How to kickstart your novel in 5 steps

When I first sat down to start writing State of Grace, I had no idea what I was doing or where to start. And because of this, it took my several months to officially “start.”

And I think this is a pretty common road block for aspiring authors, even once a few novels are under their belt.

Thanks to SMU’s The Writing Path classes, I learned the following five steps to simplify and streamline the process.

  1. Create your goals.
    When setting goals for your novel, you need to know three things: the typical word count for your genre, the target date for completion, and your own personal writing pace. For instance, my word count goal for 700 Main is between 80 and 90K, and I want to complete the first draft by September 1, 2017. I know based on my experience with my first novel, I typically average between 2,000 and 2,500 words – approximately one chapter – per week. And if you do a little math – hard for us writers, I know – I can tell that at this pace, it will take approximately 9 months to crank out a first draft. But the large question when sitting down to write is where to start. Well, you start with a little thing called the Hero’s Journey.


  2. Plot your story with a little help from the Hero’s Journey.
    Every story throughout the history of time has twelve specific steps – called the Hero’s Journey. If you are unfamiliar, check out my blog explaining the twelve steps. It is an invaluable tool to “outline” or plot out your story line.
  3. Find someone to hold you accountable.
    Once you have an idea of each of your twelve steps, it’s time to start writing. But starting a novel is a little like getting back in the gym… If you are doing it on your own, there are a million excuses to stay home. But if you have an accountability partner waiting for you, it’s much harder to skip. The same goes for your first several scenes/chapters. It can be your mom, your boyfriend, your critique partner or coworker. Approach someone close to you and ask them to help you out. They don’t have to know a single thing about writing – the point of this is not to gain feedback on your writing but rather have someone to whom you can submit your scenes.


  4. Draft a submission schedule.
    The entire purpose of an accountability partner is to provide yourself and them with deadlines to motivate your writing. Without the official classroom experience, it is easy to postpone or skip your chapter for the week. But if you create these due dates for yourself and pass them along to your accountability partner, you have no excuse. As an example – and based on my writing pace – I’ve pasted my submission schedule for 700 Main.
    You’ll notice in my submission schedule that the steps of the hero’s journey skip around a bit and include two versions of the resurrection.This is because it’s helpful for me to know where I am going at the beginning. If I write the final climax first, I know where my plot and character development needs to progress and up. But once you write the other scenes, there is a chance your resurrection will need to change a bit. So writing the first version of the resurrection at the beginning and then perfecting it toward the end works to make the most out of your other scenes.


  5. Get to work!
    Writing these first twelve scenes or chapters provides the skeleton for your novel, both from a plot and development perspective. And once they are completed, all you have to do is go back through and fill in the blanks!





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