top of page
  • Writer's pictureDouglas James Troxell

How to Write a Novel

November is National Novel Writing Month. Every November, hundreds of would-be authors make it their goal to bang out the next great American novel. Most of them fail...because it's stupid to think you can write a novel in a month. Writing a novel is hard. Writing a good novel is even more difficult. Since I'm so giving of myself, here are four tips on how to write a novel. As soon as I figure out how to get a book published, I'll tell you about that, too!

Tip #1: Learn to Write a Screenplay

I know this seems counterproductive, learning to write in an entirely different form before you write a novel, but, trust me, it's not. Nothing improved my writing more than learning to write screenplays. Screenplays have very strict page requirements and specific story beats. There's no time for wandering and everything unnecessary needs to be cut. The problem with writing a novel is it's so easy to get lost in the woods. The most common place for authors to give up on their novels is at the 3/4 mark. That's because at that point they've wandered so far from the path, there's no way to ever find their way back. Screenplay beats force writers to HAVE a path in the first place. Writing a novel becomes a fill-in-the-blank exercise.

Tip #2: Learn to Outline

Writing a novel is no different than going to war. If you're going to get the job done, you better have a plan. I know some writers hate outlines. They don't want anything to interfere with their "artistic flow" or their plan is to "listen to their characters" direct the story. DUMB! As the author, you need at least a rough idea of where your story is going and how you're going to get there. That doesn't mean things can't change along the way, but a rough or working outline can at least give you a destination. Keep your artistic madman chained up!

Tip #3: Stop Watching Television

Television in this instance isn't television...unless it is. "Television" is whatever you spend hours doing instead of writing. "Television" for you might be Twitter or stupid cat videos or video games or your phone or Netflix or...whatever. Get rid of it! Write instead. There are only so many hours in a day and if you're going to be a writer, then you need some hours reserved for writing. Oh, and NEVER visit Youtube. Youtube is where writing hours go to die.

Tip #4: Shut Up and Write!

There are two kinds of people in this world: People who get the job done and people who bitch and moan about why they didn't. The key to writing a book is to do it. No excuses. If it's important enough to you, you'll do it. It may take longer than November, but you'll finish. When I finally decided to take myself seriously as a writer, I made a vow to write every single day. Since that vow I've written every single day for the past 7 1/2 years. In that time span I've averaged a novel a year. Sick days? I wrote. Vacation? Not from writing! Wife squeezing a human being out of her body? Sorry, I can't bother to see the head crowning, I'm busy writing! Let me know when it's out. The point is, if you act like your writing is important, it will BECOME important. It will become what you do.

Now...shut up and write!

bottom of page