Writing A Novel From Start to Finish (in steps)

typewriter

I’ve been meeting a lot of people who wonder, “How is a novel written, what is involved?” I figured I’d break it down into simple steps. They don’t have to be followed exactly, but, they’ll probably help you on your quest.

  1. the idea (get the idea)
  2. make sure it’s a stupid idea that nobody has used yet
  3. add some sex
  4. add some more sex
  5. make it three-way sex of some kind
  6. don’t focus on the plot, focus on the main character’s dick and what the main character’s dick wants from the world
  7. If it’s a lady protagonist, concentrate on her pussy and what it wants from the world (or to give the world … ie, babies, nothing, copulation, ect.)
  8. draft out a scene
  9. draft out another
  10. throw them away
  11. ditch your sex obsessed characters
  12. think of ones that want something from life other than mindless bang action
  13. write another scene. save this one. hold onto it til the revision process (six years from now)(throw it away then)
  14. in the first chapter, make your character do something heroic if he/she is an unlikeable character, or something unlikeable if he is a hero. Make him/her more complex
  15. how?
  16. I dunno, have them save a fucking cat from a tree …
  17. or have them throw a cat into a tree (see 14)
  18. while you draft out the beginning stages of your novel, keep the tension high. In all sex scenes don’t use lube. But it’s more than that! Add fights, terse dialogue, arguments, mistakes. These things keep the reader interested.
  19. Give your writing odd details
  20. avoid the “info dump”
  21. that means, don’t tell me everything about the characters right away. Practice the slow reveal
  22. reveal as much about your characters through dialouge as you can
  23. do the same with the plot
  24. at this point, whatever your plot is, make it simpler and stupider
  25. congratulations, you are halfway done with your draft!
  26. how? That was quick?
  27. it doesn’t take as long as you think it will.
  28. keep a notebook by your bed. carry a notebook with you wherever you go. take notes on your cellphone. Or, if you really wanna be productive, write on your cellphone with your thumbs.
  29. the middle of your book sucks
  30. you wanna stop
  31. you don’t. you keep going because Bud Smith says, “YOU CAN FIX IT LATER”
  32. your characters have nothing to do
  33. what do I do? My characters are bored …
  34. send them to the zoo. Have one fuck a lion. Have another one get eaten by a bear. Have one start working at the zoo at the balloon stand. Change your main character into a penguin for awhile.
  35. why?
  36. Penguin is a great publishing house and maybe the main character being a penguin will help you get published there
  37. it rains, you get drunk
  38. you skip out on work
  39. you don’t write for three weeks
  40. you make a small note on the back of a business card that says, “I need an MFA”
  41. A friend calls you up and asks you if you wanna trip
  42. you trip. shrooms soaked in boiling water with green tea bags and lemon. Also, mint.
  43. later that night, laying in bed, you can’t sleep. You think about your novel. You decide to get rid of the zoo scene
  44. the new draft has a car chase
  45. the new draft has a fist fight between a brother and a sister. He loses a tooth. A very valuable ring of hers get’s swallowed by a penguin.
  46. get rid of the fucking penguin
  47. whatever
  48. raise the tension
  49. 3/4 of the way through the book don’t even think about adding a dream sequence
  50. also, don’t even think about setting up a twist ending
  51. fuck your twist ending idea
  52. whatever your conflict is, make it more badass
  53. start to worry that your book is too crazy
  54. make it crazier
  55. draft out the conclusion
  56. it’s perfect, you say!
  57. tear it up
  58. rewrite it
  59. excellent!
  60. wait a year
  61. write another thirty pages after the “old ending”
  62. SUBMIT!
  63. SEND EVERYWHERE
  64. don’t bother to learn how to query correctly
  65. send a random letter to every agent in the world full of tangents and a bio that makes no sense and says nothing about who you are
  66. get rejections
  67. get a million more rejections
  68. get one rejection that says, “run spell check on your query letter”
  69. another that says, “for your benefit, please check out QUERY SHARK to learn how to write a proper query letter”
  70. you actually take both of those critiques as legitimate advice.
  71. you fix your shit
  72. it takes another two years
  73. you send out a great query
  74. AN AGENT or SMALL INDIE HOUSE wants PAGES
  75. 40 pages please, double spaced … 12 point times, contact info, bio, page numbers
  76. you send it out that night
  77. your manuscript has not been edited
  78. so you never hear from anyone
  79. ever
  80. the rest of your life
  81. a year later, you say, “Maybe I should spell check my novel …”
  82. you do that
  83. then you say, “what the fuck, maybe I’ll even proofread it.”
  84. How though?
  85. Ok, it’s easy
  86. first take the word doc, make the font 18 instead of 12, make the line spacing 1.5 instead of one. Start at the beginning. Delete all the parts that annoy you.
  87. Remove the unnecessary ands and ors and buts
  88. do this all the way to the end
  89. fix your dialogue by reading it out loud
  90. fix your punctuation like you’ll die if it’s wrong
  91. this part is important: PRINT YOUR NOVEL OUT
  92. make a dummy proof on a website like Createspace
  93. export the word doc as a PDF, upload
  94. make yourself a cool book cover with a simple program
  95. It’ll cost you three dollars to order a dummy proof for yourself
  96. $3!!!!
  97. Yeah, unbelievable right?
  98. The proof comes. It looks all fucked up. Cover is stupid. The inside is hard to read, make notes about the text spacing, the layout, the overall look of your book
  99. try Georgia font 11 for a 6 x 9 book. 1 inch margins whereabouts. 1.1 line spacing. 1.2 is even better
  100. drink all the alcohol in your house
  101. get fucked a couple times
  102. refreshed, dig into the book, sober
  103. SOBER
  104. STAY SOBER
  105. OK?
  106. get a highlighter
  107. as you read your dummy proof highlight a shit ton of it
  108. you will find an amazing amount of mistakes, missing words, typos, crap sentences … all that shit
  109. if your original idea was stupid enough
  110. if your characters have enough life
  111. if your plot is about life
  112. if there is a change
  113. if there is a fight to the death
  114. if there is mind blowing sex
  115. if there is friction and intrigue and tension and blood
  116. your manuscript will be salvageable
  117. salvageable
  118. yes … you’re dummy draft is 83,000 words, with the highlighter and a blue ball point pen you will strip 32,000 words
  119. why?
  120. the part with the goddamned penguin. The fucking dream sequences. The twist ending.  The part where no one was fighting or fucking or slowly revealing the plot and changing as a result, YOU HAVE TO TAKE ALL THAT OUT
  121. You whimper
  122. You remove those things, though it kills you
  123. you add more references to the real world
  124. your own memories
  125. your fears
  126. you put your favorite songs in there
  127. you get your characters trashed
  128. you set things on fire
  129. you blow things up
  130. you make everything more ridiculous
  131. you make everything matter MORE
  132. you add a moment of unexpected tenderness
  133. soft things
  134. sharp things
  135. there are three dimensions, maybe more
  136. in a separate word file, you start to write these things down
  137. it comes real easy, you’re surprised
  138. you feel drunk
  139. you sweat a lot
  140. it’s 4 am and you’re still writing
  141. two months later, “finished”, you order a new dummy proof.
  142. this one is 90% to your liking
  143. you decide to give six copies away to people who you think will give you an honest opinion
  144. no one even reads it
  145. you try to find an editor from among your online friends
  146. you can’t find anyone to edit it for you
  147. you consider freelance editing services
  148. you note that it’s $1000 dollars, you cry
  149. so, you start to write another book …
  150. but, a year later, you do go back to the penguin manuscript
  151. you start to edit it yourself
  152. really edit it
  153. it sucks
  154. it’s the worst thing you’ve ever had to do
  155. but you stick with it
  156. it takes three months, but you actually copy edit you’re own book
  157. you’re so proud!
  158. you send it out for consideration at a house that you respect
  159. you get a rejection that says, “It will benefit you to have your work copy edited. The wiring here is very rough. Not to mention that the part about throwing a cat into a tree was very cruel.”
  160. lose the cat part
  161. find a writer who you admire
  162. make sure they like you too
  163. swap manuscripts with them
  164. you edit  theirs
  165. they edit yours
  166. go chapter for chapter
  167. when it’s ALL done, fuck their brains out
  168. they are awesome
  169. you are awesome
  170. SEND YOUR FINAL DRAFT OUT TO A VERY SMALL PUBLISHING HOUSE
  171. They accept it!
  172. Reject them!
  173. Send it somewhere better
  174. They reject you
  175. send out a zillion more queries
  176. talk to everyone
  177. make yourself a blog
  178. get a twitter
  179. go to parties
  180. go to readings
  181. read your fucking work
  182. extend your bio
  183. write short stories
  184. BUT I’M A NOVELIST
  185. fuck you, idiot
  186. write short stories, get them ran at literary websites you like
  187. make friends with people who are cool
  188. buy them beers
  189. go see rock concerts with them
  190. submit some poems to cool lit sites
  191. BUT I’M NOT A POET
  192. you’re a writer, write some poems, asshole
  193. go perform your work. DO READINGS.
  194. NO!
  195. YES! DO READINGS
  196. get in zines. get in newspapers, get in everything
  197. write everyday
  198. write every night
  199. write while you sleep
  200. edit, edit, edit
  201. one day you get a request, WE WANT PAGES
  202. you send pages
  203. they say, we wanna see more
  204. you die from excitement
  205. but you did all the work, you spent your time crawling up from the underground. You learned on the way up. You were full of doubt and misery and pain, but THEY WANT A FULL MANUSCRIPT
  206. you cross your fingers, you send it out
  207. you wait
  208. they like it!
  209. they want it!
  210. they want you to change a lot of things
  211. like what?
  212. well .. it needs more tension and more sex and a love triangle and it needs spies and vampires and magic
  213. No problem
  214. tell them yes
  215. but what you mean is, “fuck off”
  216. work on your revisions
  217. work on your rewrites
  218. miss your deadline
  219. miss the next one too
  220. send them “not what they wanted”
  221. listen to them say, “PERFECT!” as if their suggestions weren’t even uttered.
  222. the copy editing begins with an outside editor
  223. you get a proof with almost every single word changed
  224. you reject every single correction
  225. the copy editor feels slighted
  226. fuck the copy editor
  227. your book comes out!
  228. it doesn’t change your life
  229. you don’t make that much money
  230. but …
  231. you have fun at the release party
  232. you avoid all the reviews
  233. you take your significant other to a seaside town and rent a room by the ocean. You buy $200 worth of average weed. You smoke it all. Laugh your asses off, screw in the hot tub, though it’s really difficult (not like the movies)
  234. your partner says, “What’s next? You gonna write another book?”
  235. you say, “No.”
  236. You’re done
  237. it was the hardest and most draining thing that you’ve ever attempted
  238. the payout wasn’t worth it
  239. you’ve gained 36 pounds
  240. you haven’t played the guitar in three years
  241. “So what are you gonna do with all your free time now?”
  242. you say, “come over here and kiss me deep.”
  243. and that’s it
  244. for awhile
  245. just for awhile
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16 Replies to “Writing A Novel From Start to Finish (in steps)”

  1. Been there! Done that! I’ve finished six novels and locked them away where I won’t have to worry if they’re good enough–or not–maybe in a few years< I'll come back to them….

  2. 245 steps? I read this in my email when it only had 240…sheesh…now I’ve got to read this mess all over again and see which crucial steps I can’t afford to miss.

    Good list, Bud, but I didn’t see “spark up a doob for ‘creativity’s sake.'” What was I doing again? Oh yeah…writing. What was I writing? About sparking. No…before that. I forgot.

  3. Just build a few peashooters in each lane and
    you should be okay for most of these levels. fm and Glu, you will get premium features to them free of charge.
    ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’ is out now on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, and Nintendo’s Wii
    U.

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