How I will Write a Novel in 2008

I’ve wanted to write a novel for at least 20 years now. I’ve had a lot of false starts. First, I thought I had to read a lot in order to write good fiction, so I read Kafka, Hemingway, Bukowsky, Asimov, Rand, Bradbury, Heinlein and a ton of those cheap paperbacks that you can read in a night. I still couldn’t convince myself I was ready to write so I burned through books on fiction writing. I started plotting out a neat novel idea but frittered away my momentum.

Screw it! Just write already!

I just gave up for awhile, until last year when I said to myself “Screw it! Just write already!” I’ve been thinking and talking about doing it for so long that a big chunk of my self-esteem is now wrapped up this goal of writing a successful novel. I can not fail. So I wrote. And I made some progress. I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2007 but broke down after writing the beginning. I didn’t know what to do next. Back to learning how to write fiction, and for real this time (!), I decided, so that’s what I am doing now.

Here’s my plan

Here’s my plan. I know I won’t write a bestseller by the end of the year (well, I might!) but at least I will be making progress. I plan to write a SciFi-suspense-political thriller that will keep you turning the page all night long. Once you have recovered from that marketing-speak, check out my plan below and let me know how unrealistic it is.

Study Period

For the last few months I have been reading all the how-to-write-a-novel books I can get my hands on, including “Plot & Structure” by James Scott Bell, “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass, “Immediate Fiction” by Jerry Cleaver and many others. This is the phase where I get the basics straight. I plan to finish this part by January 31. Clearly I won’t have learned everything I need to know by then but I have to cut it off at some point.

Research and Planning

February will be my research and planning stage. I’m going to introspect about what I want to write. I’ll create setting, characters and plot that are absolutely rife with conflict. I’ll plot the character arcs, the plot and subplot arcs and mabe even an ark arc if I have time. I’m not a seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. I need structure. A month is very little time to do this, I know, but I already have a good piece of the research done, and I just plan to plot the big steps, without going into complete detail.

Writing Phase

In March I plan to write the first draft of Act I. I’m aiming for 26,000 words. A lot of that will be low grade horse manure, but at least I will have words on a page. Then I’m giving myself May, June and July to write the ever-challenging Act II. I’m aiming for 52,000 words here. Finally, in August, I will write Act III, another 26,000 words. This is just a first draft so I am going to get prolific and write without criticizing myself. That will be hard for me, but I have to aim high!

Editing Phase

During September I plan to securely store my shiny sheaf of toilet paper in a secure facility while I cool off. I’d like to have something reasonably readable by December 15. That’s not a long time to polish a turd, but I will try.

Publishing Phase

Since my name is not Dean Koontz, you won’t be seeing this book on bookstore shelves or on Amazon in January 2009. Instead I plan to publish online, and free of charge, 2 short chapters per week for as long as it takes. I estimate a year. If that doesn’t get me a book deal and a million-dollar advance, at least I will get the feedback from readers that I need to take my writing to the next level.


It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s my blueprint for writing a kick-ass novel in a year and then publishing it online for publicity and feedback. I want my readers to be totally engrossed in the story, so I’m going to put a lot of work into this – a scheduled 20 hours per week. I want people on the edge of their seats clicking endlessly for the next page until they reach the end. I’m a novice writer so this is ambitious, but that’s how I like to play it baby. :)


Just how much of that horse manure have i been smoking? Let me know what you think.

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By George Donnelly

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4 replies on “How I will Write a Novel in 2008”

It sure is ambitious!

What I would suggest is that you start with writing short stories first, because hey, they’re short, and you can write many of them in a year. In addition, they allow you to try out different styles and plots and characters and develop your own ‘voice’. Maybe from there you can move on to longer works, but for me I usually write short stories because of time constraints (i’m a student and we do timed assignments).

In any case, heaps of good luck for your novel and I hope to read it someday!


Not to be devil’s advocate, but if you want to write an actually novel, you don’t want to practice with short stories. They’re two entirely different genres.

Back when I was in the experimental phase, I practiced with fan fiction. (So I wouldn’t slaughter my original ideas.) I ended up slaughtering some of them anyway, but that’s another issue.

Stop reading about writing and just write. That’s the best advice I can give you. When you get stuck, free-associative writing can help you figure out why. (“I’m stuck. Why am I stuck? I’m not sure. When did I get stuck? Well, I got stuck right after xxxxxx” etc.)

You can also storyboard. Take note cards and summarize one scene per card, for each scene you have in mind, ignoring the gaps in between. Then put them in order and note the gaps. How do you get your characters from point A to point D? What do B and C have to be?

If you can’t figure that out, then you don’t know your characters very well. Figuring out your characters’ personalities and back stories can help with that. Some people do character interviews.

I hope this is helpful!


Actually I did write at first, but I got lost in it. So I read in order to get a more intimate grasp of the principles behind successful fiction, so hopefully I wouldn’t get so lost. I think I’m less lost now, actually. :)

Thanks Carradee for your comment and excellent advice. I appreciate it.

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