The Best Way to Write Your Novel

At every turn we writers are told to outline, to get to know our characters intimately, to write chapter synopses before ever letting sentence one of chapter one tap off our fingertips. I tried that. Even though in school, I always wrote my essays and stories pretty much off the top of my head. (And did well, I might add.). Still, I tried the outline bit. Not so good.

Instead, each day I sat and discovered what my characters might do. I let the story unfold up against the history I had researched. What I found waiting for me, after writing 106,000 words and with sugar-plum visions of a quick rewrite before publication, was a lot of long sentences with bouquets of flowery language. I had more than my share of inconsistencies and ‘showing’ phrases, as well as thousands of useless adverbs. (A lively verb always trumps adverbs.). And plot problems abounded.

Jessica Aspen’s post reminded me of my journey to Hades and back over the last four years. Courses, rewrites, writing books, rewrites, volunteer readers, rewrites, more courses and more writing books all have led me to where I am now. Finishing a final copy before sending my ms to a professional editor. This last final (ha!) time I see how much I have learned since first starting Loyal to the Crown. Oh, how I hope my editor sees it, too.

Yes, I admit it. I was a pantser like Jessica and most of the people commenting on her post. What to do? I think it all comes down to recognizing that each brain has its own unique how-to manual, its singular best way to think, to learn and, most assuredly, to write. And that’s okay.

Kids in the classroom are mostly taught the same stuff in the same way. But they all absorb it differently and learn to cope with their individual learning styles. I know, for instance, that I must ask clarifying questions and put things in my own words in order to get the most out of courses I take. Others must make copious notes, or rewrite the materials to learn them. Whatever works.

We writers must give ourselves the freedom to find what method suits us and to use it shamelessly once we hit on it. We must not apologize for our personal writing method. As long as that method works, we should run with it. The danger, then, in reading all of the gurus is that what works for one will not work for all.

So the best way to write your story written is using the process which allows you to imagine, create, develop, and polish your absolute best work, whatever process that might be.


4 thoughts on “The Best Way to Write Your Novel

  1. HA! To the FINAL final. HA! indeed. There is no final, Elaine, until the book hits the shelf. Which is why we want to keep revising and rewriting and editing, because once it hits the shelf, or e-shelf, it’s out there.

    Elaine, I know you’ve had your fill of courses but if I may recommend one more resource: Margie Lawson. You can take Margie’s online courses when they are offered, or purchase the lecture packets to work on at your own pace.


  2. Sherry, I’ve seen your references to Margie Lawson. Have to check it out, for sure. Oh, and BTW, you should see the file names I’ve used, such as final, final, really final, absolutely final final–you get the drift.
    Thanks for checking in. 🙂


  3. Are we twins? Between the not outlining in school and the amazing amounts of re-writes, and our constant parallel writing journeys I think we may be karmic twins! I agree with you that you can over-think the process and get lost in all the advice. No one can do the writing for you, that’s for sure. I’d just like to shorten the re-writes. Hey, maybe I can get someone else to do those? No? Shoot! At least there are always editors!


  4. I’ve lost count of how many times I thought I was editing my final drafts. You’re right, Elaine, what works for one person may not work for another. I tried the pantser method and then used Karen Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Days to outline my current WIP. I needed a bit more structure, but I still need to just write to get to know my characters.


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