The Writing Desk: Before You Write That Novel

I just literally finished writing my new novel, Girl Code, and I because the writing bug has bitten me - I thought of blogging about what one should do when they have decided to undertake the task of writing a novel. (Also I need to space out going back and making edits.)

Screen shot of the Draft in its Early Stages 

Just like with the short story, there is no right or wrong way of writing the novel. I've tried to do the go-with-flow kind writing for my novels before. Unless you're careful there's a high chance of running into plot holes and making mistakes which hardcore readers might not forgive you for. However, completely fleshing out the story leaves little to our imagination. And makes one of favorite things in the world a very tedious exercise.

What I did was combine the two very extreme methods. When you try to send your writing to be evaluated by a publisher they always ask for the plot synopsis (and sometimes it is chapter-wise), the book blurb, and the first three chapters. But you will not have a story, if you don't have a cast of characters. Unlike the short story, the novel allows you to have as many characters as you want. And you can decide who you want as the leading characters and who you want playing minor parts. Sometimes minor characters are used as catalysts.

So before I actually began writing Girl Code, I wrote the book blurb. It's a lot like writing the trailer for the book. Then I got thinking about the characters who would be in the story. I made a list of them and the purposes they would each serve. Since I personally have a hard time with descriptions, I always answer questions that tell me what each of them look like. It is very important to know each of your characters like the back of your hand. Even if this information never makes it to your book, it is very important that you know it. If it helps, you can even write summaries about them: their interests, their likes and dislikes, their families, the backgrounds. Every little detail will help when you're writing the characters.

I use quotes at the beginning of every chapter as it motivates me to write. I collected this quote hoping it would inspired me to finish writing Girl Code fast. :)

Next I wrote the chapter-wise, scene-wise summary. For me this is never absolute. I always use as a guide to make sure I don't write myself into a plot hole I won't be able to climb out of. It's like a road map for me. It also helps that when you get blocked in certain places, you can skip forward write and then go back and write the scene leading up to the next chapter. The road map allows you to write randomly, rather than having to be stuck with a linear method of writing.

As the story progressed, I found that there were a lot issues I wanted to address in the novel. And so I did. While the basic flavor of the novel remained what I'd in mind from the get-go, the story now had a sub-plot I did not think of before. Be open to the changes that might occur when you're in the process of writing your novel.

The lines from a poem which is a part of Girl Code. The poem is called Postcard. 
I had printed out the chapter-wise, scene-wise summary and made the changes I wanted. My first plan was to have 20 chapters. But I ended up with 22 chapters and the prologue and epilogue. Like I said, you have to be very open to the story line changes. But you have to be firm with your inner editor. All sentences, grammar, punctuation will be corrected after we finish writing our first draft.

Another very important thing to remember is that you have to really commit to writing your novel. Go over you day and see when you can sit and write without being disturbed. Countless writers and teachers of creative writing have said this. And I cannot emphasize how important it is. For me, writing at night is a natural choice, because there's an odd kind of peace and quiet in the house. The words just tumble over each other. I put my phone on silent and log out social networking sites (just blatantly ignore the texts and calls, when I am working on my stories). See how many pages/words you can produce in a day and keep a deadline for finishing your first draft accordingly.

Whatever you do, always write. Remember it's easier to edit something you've written, rather than a blank word document.

After you've finished your first draft send it to a friend whose opinion you trust. When they send back their suggestions, go over the draft again and see what needs to be changed. Make those edits. Let it sit for sometime. Go back to your life for sometime. Make sure you've forgotten the minor details of the novel. Come back and read it again. If you feel it's the best version of the story you could have written - well, congratulations. You've finally completed your novel.

Screen shot of the completed first draft of Girl Code. I finished it today.

Now send it off to the publishers for evaluation. (I'll write about that in my next post.)

Please leave a comment if this post has even vaguely inspired you to begin working on that novel of yours.


  1. I just do not have the courage to try a novel. SO kudos to you. But i do wish I can do the "phone on silent and log out social networking sites" bit. that would help me with life in general.

    A very well written post. :)


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