I saw a recent post on Reddit that piqued my interest, so decided to undertake what the poster was requesting. Too late to do them any good, but hey, them’s the breaks. I’ve begun work in earnest on a new novel, so I’ve decided to document the process from start to finish. Less of a “here are some recommendations for you to consider,” and more of a “this is how I’m doing it.”

Day 1: The Idea

The idea came to me in a dream. Or not. What it was was a mash up of a couple of things. First, the idea of a story that involved a 1930’s pulp style world. Super heroes, weird gadgets, all that jazz. Then the idea of a universe of infinite worlds, a multiverse where that was just one of man worlds. And finally, a man who can move between the worlds. The nebulous plot would revolve around something/someone trying to destroy other worlds. Doing so would give them power.

And that’s where the idea began. Well, you can also toss in a heavy dose of RPG’s, and a touch of the Chronicles of Amber. I have to watch out for that later, I really don’t want it to be too much like that work (which I greatly love, by the way… read them if you haven’t yet).


Day 2: The Test Write

Often I simply start writing without much thought as to what comes next. I put down some notes, tried to discern where I want to go. Not an outline, not strictly, but characters, motivations, etc. But I try to free write, see where the story is taking me. See if it’s working or not.

This time, I also wanted a killer first line. And I think I may have gotten it with this one:

The orange glow of the rocket pack fled across the city, and the Darkness followed.

The Darkness would be his persona on this world. He’s chasing a man wearing a rocket pack. We’re immediately dumped into an action scene and have a sense of place and story. I definitely like it and plan to keep it (for now at least).


Day 3: The Test Write Part II

Over the course of several days I wrote out three chapters. As I went along, I jotted down more notes, expanded my thoughts, added some more characters. I went back a few times to touch up or change previous sections. I ended up with about 10,000 words before I finally stopped to take a final reflection on where this story would go.


Day 4: First Draft

I kept most of what I had written and began an official “first draft.” After reflection and with a better sense of the major plot points I wanted to hit, as well as the overall character arcs for the protagonist and the antagonist, I went back and touched up the first chapter, re-wrote some of it. I wrote a new chapter 2. Chapter 3 was adapted from the former chapter 2, and chapter 4 was a total re-write. Over the course of the next week I fleshed out the story up to the time that my reflections and notes ended. I had 15,000 words at that point.

Starting with Chapter 4, I began outlining the next 1 or 2 chapters to come. Small outlines, a half dozen or so bullet points, nothing detailed. This is new for me. In the past I’ve entirely pantsed my way through my writing, but I wanted to try something that would help me avoid plot flaws. By looking ahead a couple of chapters, it gives me a guide post but doesn’t leave me feeling boxed into a specific path. I write, and sometimes I deviate from the plan, but the overall direction is there.

After two weeks of writing I’m up to 22,000 words. I’ll try to keep detailing this novel experience every week or two. Maybe it can become useful to others, or maybe I’m just talking to myself. I’ve done plenty of that in my life, so this is nothing new.

One thought on “Novel Writing 101”

  1. Great post, and that’s a fantastic first line! I look forward to more of these posts and hearing about your process!

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