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  • Writer's pictureStuart Wakefield

The Three Major Steps to Writing a Novel

You want to write a novel? Great! Before you start to write, sit yourself down and consider whether or not you’ll be able to bring your book into the world. Story writing is a lot of fun, but it’s also hard work. There are so many distractions, like getting up for coffee, cleaning your house, and of course, thinking about steampunk.

To help you stay focused on writing your novel, there are a few things you should do before you even write.

Here are the steps from start to finish. Depending on your preferences and budget, some of these tasks can be hired out.

1. Plan the Book

  • Before you even get into character, plot, and so on, you need to define the basics:

  • What's your goal for writing this book? Is it to prove to yourself that you can? Is it to try and become a bestselling author? Is it for world domination? All of the above?

  • Decide the point of the book. If it's a romance, does is simply boil down to 'love conquers all' or are you attempting something different?

  • Define your audience. Who's your ideal reader? Clue: it's not about defining who might buy your book, it's who WILL buy your book.

2. Write the Book

  • Determine the genre of your book and get familiar with the conventions of your genre. Genre isn't just for publishers and bookshops to know where your book sits on the shelf - it's to set the reader's expectations and making them a promise. If you position your book as a romance, you'd better be delivering a happy ever after or a happy for now ending or your book's going to tank.

  • Keeping in mind your point and goal, create an outline. With my clients, I use the inside outline. My most recent client said it changed her life. It's tight enough to keep the plotters happy and loose enough to keep the pantsters happy. You should try it.

  • Using the outline, write the first draft scene by scene, staying within your genre's expected word count.

  • Note: Remember your audience, and write something they will enjoy.

  • Have a developmental edit or editorial assessment done. I can do this for you.

  • Revise the manuscript using editorial feedback. I can guide you through the revision process should you need it.

  • Seek feedback from Beta readers and make further revisions.

  • Get a copy edit.

  • Have a professional proofread your manuscript.

Publish the Book

  • Choose a publishing route: self, traditional, or hybrid? Depending on the route you choose, you will have more or less help from the publisher. However, whatever route you take, you will be responsible for marketing/promoting your book.

  • Choose an appropriate title for your book. Whatever your feelings about Amazon, the website is great for genre title research. (I get my clients to choose a book title earlier in the process, but here's where you can cement it.)

  • If you're self publishing:

    • Format your book for publication (ebook and paperback/hardback).

    • Write a 'publisher-ready' book description.

    • Design a book cover.

    • Create a book launch plan and launch your book.

    • Publish your book on online retailers.

    • Market the book.

  • If you're seeking traditional publishing, you need a rock solid pitch package. I can coach you through that should you need it.

How Long Will it Take?

How long these things take depends on the rate at which you and others are able to devote time to it per day or per week. That time can be measured in minutes or in decades. The more time you are willing to commit, the quicker the process will go. If you are a first-time author and plan to publish traditionally, it is helpful to know that it can take up to six months to secure the services of an agent. Unless you are famous. Are you famous? If so, let's do lunch! I know of a fantastic Italian place in Knightsbridge that would love to host us sometime.

You Must Work to Reach Readers

Writing a book and getting it published is difficult. Unless you have a bestseller in you, like Water For Elephants, you are going to have to market your book. Even if you land a deal with a major publishing house, you should still market the book yourself. The publisher will send out your book to reviewers and retailers, but they will not put in a lot of effort. You need to do that work.

Is This a Good Idea?

We don’t think much of it, but publishing, like familial life and romance, is a journey that is fraught with mishaps and roadblocks. I believe that if anyone knew all that is required to create a book and “put it out there” today, few people would attempt to do so! As with careers and marriages and babies, books are easy to begin, but we often find it challenging to finish well.

Ironically, as a book coach, I sometimes find myself trying to dissuade people from writing books because I feel that they are not truly called to do so. They have an idea, they think it might make a good book, they run it up the flagpole. These people may have a story to tell, but perhaps it would be better told as a podcast, a blogpost, or a video game. Sadly, there is a laundry list of skills required to be an author, some of which you may already have mastered and others that you will have to repeatedly ask questions about. Are you willing to ask people to do things for you, or are you going to learn how to do them yourself?

My words of encouragement to any who wish to be a writer is this -- go for it! If you have a question or need some help, do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for it. And if you are called to this task then rest assured that God will provide you with what you need to make it happen. The world needs good stories. Someone has to tell them. You might be one of those someones.


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