How do you write a novel? A bit at a time.

It seems you’re expected to answer this question of how do you write a novel. At some point, your followers are going to want to know. That’s lovely. That’s why I’m writing this blog: to reach people I’ll never meet in the flesh. I’m delighted to have some followers. I hope to have lots more.


the lady diarist at her desk

Other writers will be curious, too. We all have our own ways, what works best for us. There are probably as many different ways of setting about the writing of a novel as there are different kinds of books. I have a link here to tips from published writers. I read both Larry and Holly and I think their information is so valuable to new writers setting out on their journey.

I don’t beat myself up about targets. I write here about letting it happen. Sometimes, my plans take a day off and the page stays empty. Other days, an idea explodes out of nowhere and I have to drop what I was writing and scribble down this new idea for a short story. It isn’t a problem. I let it happen. Why would I want to shut out new ideas just because I’d been planning to edit chapter fifteen of something else?

So, I run with the sprint of a short story when it presents itself. Writing a novel, though, is a marathon. Planning is a must. I plan everything in great detail. I know my characters inside out and upside down. By the time I get around to writing their scenes, I’ve lived with them for weeks. I know exactly where they live and how it looks. I won’t use all that information, but it’s useful for me to visualize them when they’re walking along the streets of the village I’ve invented. I even draw maps.

map of Montalhan

my version of Montalhan sans Vents in the novel Trobairitz

Okay, so the drawing isn’t fabulous, but this is the village my Trobairitz is imagining when she tells her stories at the overnight truck stop. She knows where the vineyards are in relation to the housing developments. She knows where the river runs past the chateau on its way to the sea. She knows the narrow passages and steep steps linking levels of the circulade.


circulades are spiral shaped

In Trobairitz, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories she tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into the alleys, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I plan a timeline, too, so I know how events from the three books fit into a chronological order, even if in the narrative I don’t treat them chronologically. The whole thing becomes a magnificent obsession, to borrow fromMagnificentObsess Douglas.

Now, there was a story. I wonder whether its themes would stand up today? That might be an interesting exercise one day; one day when I’m not obsessed with my own creations.

Sometimes, the short story I dashed down in between writing chapters of the magnificent obsession pops back, like indigestion. Erm, over here, it says, have another look at me. I’m not finished.

And I have another look, and it isn’t finished and, would you believe it? There’s enough there for a whole new novel. I’ll make that another post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *