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How to Write a Novel

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. - W. Somerset Maugham

I bet somebody came to read the blog this time thinking, “I’d like to write a novel. I want to see how she says to do it!” Someone else may think, “There’s no way on earth she knows what to do!” Either way, I’m sorry to disappoint my dear readers, but the truth is no one can tell us “how to write a novel.” Ok, ok . . . the title was a trap. While I cannot tell anyone how to write a novel (or any other form of literature), I can pass on some things that helped me get started with Dunnigan.

Firstly, it is important to spend some time immersing yourself in information that is going to help inspire and fuel your story. That process will look different depending on the genre in which you are writing. About the time I was working on my novel, I knew someone who was preparing to write a fantasy novel and invested a lot of time in developing an entire country, complete with maps of geologic features. As I chose to write in a historical time period and set my story in Alabama, I spent time familiarizing myself with existing places.

Secondly, there is the question of “method.” Should you seclude yourself in a mountain cabin and write one hundred thousand caffeine fueled words in a few days? Should you write each day? Each Saturday? Personally, I grappled with this a bit before I figured out what worked for me. I will refrain from explaining how I went about it in this blog, but I can tell you that however you choose to approach the task, it is going to take some practice, do not let it discourage you.

Finally, there are literary devices that need to be employed. The need for a recognizable plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end is necessary, but what I most wish to convey is that there are no rules set in stone as to how you should get there. Some writers plot their entire story out before writing a single word, others dive in and formulate a plot as they go along. Some do not plot at all. Stephen King notoriously claims not to plot his stories. Does the story need a plot? Of course it does, but how you choose to arrive at it comes down to personal methods.

Full disclosure, my educational background centered around the sciences– not literature. When I decided to try my hand at novel writing, I searched for best practices only to find that “best practices” are actually unique and personal to every writer. I still asked many questions, and thankfully there were far more experienced writers (even NYT Bestsellers) willing to share information with me. I am grateful for the various pieces of advice that helped me arrive at my own way of getting the job done, and I enjoy any and all opportunities to pay that forward by sharing what I learned along the way. However, my “method” is not static because writing, like other hobbies, inherently promotes growth in the participant. With that said, I’ll end with a quote from Richard Bach, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

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