scene out loud! Record it if you can.
  • What can I cut to make this read better?
  • Am I using the best verbs and adjectives (and not just what I thought of first)?

8. Wrap-up: (one week)

  • Write the final draft of the synopsis and cover letter, and then send that mofo out

9. Start all over again with a new novel!

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