So you want to write a novel

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Congratulations! Welcome to the club. I mean that both sarcastically and genuinely. Wanting is easy: many people want to write a novel.

If you start your novel, you are beating statistics. If you FINISH your novel, you are even more ahead. Then if you learn how to revise your work and polish it? You are in an upper echelon of writers. You should be proud each time you level up, and the more you work--the more books you write--the better you will get.

Good news and bad news: I can't tell you how to write a novel. Not really. I can tell you what works for me, and what I do, but the trick is that everyone's experience and process is different. And you can only figure out how to write a novel by... writing a novel.

But by having the desire to write a novel, you are starting in the right place. Hopefully you have an idea, or several ideas. The key thing now is making sure the story you want to tell has enough steam to last at least 50,000 words... and possibly more, depending on your genre. I'll go into word counts by genre in another section.

Every writer's journey and process is different. What I recommend to every writer is to read books, seek out advice, and then try ALL THE THINGS! until you find what works for you.

If you are a reader, I recommend Stephen King's ON WRITING (perspective from a bestseller/expert storyteller), Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT (to get a sense of story beats and the three-act structure), and Cheryl B. Klein's THE MAGIC WORDS (advice from a former Scholastic editor on writing for children/YA).

Here is the bog standard advice you will find and hear over and over and over again:

Butt. In. Chair.

Get up at the crack of dawn and write for an hour every morning.

Write 1,000 words a day, every day.


Write crap. Edit later.

Don't edit as you go!

To all of these: Yes... and no? Some of the ideas rooted in this advice are correct. But rigid advice on How To Be A Writer is restrictive and not useful. I've found it can hold you back from writing successfully, because if you don't fit into the narrow box of This Type Of Writer, you end up feeling broken and guilty and talentless.

I am here to give you permission to IGNORE the advice that doesn't work for you. Use what does. And if what you're doing stops working for you, try new advice/different things. Our writing skillset will evolve and change--advice that didn't work for you on your first book will fit well on your third.

I'll dissect much of this advice in the following sections, and maybe it will help you.

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