Lessons learned writing a novel


I mentioned in my first post, http://dwaneknott.com/2016/10/welcome-to-my-blog/, that I am writing a novel. The content or plot of the novel is not important for this discussion. These are things I learned in my writing journey. Let me say upfront, I did not complete all of the tasks before putting a lot of words on paper.

Decide the topic

I learned deciding on a theme or topic is not too difficult. Each of us can think of many things we might write about, given the time and inclination. I enjoy stories with dragons, elves, magic, and assorted monsters. I selected a topic quickly. The part that took longer was narrowing it to something that would support a novel.

Go to the ending

I learned that I had to decide how I wanted the novel to end. I had to understand the character’s goal. This was easy. Then, I envisioned the character that could reach this goal. It was no ordinary mortal. She, yes, she would need to be strong in magic. The goal was not for pushovers.


Cast of characters

Ah, ha. The girl, no woman, must want to reach the goal. She, once upon the journey, must do whatever it takes to complete the journey. Quitting is not an option. The enabling events are too important for her to quit. She requires a supporting cast, faithful and fearless. They must support her through her trials with or without a smile. I created the supporting cast of characters.

World building

The adventure must occur somewhere. I decided not to spend a lot of time on complicated world development. The quests are taking place on a planet like earth with cities, towns, hamlets, isolated farmhouse, forests, streams, rivers, mountains and plains. No deserts in this works. The map is simple.


Lesson learned

I wrote but the writing phase didn’t last long. I had neglected to get to know the characters and what development arc they must go through to complete the mission. K.M. Weiland suggested 100+ questions to ask my characters, http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/interviewing-your-characters/. The interviews gave me an appreciation for my characters as they start their journey.

Writing without knowing the characters

But knowing my characters was not enough. I needed to understand the journey. They would not be the same at the end. How would the transition occur in light of the goal? This was plot and I segmented it into scenes which lead the cast through trials and tribulations to the goal. The challenges along the way force the characters to grow.

I have scenes, as I have learned after writing the draft, that are of no value in moving the cast toward their goal. The second draft will be much shorter or not depending on things yet undecided.


Worth It?

So, what value was this? It wa a journey of discovery to see if writing is something I would enjoy.  I found putting ideas on paper and sharing them is enjoyable .

Would I recommend the process I have suffered for other aspiring writers? No. I would recommend reading books on writing, visiting the many sites online dealing with novel development, and following blogs of published authors. However, don’t read, study, follow without writing, putting words on paper. I am still learning. But I have written a novel draft.

I love hearing from you. Leave a comment and I will reply.







  1. Dwane-hearing about your journey was quite helpful. I’m forging ahead writing without strong character development (which I have the interview questions to ask as well) just because I know I have to write everyday to form a habit. I’m writing about 1,000 words a day, working through my workbook “Writing the Breakout Novel,” and researching my sociopath(s) through the “The Sociopath Next Door.” I think, as I work through all three of those things, I will begin to organically shape the world and a breakout novel premise with hopefully a depth of character that has readers scratching their head at the end and thinking about how this book changed how they think. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dwane

    I am glad you enjoyed the post.
    I began writing the novel with just an idea in mind. I read constantly, well almost, and thought I could give it a go. I put a few words into the computer and learned there was much to learn. As I read blogs and craft books, I wrote without an outline. What I found was that the story line I envisioned came linearly to me as I typed. I reached a point where I had two options, write an ending that led to another book or write one that ended the story line. I opted for the first, although I may never write it. Now came editing. The more I edited the more I came to realize that there are holes in the character development but I don’t think in the plot. It just needs a lot of work.
    I found Kristen and read her books. But it was K.M. Weiland, Marcy Kennedy, and Susan Bischoff that convinced me to create an outline of some type for future books. I decided to take the NaNoWrimo challenge. I am using an outline to get the 50k words done. I can see already places where I am going astray. But it is keeping me generally moving in the right direction.
    My advice is to continue writing as much as you can. I am finding it much easier now to put ideas together but I have far to go. It is an interesting journey though.

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