Skip to main content

Three Steps to Finishing Your First Novel: Left brained solutions for a right brained problem.

Three Steps to Finishing Your First Novel

In the wake of a number of hubs and other stuff I've found recently that seem to focus on the frustration and, to be frank, procrastination of lots of would be novelists regarding how to get that first novel done, I thought I would offer some suggestions that maybe will help a few people still sitting on the novel-writing fence jump down and get going.

Right out of the gate, I want to get something clear: I'm not promising you'll get it published. In fact, I'll be really honest, you probably won't (at least not by a traditional, brick-and-mortar publishing house. The odds are horrifically against you, so, if you're writing a novel because you think it's a way to make money, well, A) you are delusional, and B) this won't be the article for you.

However, if you aren't delusional and you just love to write, and you think that you're a novelist at heart, but just haven't been able to muster that goddamn thing onto paper yet, well, I can really help you out. I recognize that different people think in different ways, so, this won't be the panacea of prose. However, I'm on my third novel now and my last first draft was done in under eight weeks (570 pages). So, while I'm not rich from my novels, I am getting them down on paper, which is more than many of my writer friends can say. So, here's what I suggest you do. Three steps to finishing that first F-ing one.

1. Make a Timeline First

Ok, for many people, plotting a novel seems to be the hardest part. I hear "I get started all the time, but around sixty pages it all falls apart" frequently. I used to do that too, get all excited to start, get writing, and... then, well, everything starts to slowly, inexorably fall apart. The problem was, I didn't have a plan. As much fun as it is to just start writing, immersing yourself in the dream world and watching the story reveal itself as if it were a play, ultimately that just doesn't get most people to the end.

Think about it, say you were an engine designer for a big car company. You want to build a new super engine. What do you do? Start bolting parts together? Of course not. You design your engine first. Carefully. Meticulously. You need to make a plan. A novel is the same way.

Here's a suggestion for how to get that done. For starters, figure out what you want to happen in the end (this can be a climax scene if you'd like rather than the actual "very end"). I write sci-fi and fantasy, so let's use an example from what I know. Let's say the climax of my book is going to be that the brave prince saves the hawt princess from the evil dragon. Easy enough, right? So, that's my climax: Prince saves Princess from Dragon. I'm going to put that on my timeline.

Timeline begins

You don't have to use a line, just using MS Word is fine, but the line works nicely too.

You don't have to use a line, just using MS Word is fine, but the line works nicely too.

Alright, so there it is on my timeline. But now what? I mean, how did she get caught by the dragon and why? Thinking logically, not like an artist; if Prince Charming is going to save her, she needs to get captured first, right? So now we're going to work backwards from the climax. So I ask myself, why does the dragon catch her? (For your book it might be why does the murderer kill the mayor, or why does the pregnant lover choose to keep the baby and move to Santa Fe... it doesn't matter what, we all write what interests us.) So, this part requires some imagination, but, come on, if you want to write a novel and you don't have imagination, well, perhaps you're not dreaming of doing the right thing. Anyway, so, why is our dear princess in the dragon's lair? Since this is my article, I'm going to say it's because she's an airhead and decided to take her new pony out for a ride in the woods and the dragon found her. (Sure, it's random, but imagination works like that. Just go with it.) Alright, so that means I need to put that event on the timeline too.


Ok, so there is: princess rides her pony out into the woods.

I might even think to myself as I'm coming up with that genius idea, where's the pony come from? That's a great question, I tell myself. So I decide her father, the King, gave it to her for a gift. Cool, that's a minor detail, but it matters, so, since I'm thinking of it, I'll toss it on the time line, somewhere before the pony ride: "Princess gets pony as gift." See how easy that was?

Alright, now, we pull back from our story a bit and look at what we got. We got a gift, a pony ride and a rescue. What else do we need? Just think logically. Plots don't have to be weird or psychedelic, despite what so many artists are trying to do these days. You want to get fancy, do it on novel number two. So, hmm, what's missing? Well, for starters, I'm looking at this timeline and the prince doesn't even know the princess is captured anywhere yet. So I need to figure out where he finds out that the dragon has her in his lair. Then I realize, oh shit, I don't even have a scene plotted for the dragon taking her either. I guess I should put that on the timeline too.


Well, that looks better. But now what? Hmmm. Time to pull out of imagination and time for logic again.

Ok, so he found out she's gone, right? But, umm, when did he meet her? I'm assuming they're in love or something right? I mean, Charming ain't just gonna run in to a dragon's lair and save some chick he never met? What if she doesn't have all her teeth or something? So, I need to go close to the beginning of my timeline and put that in too, an event to describe how or why he cares what happens to her.

Anyway, I can go on, but I think you see my point. If you just timeline your plot out, you'll start to see obvious places where events need to take place. You won't necessarily think of them in sequence. In fact, you almost definitely won't. You'll look at your timeline and have lots of, "Oh shit, I need XYZ to happen before this or that does." It will fill itself in if you just pull yourself away from it and study it logically from time to time (a left brained approach to a right brained novel. Trust me, it works). Just start with the climax, or even with the very end. It's perfectly acceptable to start with "Prince and Princess get married and do dirty things in the hot tub at the hotel." It doesn't matter, just get to the part at the end and then figure out how that came about. Once you have it plotted out - for me that can actually be the work of several weeks (and occasionally years) - you're ready to begin writing now.

The odds are, anyone actually interested in "writing their first novel" probably has some really well thought out ideas by now. They might need to be timelined or "plotted" but, I doubt too many still reading at this point can't at least see how they might line their idea out on a timeline. Bottom line is, just put the climax on there near the end, whether it's dragon rescues, mass murder, sex, finding the grail, leaving the evil spouse, whatever. Just put the climax at the end of the timeline and fill it out from there. Word processors make really great tools for this, because you can keep moving stuff around. Anyway, try it. It's easy and it will make a roadmap for you to use when you move to step two.

2. Write to your landmarks

Alright, so now you have a nice timeline giving you lots of major events, which I call "landmarks." Since you spent the time to map it out, you need to start thinking about how the story is actually going to go in smaller detail. This is where chapters start to form. This is where you start filling in lesser-details on your timeline, or even make new outline/timelines to get you from point to point with the major events you have plotted out, mini-maps from landmark to landmark.

Ok, so my first main scene on my time line is probably about my Prince meeting my Princess. Fine. But I can't really just have that happen in the first chapter can I? I mean, "Once upon a time this hawt guy met this hawt chick and they both started drooling everywhere." I don't think so. So, I need to introduce her and I need to introduce him, right? Well, how am I going to do that? So, here I was all ready to start writing, but first I have to think some more. Maybe I should have a party, a big ball and they can meet. Alright, if that's the plan, I need to write "The Ball" down on my timeline.

Scroll to Continue
We can spread out the major parts now to make room for minor "landmarks" that help us get from one main event to the next.

We can spread out the major parts now to make room for minor "landmarks" that help us get from one main event to the next.

You're probably thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, I thought we had moved to step 2 on this guide, but you're putting us back on the timeline again."

Yeah, sorry about that, but step 2 has some more of that. You have to think through a bit more before you write so you don't write yourself into a corner.

So, I got a ball I have to have. Well, obviously I can write a great chapter about the ball. That's easy AND fun. But, think about it, how do I get them both to the ball?

Alright, so the king is going to throw the ball in honor of... Hmm, minor detail here... maybe because his favorite horse just had a baby. Fine, we'll go with that. So why does the prince show up? (We already know the princess will be there because we decided that she's getting a horse from her father for a gift... see how this timeline starts to pay dividends?). So the prince has to be invited or something.

So why ... hmm... ok, he likes horses, because.... Because.. he's a kick ass prince who wins all the fox hunts and jousts every year.

Ok, look, we're in random mode here, but, you see how I'm still brainstorming, not writing just yet?


So, we put that down on our timeline. I indent that stuff, but hey, whatever works for you. Alright, now I'm getting close to being able to write. I need to throw a ball for the birth of a little horse for which word has to get out to attract the attention of a horse loving prince. Ok, now I'm ready to write. I have lots of stuff that I can write in, lots character stuff about who they are as people, what they like, what motivates them etc. I know the king likes horses, the prince does, I know the princess will like them... OMG.. WAIT... hah, totally random thought, but, she's getting a pony later on, right? So why does she get one? Because she was inspired to want one because the prince is so hawt looking at the ball!

I expanded our timeline a bit and added a "Night of the Ball" too.  Let your timeline grow, it's fluid (and fun).

I expanded our timeline a bit and added a "Night of the Ball" too. Let your timeline grow, it's fluid (and fun).

See how this works. Ideas come from ideas, little pieces fill themselves in. Trust me, just outline/timeline the crap out of your story. It's really fun and you'll find this stuff filling up your head in the most delightful ways, making car trips and bus rides and boring dinners with your spouse's boss so much more enjoyable. Little nuggets for your timeline will just pop up out of life. It's a blast.

Anyway, the whole thing works like that. Get the main events on your timeline by working backwards on your timeline from the climax, then, once you have it ironed out, you fill in the main details by working forwards from main event (landmark) to main event (landmark). You'll find you bounce back and forth between step one and step two for quite some time as ideas from step 2 (like my "why she wanted a pony" inspiration) will feed back to your main outline in step 1. If you work these two steps together, you'll be amazed at how organized and detailed your story will become. In fact, you'll be getting little epiphanies all the time and your friends will be like, "WTF?" when, suddenly at dinner some night after a sip of rather cheap wine, you say stuff like, "OMG, the princess only got captured because her father forbade her to see the prince again due to his comment at the party about hating red wine (which, you decide is the king's favorite now)... which is WHY she rode out of his protected lands!"

So you scribble that on a napikin, or send yourself a text, and go home and add in these nice new little details in logical places for them to occur.

So you scribble that on a napikin, or send yourself a text, and go home and add in these nice new little details in logical places for them to occur.

Seems lame, or maybe even remedial to some, but I'm hoping you see what I mean. Remember, the bottom line is about getting your first novel process under some kind of control, making less intimidating... making it possible. Doing steps one and two will give you strong direction in which to write. Done patiently, you'll find it fun and find it gives you a very easy to follow road upon which to write yourself finally to a novel's end. By the time you actually start writing, you end up just filling in all the beautiful details of the ball, her gown, the cute little horse, and the prince's clever repartee as you work your way from one landmark, large and small, to the next.


Ok, this sounds counter-intuitive I know, especially with all this other stuff. You want to write a novel, and here I am telling you that now you should do some math. How does that make sense? Well, believe it or not, it kind of works on that old "opposites attract" idea. It's about human nature and about staying motivated to get it done. Here's how math can help.

A super short novel, seriously short, is about 70,000 words. Using Times New Roman, 12 font and double spaced we're talking roughly 225 pages. And that's a short ass novel. Ok, here's where doing math will help you get it done.

Decide how long you are willing to spend on this project, or how soon you want it to happen, either way. Be realistic. How fast do you type? If you don't know, go to a site like and spend five minutes on a test. It ain't super accurate, but it's close enough for you to get an idea. Say you type 40 words a minute. Alright, do the math: A 70,000 word novel typed at 40 wpm = 70 ÷ 40 = 1750 minutes. So let's turn that into hours: 1750 minutes ÷ 60 minutes in an hour = 29.16666 hours, which we will call 30 hours.

Ok, so what we just did was determine that you can write a super short novel in 30 hours of work if you can type at 40 words per minute. Obviously, most writers type much faster than this. Some type slower. Concentration factors in. Whatever. Look at the main point. You can use this formula to figure out how long it will take you to just type a novel. But we're not done.

The truth is, you ain't gonna sit down for 30 hours and write a novel. Even though that's technically doable in two days, including sleep and food, we all know, ain't gonna happen. However, this is what you can do. Take the 30 hours and divide it up into chunks that you think you can do (keep in mind, you have a nice, well laid out plan this time, not just writing randomly).

Let's say you're a lazy piece of crap like me. Let's say that you can't commit to writing for an hour a day because you drink too much or you play frisbee with your dog or, I don't know, whatever. Let's say you can only commit to half an hour a day. Hell, let's say you can only commit to an AVERAGE of a half an hour a day, meaning, you're going to write an hour one day and pour beer on your dog the next. Fair enough. So we average half an hour a day. How long does that take to get a first draft done? Well, back to math: 30 hours of writing ÷ .5 hours a day = 60 days. So, it will take you 60 days (two months) to write a 70,000 world novel if you can just average 30 minutes of writing a day.

Now here's my SUPER secret. Just commit to 15 minutes.

Ok, probably confusing, since I just said you have to average 30 minutes a day. Well, writing your FIRST novel is an emotional business. You'll get to weird spots. You'll write yourself into corners. You'll get pissed at how lame something seems. Maybe your significant other comes in mid-scene wearing leather chaps and spurs. All kinds of stuff can distract you. So, commit to 15 minutes, no matter what. Tell that leather-clad lover to chill for 7 more minutes while you finish up real fast. Come on, anyone can do that much. Never do less than that. (For your next novels, it will be considerably more, but, remember, we're trying to get the first one done. That's the hard one.)

See, here's the thing, while you will do some 15 minute days, probably more of them than you wish, you will also do 2 and 4 hour days as well. I'm telling you, it all averages out. Just so long as you NEVER go less than 15 minutes. That's the only promise you have to make to yourself. 15 minutes. (This means no skipping and paying yourself back tomorrow.) Just write for 15 minutes no matter how you FEEL. If you can't do that, you suck. You probably spend more time than that in the bathroom every day.

In Conclusion

Now listen, I ain't promising you a masterpiece. If it's anything like my first manuscript, it's not going to be all that impressive when you're done. But, the thing is, everyone wishes they'd written their FIRST novel. But they never do. They always just wish. So, what I'm giving you is a way to getting the first one done. Once you've written your first, you will discover that it's actually not all that hard to do. The first one is just intimidating. The day you finish it is like the day you finally punched the 5th grade bully in the nose and made him cry. You realize all your fear was in your head. The real work is in revision anyway. So get the first one on paper. You can revise it and mess with it later. But get it down; DO NOT GO BACK AND EDIT ANYTHING until you have the whole thing down. Just write the damn thing and learn from the process of finishing one. You will learn that you are capable of pulling a novel off. It is an amazing accomplishment, no matter if you can get it published or not. Odds are, you won't. So there you go. Don't even bother if you think you're going to dash off Anna Karenina on your first go round. I mean, you might, but I ain't holding my breath for you, no offense. However, if you are a writer that's stuck in short story land and wants to find a way past that novel block, well, this is a set of three steps that will help you get it done. Good luck, and don't be a puss', just write the damn thing already.

If You Liked This... Check Out:

  • Shadesbreath's Facebook Page
    Keep up on the latest writing, sarcasm, satire and ranting articles from Shadesbreath. Plus, just pop in and say "Hi." Click over and click Like. :)
  • (my website and blog)
    This is my official writing website. You can check out my latest novel projects, novellas, short stories, artwork, and blog. Below is the video trailer for my new novel, The Galactic Mage. You can get the book on my site or directly from


Shadesbreath (author) from California on July 25, 2012:

You're more than welcome, Cags. I know it's a little silly, but that helps lighten it up. I've been using this technique now for several novels and it still works for me. Hopefully it will help you too.

Raymond D Choiniere from USA on July 25, 2012:

Hey Shades, thank you for the quite funny and interesting layout plans. Much appreciated. I'm glad you shared this with me. I thought I had already read it, but I guess not. :) LOL! :)

Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 26, 2012:

Thanks, Julie DeNeen. I'm glad you got a laugh and hopefully something you can use. I love you too. :)

Mom4autism: yeah, that's a big problem for many writers... great concept, super open, super close... but how do I get there? Hopefully this strategy will help you finish one.

Hi, TToombso8. You are certainly welcome. I hope you can get some payoff from this article. I wish you all the best in your writing!

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on June 26, 2012:

Great advice. I really needed this. Thank you, Shadesbreath!

Lisa from Northeast U.S. on June 26, 2012:

This was fantastic as I always know the beginning and the endof my story but get lost in the middle! Such a simple technique using a timeline. I will definitely use this - voting up and sharing and following!!!

Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on June 26, 2012:

Holy Crap that was a long hub and I just hung on every.single.word. In fact, now I'm speechless. You made something so mundane absolutely hysterical and interesting. I love you.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on April 26, 2012:

Hi Buschwc. I think that works too, it sounds like you are doing the same sort of thinking through the events with your chapters. Your bullet points are the skeletal structure of each chapter. Sounds like a good system.

And I hear you about the sticking to it is difficult. That's why I kind of stressed, or at least tried to, that this system is good for a FIRST novel. It gets more complicated after that as stories become more complex with each new attempt. I'm working on the second book of The Galactic Mage series. The first one was 158k words, and this draft is up to 161k, and I still have a third book to go to conclude the original story line. The outlines really start to grow hair the longer the story gets and details that emerge as you write from one "point" to the next begin to suggest new ideas, and, well, then the outline starts to require a lot of revising too. Fun, though. :)

Good luck with your story, write every day and keep writing to the end!

buschwc from Campbell, CA, USA on April 25, 2012:

A great piece on writing a novel. I myself am working on my first novel and I can tell you that planning out the story ahead of time is key. I used a different tactic in place of the timeline. I traced out my story using my chapters and giving each chapter a title of the event it focused on. Then, before writing a chapter, I would draft out bullet points of the chapter and just go from point to point. i'm about a quarter of the way through the book and already at 30k words. It is a long process and sticking with it is difficult, but it is also very rewarding. Thanks for the insight!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on December 02, 2011:

You may be right, J. One never knows how people will receive this sort of thing. All you can do is put the work out there and let it be what it is to whoever comes across it. Thanks for the input. :)

J on December 02, 2011:

This article is waaaaay too long for the advice provided - you could easily have edited it down in to a few paragraphs which, I imagine, would keep far more people interested and therefore have more of an influence.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 13, 2011:

Hello again, Bbudoyono. It sounds like you have a very interesting and delightfully complex subject to work with. I'm very happy to think I might be of some use to you with this article. Good luck, and remember to write every day.

Bbudoyono on October 12, 2011:

Wow, this is a great hub. I wish I found it earlier. I hope it will help me write my novel. I write novels about politics. Struggle for power in Indonesia. Thanks for the hub, I will share it with my friends.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 02, 2011:

Well, David, as far as that goes, none of us get to know if our novels will be worth a sh..., but the joy is in the writing so, what the heck, right?

Glad to know this hub was useful to you, and I wish you the very best on your project. (I'll thank Nellieana too. :)

David Warren from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta on June 02, 2011:

I've read many "How to Write" books throughout the years but have never written anything other than technical manuals and short stories. This was GREAT information. I've always written, edited, written edited, revised.... Never have I used a timeline or even outlined an entire novel. I am going to write my first novel using your information as my guide. Don't know if it will be worth a sh.. or that I will ever even show it to anyone much less submit it anyplace. I am going to finish it though! Thank you for such great information. I wrote a hub that Nellieana commented on and later sent me the URL for this. Thank you.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on February 24, 2011:

Funny about that "write to be a writer" thing, ain't it. It's almost like that "play piana to be a piana player" thing and some other stuff like it. :D

And you don't have to be a puss if you set down the time limits. Even a candy ass can write for 15-20 minutes a day, five days a week.

Motown2Chitown on February 22, 2011:

Okay, so be patient, because I'm just discovering this whole "you gotta write to be a writer thing." But damn.

This is really helpful. For folks like me who have umpteen million ideas and struggle with getting started, this is actually really sound advice. I have two huge fears about writing - one, that no one really gives a damn about what I might have to say, and two, sometimes I just don't know quite how to say it. Best advice in this article is just to write it. Edit it later. For now, just get the damn thing out there. Yeah, I'm a puss.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 16, 2010:

I saw that movie awhile back and recall liking it too. I think, it's possible to believe she was frustrated in her life, but she had an extremely supportive family and her father educated her like one of the boys after deciding that girl's education was crap back then. Her intellectual life, while perhaps not as commercially successful as a male counterpart might have enjoyed, was full--at least so long as she lived. She died wayyyyyyy too soon. She's like the only one of her family that died young. Everyone else, like all of them, died in their 80s or something I believe. Go figure.

I expect a mind like that does well no matter what. One of my favorite female characters of all time is Nelly in Wuthering Heights. I think she epitomizes the power women have always had and how life, when left unmanipulated, still has a way of working itself out. She's the most powerful character in the story by the end. Too easy to think Heathcliff and all his bluster are running everything, when in truth, Nelly was. No, there were no emperors, and, no, not everything happens as quickly as they might like, but, come the last page, it's pretty obvious who the smartest person was.

Anyway,I always ramble when I get on that. I hope you get some use out of the outline system. I sure works for me.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on October 16, 2010:

Wow. Thank you so much for those very fine kind words. At least since reading about your great system, when I begin toying with a "starter" idea for a story, which seems to happen of its accord all the time & sometimes gets jotted down so it's not as quickly lost and forgotten, well - now I'm beginning to visualize or ask myself "ok, but then what? where is that supposed to lead, oh imaginative one?" I think I'll draw a "timeline" page and print some up on which to jot down these idea when they pop up. And then - sit down and write some chronological events that can be fleshed out, in lieu of just starting with the idea and batting it around into oblivion! LOL

Well - thank you for the enormous compliment on my commenting style. It's just refreshing to read hubs like yours which grip and hold my attention with so much wisdom and practicality to share!

Hugs seriously back at you!!

By the way - I am deeply into Jane Austen lately. My granddaughter sent me a DVD titled "Becoming Jane" which is at least loosely based on her life prior to becoming the famous writer. It gives insight into her point of view about many condidtions of life in England in the century in which she lived and wrote. No one should complain about a few rejections these days, I guess, Then, to be a woman writer - or even a woman thinker was like a living suicide. One comment in it was someone saying that humor was out of place in a woman and wit was worse, or words to that effect. Austen's view was generally an ironic look at the foibles of the society - the world, actually - in which she had to try to matriculate - imagine facing it with her intellect and style which were simply considered flaws and faults in one of her gender - and sort of worked to assure her social doom and definitely narrowed her likelihood of being professional at anything - except, maybe the oldest one. In this biographical story, the crusty old uncle of the young man who has asked her to marry him, but whose only security comes from this old uncle - is totally infuriated by any suggestion that she or any woman might aspire to become a professional writer or any other!

Somehow your mention of smarmy editors who slough off potentially great writers like pesky flies and what you'd enjoy happening to them - brought that to my mind. :-)

Thank you for the encouraging words!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 15, 2010:

Hi Nellieanna. You know, HP ought to make an accolade button for "gives the best comments on hubs" and make the icon have an image of you on it. You always have the most carefully thought out and beautifully articulated comments. It's a real validation of one's article to have someone come along who has obviously really engaged in what was written and given the writer, me in this instance, the time that the writer would have dreamed someone would. You are so very respectful and genuine and, well, you just have a lot of class. Seriously. (hugs)

Besides all that, yes, a system. It really works. I just finished another novel draft a few months ago using this system, albeit somewhat modified for time (I set myself 1850 word daily goals, with a half-hour minimum as the bottom end of acceptable effort--only had one day under 1850, and that was 1450, so even that wasn't a let down, and never wrote the minimum 30 minutes once. It gets so much easier after the first one.) I am sorry to hear about your crushing first rejection. I have a book of rejection letters from history and, it is amazing how harsh editors can be sometimes. The upside is seeing some smarmy editor blast some poor writer's work and then the work ends up being Moby Dick or something. :)

I was lucky, my first novel (which was so bad, like, you have no idea how unfathomably horrendous... it's actually funny now looking back) got rejected so gently and sweetly by TSR (the publishers of Dungeons and Dragons at the time). I'd mentioned it was my first in the cover letter, and that I was sending to them first because of how cool I thought they were... and they wrote back a very nice, personal letter saying they couldn't publish it, and all the regular stuff in a form letter but written out by someone too nice to do that to a first time writer. Looking back, that was really classy too. They could have just tossed me back a "we can't all be champs" and harshed my courage too. In fact, they could have been honest and said, "Woah, dude, this is horrendous." lol.

I hope you dash off a novel. I know it would be awesome.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on October 15, 2010:

What wonderful simplicity - as a genius idea often is. I never seem to know where a story is going - obviously,not. I haven't DECIDED!! WOW - The light goes on! LOL.

And I'm a right-brained/left-brained person for the most part! WOW. How come this hadn't occurred to me? Well, I've thought about it, but lacking this clear-cut doable format. In fact, I get snagged in thinking about and doing what I CAN do naturally and pretty doggone well. And get stuck there, concluding that novel-writing is just not my forte, though I know I have several novels in me, like several unassembled jigsaw puzzles. When I do a jigsaw puzzle, at least I have a SYSTEM. When I do a crossword, I have a SYSTEM. One would suppose that I'd have devised a system for writing when one is so glaringly necessary! haha

Just think - when I was 13 and writing stories, had I known or figured out this wonderfull simple format (though not easy, as simple solutions can turn out to be) - perhaps my submitted story to that Seventeen magazine contest for young writers might have netted me a better rejection notice than the curt, "Sorry, Nellie, we can't all be champs" which I admit cut into my writer's heart like a knife into butter and seemed to have struck at the vital connection to my writer's brain! The words seemed to resound in there too easily at the thought of being a champ at writing, though it continued to pour out like a bottomless pitcher of good ideas and good words and my teachers always praised my talent and encouraged it. What they didn't notice was that wall of self-doubt which cut off the flow of oxygen to the practical approach to it. In fact, I've sometimes felt like I must completely swtich gears to switch between the sides of my brain. Naturally its more fun to play on the fun-er side!! LOL And this is in spite of the fact that both sides really are engaged in whichever kind of project is in progress and in spite of the!fact that I always do make the fun things sensible and the sensible things fun. Yet there's that still small voice to remind me that "we can't all be champs". Amazing how many victories in the larder still fail to drown it out! WOW. So a postscript to this may be to drown out those negative voices in one's head, as well and know that one CAN be, if willing to do what needs to be done - along a well-laid out plan.

Time is never my hangup nor is typing speed. I totally forget time when I'm immersed in a project. I MAKE time if necessary and I type fast, though lately with more typos. But as a draft - who cares about those, right? It's when I am into a project which I'd rather not do for any of several reasons, that I procrastinate, so I see the value of the "math" approach, and certainly of the self-discipline to do a fixed amount on it every day. And it all boils down to really WANTING to do it for a lot of us.

So thanks again. I'll be printing and studying this too - as soon as go on and finish up these (grrrr) TAXes due today which I've procrastinated doing with great effectivity for oh these long months!!! sigh. Perhaps a timetable for that kind of project would help this gal along. I really do want to - GET THEM DONE!! so there's another step. Wanting.

Don't get me started on the imagery of the chaps and boots, PLEASE!


Thank you for bothering and caring enough to boil it down so effectively.

And thanks to De Greek for directing me (and others) to take a look at it!

Hugs - Nellieanna

Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 26, 2010:

Oh, yeah, uh, I'll get with my secretary and see about getting that check in the mail.

De Greek from UK on June 26, 2010:

Errrrr... what was that about a commission? :-)))

Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 25, 2010:

De Greek, we all have our own processes. Although, for four hours, I'm thinking you are probably editing and revising? Because I'm not talking about 1800 words polished and ready to send. I'm talking about 1800 words moving towards "an" end. Forming the mass of the story upon which the bulk of the real work is then spent revising.

And hello M Selvey, nice to see you again. I see De Greek is serving as a tour guide to my work again. That's always nice to hear. I suppose I'll have to put him on commission. :) Thanks for reading, and yes, I am a bit brutal in my frankness, but, you know, there's just so much mollycoddling out there these days. Everyone wants to make sure everyone's self esteem is intact and encourage self respect. Well, that's fine, I guess, but there's enough of that out there that I feel at least I should be honest and not jerk people's chains. I figure if people want respect as writers, they should start by writing. lol. Pop the bubble of some romantic fantasy notion of long-haired naturalist writers who look like Fabio and sit, wiping their brows with anxiousness as they work at their typewriter before a window overlooking a meadow, a sleeping beauty behind them surrounded by silk sheets slight askew laying in their bed, hair stirred by a breeze. Yeah, that's not happening. It's regular people working every day, long after the romantic crap is gone, still typing, after work, and between making meals for kids and cleaning up after the dog, while still making it into bed in time to not be too tired to get up for work. That's how it is. If people still write with that reality, then they are actual writers and might get somewhere with it. That's my take. :)

M Selvey, MSc from United Kingdom on June 25, 2010:

I love this:

"The odds are horrifically against you, so, if you're writing a novel because you think it's a way to make money, well, A) you're kind of retarded, and B) this won't be the article for you."

Such brutal honesty but you are so right though. Too many people delude themselves into thinking that writing a novel is a get rich quick scheme! Haha!

You have some great advice here! Some of this reminds me of a lecture I once went to given by Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) - excellent book if you have not read it.

I am going to put a link to this hub from my screenwriting hub.

Thank you to De Greek for giving me the nudge me to read this!

De Greek from UK on June 24, 2010:

Shades, for me 1800 words mean a good solid 4 hours of very hard thinking :-))

Oh, and I know how to sacrifice myself for my art, so do not worry about Mrs. De Greek :D

Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 24, 2010:

Hi De Greek. Yes, I feel terribly sorry about the sacrifices you must make to serve that goddess of yours. But I know you are a stout heart and will continue to do so out of a sense of duty and dedication more than any personal joy you may incidentally experience. I respect that. :)

As for the novel thing... just start assembling major scenes from your memoir.. you can plan in scenes that line up thematically or temporally, and then, if you think about how they made you feel or something, you can plan in how one scene leads to a flashback by natural conclusion, and plot it on the timescale as if it were linear. Etc.

Saddlerider: Greetings to you sir, thanks for having a look at this. And 15 minutes really is easy. I'm working on one right now and I've committed myself to 1800 word goal with a 1/2 hour minimum if I can't get to 1800 words for some emotional reason. Some days, a half hour just seems like such a chore after a whole day of B.S., but truth be told, it's short enough to not be a deterrent to starting that I can. Only one day in twenty-one since I began have I written less than 1800 words (that day was still 1400) and I haven't settled for the half hour minimum yet. Once you start, like you said, you end up just going. I hope you do get your butt in gear. It's such a fun process, so much to think about; it fills your days with "what ifs" and "Oh, oh, I know..." thoughts that break up the tedium of a mundania.

saddlerider1 on June 24, 2010:

Shades what a wonderful road map you offered all us would be novelist's. Just like sketching out the scene before you add the colors. Works for me. I always believe in being organized, mapping out the strategies and then putting it to work. A time line is an excellent idea, 15 minutes a day not terribly hard to do. I know however that I would end up sitting down and once started, be there for a few hours putting my thoughts down. I know each and every one of us will have different styles and time lines, but like you day, just get off your F#$@#%g butt and get started. So thanks for the shot in the arm, one day I may just get my butt in gear and surprise the hell out of myself. Peace

De Greek from UK on June 24, 2010:


I think that it’s the leather chaps and high heels that will do it for me. It’s the curse of having a wife that’s a Goddess-in-human-shape. The things I suffer in this life are horrendous.

But you have amazed me with your generosity of spirit. You have spent so much time to show chumps like me a way out. Thank you so much for this. I have printed it and I shall work on this principle. It may take me twenty years to do it, but when I start writing my first novel, there is going to be a plan I shall work to as faithfully as possible. THANK YOU :-)


Shadesbreath (author) from California on April 16, 2010:

I don't know about the awesome part, but I appreciate the nice words. :)

MordechaiZoltan on April 16, 2010:

Thanks for the informative hub! You are awesome!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on February 08, 2010:

That's great Austinstar, pull that poor thing out of the drawer and breathe life back into it as you blow away the dust!!!

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on February 07, 2010:

I learned a new word! Profluent: flowing smoothly or abundantly.

I will now go forth and be profluent enough to finish that novel I started in 1981! I just have to pull that first chapter out, now where did I put it under all the incredible dusty pieces of paper everywhere?

Ok, got it.

Wow, after all these years, my baby still hasn't grown up. Well, duh, it had no timeline! Never even had an ending, you poor little thing.

I will now feed you for 15 minutes per day (in my spare time) and you will grow up to be a real novel! Isn't it exciting? I just know you are going to be a best seller. That's why I hung on to you all these years.

Thanks, Shadesbreath! Love your logo and your advice. So basic, yet so true.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on January 05, 2010:

It's funny M.T. but that is why I do it too, it just makes me laugh. Dog doesn't care either. :)

And I agree that goals and structure are important. Not just for novels, but for anything anyone wants to accomplish. I know so many people who "just wish they could play the guitar" or "wish they had a body like hers" or "just know they could write a book" and yet they don't make a plan and execute. It's like, "Dude, stfu and do it already."

M. T. Dremer from United States on January 05, 2010:

Brilliant and to the point! The first novel IS hard; it's a major pain in the butt. It will chew you up and spit you out, so it's refreshing to see articles like this that stress the importance of goals, structure and sitting ones butt down to finish it. I'm currently in the editing stages of my novel, which is a crap-storm, but it is significantly easier to write novels once you have finished your first and gotten an idea of the flow and content you need.

Well done!

(P. S. Love your writing style. I laughed aloud at the 'pouring beer on your dog' comment.)

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 10, 2009:

Thanks for reading it, Elena. I'm glad you got a chuckle out of it; a topic like this could easily get dry fast. And I totally agree that is is surprising to see how little actual a number of hours are required. Many writers don't realize it because of all the nervousness or procrastination. The unknown always seems harder/scarier/more onerous than the known.

Now, if I could just figure out how to SELL a novel, I'd really have a hub to write.

Elena. from Madrid on August 09, 2009:

Hello, Shades. I found all this advice not only useful but entertaining to boot. The timeline was hilarious, I almost missed the whole point with all the princess, dragon, prince, king and horses competing for a pice of space up there :-) I found it quite astounding that when it comes to math, one could write a short novel in 30 hours. Thanks for the read!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 09, 2009:

I'm excited for you.

pgrundy on August 09, 2009:

I will! Thanks! If I can spend most of the day writing for other people I can commit to 15 minutes for myself. :)

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 08, 2009:

I don't know about the death spiral thing, but hear what you're saying. More like you need a different approach is all. And some discipline. That's why the math thing helps me. I get to the mid point on mine and it gets really hard to keep going. That's when I need my fifteen minute minimums. Seldom do I jump off at fifteen. But having that out, that "hey, I did what I committed to" option at fifteen minutes to go do something less emotionally burdensome is how I get STARTED every day. You know its only fifteen so you start. Then, like most chores or tasks, once it's underway it's not that horrible and you end up writing your little heart out.

I can't wait to read your book. Hope you share. :)

pgrundy on August 08, 2009:

This was even better the second time around. I bookmarked it. I know I van do this timeline thing, thanks. I mean seriously, thanks! Now I'm focused and off to add another unpublishable pile of paper to the ginormous pile that already exists in the world... but at this point I HAVE to do that, I have to. I think once you've started three times and quit, you are then in some kind of death spiral and you finish the damn thing or you just drop dead. It's no longer optional if you know what I mean.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 17, 2009:

Timeline for direction + disciplined commitment to writing a set minimum every day = finished first draft. 100% guarantee!

Don Simkovich from Pasadena, CA on June 17, 2009:

Timeline is an excellent piece of advice . . . that's what I started doing on my first novel . . . which I'm struggling to finish but finish I will since I know the direction I'm headed.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 17, 2009:

Good luck.  Keep writing no matter what else you do, even if you don't finish a story or novel any time soon.  Every time you write something you are exercising your writing powers.  Runners who want to finish a marathon some day run every day getting better with every mile they trod.  Writers must think similarly.

Heather McDonald on June 17, 2009:

Wow. Thanks. I love to write, and it's my dream to become a published author some day (even knowing just how unlikely it is, but hey, that's what dreams are for). Anyway, I just wanted to say great article. I'll have to try and see if this works... I have like 40 something stories started... lol. Anyway, thanks again and wish me luck!!!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on May 29, 2009:

Whew! Good. Thanks for the read and the comments. :)

MindField from Portland, Oregon on May 29, 2009:

That's exactly what I was asking - thanks!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on May 28, 2009:

Hi MindField. I'm glad timelines might help you. They sure do me. Plus they're just flat fun to work on. I spend so much time composing plots. Anyway, have fun!

As for the timeline in the hub, I just used the simple Paint program that comes with Windows. There's an awful lot you can do with that silly little program, even timelines. I just drew a line, then used the "text" option in Paint. Then I'd draw a little arrow real quick. Then add something else. I had the advantage of being able to move the "graphic" of the text up and down with the cut feature in Paint. So if I needed room, I could slide stuff up and down to squeeze in a sub detail. That's about it. (I hope that's what you were asking. If not, try me again. I'm slow, but eventually I catch up LOL)

MindField from Portland, Oregon on May 28, 2009:

Mary Tinkler said above, "... 'timeline' seems so much easier and more sensible than 'plot'."

Shadesbreath said above, "It's funny how the simplest little tweak of the way we look at something can make a huge difference, isn't it?"

I say, thank you, thank you, thank you! It is amazing, Mary, and funny, too, Shadesbreath, that we often need only to stand on our heads or on our desks (a la Dead Poets' Society) to finally 'see' what we've been struggling with for eons. This was just that sort of moment for me.

Before reading your hub, I was so caught up in 'plot' and 'outline,' two words that scared the bloody Fortinbras out of me, that I could never get anywhere. I feel just as Mary does about 'timeline'. So reassuring and brimming over with possibilities!

Now, one technical question. How did you create the graphic timeline here in the Hub? What software did you use? Can you give me a quick blow-by-blow, SB? Not that I will necessarily use it for my own timeline; just that I'm interested in that sort of thing.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on May 23, 2009:

You should be totally anal retentive about your language choices. What is a novel but a long string of language. The more carefully wrought, the better. In some ways, this hub is just about how to "finish" a first draft. That seems to be the issue a lot of people have is that they can't get to the end of the thing. Revision is something entirely different in a way. You have "finish" the novel the first time through so you have something to start revising. Just my two cents. And I'll see if I can find your script version and give it a look.

Guardian1 on May 23, 2009:

Holy crap, you got a lot of comments on this hub. I had to scroll down forever ;-). Lost the feeling in my fingers. I'm working on a novel right now. My problem is that I'm totally anal retentive about language. I got to get my sentences just right. Must be my OCD. I posted a few pages of the script version. Tell me if I suck ;-).

GJCody from Pittsburgh on December 31, 2008:

Great information Shadebreath.  My business partner loves to write ...I will definitely pass on this information ...Thanks for sharing ...You make it seem so easy. Good hub as always! By the way "Happy New Years!"

Shadesbreath (author) from California on November 08, 2008:

Yeah, those are decent sources from what I hear for those who aren't holding out for an old style brick and mortar publishing house.

Miss G on November 08, 2008:

You can get published online through or it is possible. Thanks for this hub I enjoyed reading it=)

Shadesbreath (author) from California on November 08, 2008:

You don't have to plot decisions. Just events. The essence of character is to put them in a situation that challenges them and puts what it is that matters to them at risk or to the test. Sometimes just plotting to the events is all that you need. On the other hand, a timeline might just help you "write it in your head" by giving you something to keep the massive scale of it organized. If you think about it, that's all your doing when you timeline, just writing it in your head without all the pretty details.

Ur right about trying it out... worst can happen is it doesn't work. Best is that you might finally finish the first one and break through that barrier.

Kate Swanson from Sydney on November 08, 2008:

Shade, I have the darn thing half-finished. I don't start out with just the characters, I also have a situation - and I usually don't start writing until I've developed it a fair bit in my head, like a movie. So I do have a fair chunk of the story before I start - just not the end! I probably needed to try the plotting thing just to know that it didn't work.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on November 08, 2008:

I hear ya, Marisa. This hub is just for those who can't get the first one done and have tried other stuff already. Although, I think a full novel is gonna be a rough thing to pull off with zero planning ahead. Pretty hard to write a character driven novel if you have no idea what major events you want them in though. You can write a character driven novel outline by just saying: He's born... He goes to military school ... the war comes ... The end.

At least you have your character pointed somewhere besides entirely random. For experienced novelists, it may be possible to just start out with nothing in their heads except a clear character idea, but I imagine for someone who can't get the first one done, even a rudimentary map is better than none.

But, you're right, this isn't the perfect advice for all people who can't finish the firsdt one. I was just going for a huge chunk of them.

Kate Swanson from Sydney on November 08, 2008:

I like the idea of the 15 minutes - I need to implement that idea right now! However, I'd like to say a word of caution about your other suggestion.

I once took the advice to plot out my novel before I started. Result? I've never written that particular book. I discovered that a big part of my motivation to write fiction comes from wanting to know what happens to the characters next. Once I know what's going to happen at the end, I have no need to write the story.

The thing with writers is that we all have different ways of writing, and plotting will work for some people but not others!

Benson Yeung from Hong Kong on November 08, 2008:

Thanks. It sounds much easier now. Still a lot of work, though. I guess I'd give in to the devil and try this when I'm old (which means soon enough).

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 25, 2008:

Thanks for reading it, and I appreciate your comment too.

It is fun to just let a sentence meander along, playing with the language and happily lost in the dream place. I hope you still do it.

Gregory S Williams from California on October 25, 2008:

That was fun to read - thank you!

I completed two novels years ago, and because I seem to like to do things the hard way, just did what the typical writer does and meandered for a long time (I got lost in the narcissistic daze of trying to construct beautiful, lyrical sentences that were nice to read, but ultimately took me nowhere!) Once I committed to a framework, with specific objectives in each section, I was able to relax in each particular scene over a mocha at a bookstore cafe and really pump out the words and dialogue.

It's been some time since I've written though and over time, I'd forgotten what worked. Your article is funny, wise and very helpful - thank you so much for sharing it!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 19, 2008:

It's totally realistic. Make a plan, take time to draw the map in detail, and then make a promise to yourself of increments you can live up to. Then do it. Go for it, and feel the power that finishing one gives you in your confidence.

maestrowhit from Virginia on October 19, 2008:

I am inspired by this. It is very helpful. Thanks. I have a few novel ideas that I know would be good. I just haven't seen one through to the end yet. This made finishing seem more realistic.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 10, 2008:

It's funny how the simplest little tweak of the way we look at something can make a huge difference isn't it?  Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, it's complicated, and we wanna come up with the right thing, which we assume must be beyond our abilities, when its not.  It's like the story of the semi-truck that got stuck up against the underside of a bridge, just barely too tall and wedged in tight, unable to pass under or pull back.  The driver and cops and dispatch guys were all measuring and figuring and arguing what to do, when this kid sitting nearby on his bicycle watching says, "Why don't you just let some air out of the tires?" 

Anyway, I hope you get your novel done now.  Good luck and have fun :)

Mary Tinkler from Gresham on October 10, 2008:

I love this hub. Sure beats my method of coming up with my best ideas just as I'm drifting off to sleep at night.....where I might get up and write it down and slip into my novel folder....or I might just go to sleep and forget the great idea! Even so I have so many little notes that will help me filling out that timeline. And 'timeline' seems so much easier and more sensible than 'plot'.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 09, 2008:

Yeah, it's a powerful and yet simple tool for sure. And I know for me, anything to get this clunky old mind working is a blessing. lol. Thanks for your comment.

Donna Campbell Smith from Central North Carolina on October 09, 2008:

I have been involved in a memoir writing class. We used the time line and it is amazing how that simple tool gets the mind working.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 08, 2008:

I'm very happy you like it, and thank you for saying so. :)

Hope Wilbanks from Virginia on October 08, 2008:

WOW! This is a truly excellent Hub! Fantastic information!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 29, 2008:

That's totally dependent on the ratio between hawtness and personal hygiene lol (sorry I was late on this, but, I swear I typed something pseudo-clever last week and, for whatever reason, it didn't come up. Just assume it was comedic genius and laugh heartily for five minutes).

Clive Fagan from South Africa on August 25, 2008:

Animal Planet Huh. We should sponsor BT to help eradicate the giant Snakehead fish plague that is threatening the Potomac river. I know that that Snakeheads are edible. But maybe a duo with Bear Grylls could be just as intriguing. The question here would be who gets to eat who!!!!

spryte from Arizona, USA on August 24, 2008:

*smacks forehead* oh duh...of course they would be spear fishing types!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 23, 2008:

Jackalopes don't fish like humans, Spryte, silly girl. They dive into schools of fish, spearing them on the prongs of their antlers. The only real variation of this is deep sea fishing where they have a fellow jackalope hold them by the ankles and spear fish with them, jamming down at their prey, since they aren't large enough to swim to the surface after piercing the big marlins and sharks. I'm suprised you didn't already know that. Don't you watch Animal Planet?

spryte from Arizona, USA on August 23, 2008:

Tsk...quarters would merely be a temptation to head to the nearest slot machine...and the fishing lures would remind BT of fishing for trout or something like that. Better to reward our favorite jackalope with buttertarts after every fifteen minute writing session. Training can be completed in no time at all...

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 23, 2008:

Tape a shiny new quarter to your computer screen, or maybe some fishing lures.

B.T. Evilpants from Hell, MI on August 23, 2008:

It's not that I can't manage 15 minutes, I'm just easily distracted. Shiny things and what not. But you may be right. It could just be that I suck!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 22, 2008:

Good luck, man. 15 minutes ain't that much to ask. And don't forget, if you can't muster 15 minutes, you suck.

B.T. Evilpants from Hell, MI on August 22, 2008:

I'm going to try this. I started one 5 years ago, and it has been languishing on my hard drive, ever since!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 22, 2008:

It's not different at all, Sixty. It's just another project. And you should write one. Changes how you view yourself, whether you publish it or not.

Clive Fagan from South Africa on August 22, 2008:

Great hub Great advice. writing a novel is not that different from Project Management. Set up time lines draw up all the actions .Work out the dependencies and parallel streams. draw it all together. Make sure you have a coherent whole. pretty much the formula i used to write lectures or course books. Maybe I should follow my own advice and yours and start that first novel.

I will bookmark this one for sure.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 22, 2008:

LOL I used to "ruin" the moments in that game too. Haha, nothing quite like tossing out something ridiculous to spoil the moment. Humor rule! :P

spryte from Arizona, USA on August 21, 2008:

Wow Shade! Very inspiring hub...and appealing to my rather twisted mind. I'm afraid though I might have so much fun making up a timeline that I'd never get to the actual novel writing part. :)

It sort of reminded me of a sleepover with a friend when I was hmm...about 15 or 16? We'd lay in the dark, unable to sleep and make up a story...taking turns. My friend would get so pissed at me as she'd urge the story toward a romantic bent...only to have me destroy it at the penultimate moment by bringing in a herd of stampeding camels...


If I'd had a timeline then...I probably would have known exactly when to bring those camels in so as not to piss off my friend....

Thanks (as always) for a great read!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 20, 2008:

You're right about that RaceRebel. In fact it works for any task at all. I got the basic idea at a company seminar for retail store managers 18 years ago. It was a time management seminar and the speaker said at one point of very large tasks:

If someone pointed at a big three tier wedding cake and told you you had to eat it by yourself, could you do it?

I remember thinking, much as I love cake, "no" I couldn't eat it all myself.

The correct answer was: Not at one sitting. His point being that we break "huge and intimidating tasks" down into small, managable pieces that we CAN swallow.

My company paid for that seminar to help us managers run our stores better, but I went home from that and started (and finished) my first novel. It's such a simple idea, one of those "Doh, how did I not realize this on my own" things.

Shelly Begarowicz from Up-North, MI on August 19, 2008:

Absolutely Wonderful Ideas!

Your process applies to any kind of written task. I love the idea of mapping it out into small do-able steps.


Ananta65 on August 18, 2008:

I'm one of those folks :) To me it is indeed more something of an afterthought, so I'll keep this hub in mind if and when I decide to actually plan to make a serious attempt.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 18, 2008:

Yeah, I hear that a lot Ananta. To be honest though, I usually hear it from folks who haven't got their first one done yet. A novel is such a huge project it's just really asking a lot of one's self to expect to be able to maintain profluence, with no wandering or getting lost. I think it comes down to the difference between just wanting to write for the experience of writing or actually wanting to write a novel. For many, just writing is all they want. Maybe they'd like to have a novel written, but as an afterthought. It's mostly just about the escape or venting and that sort of thing. But I really believe that anyone who truly expects to FINISH a first novel needs a plan. It doesn't have to be etched in stone and any deviations come with penalties of death, but I think it's hard to get anywhere if you don't have an idea where it is you are trying to go and some idea of how you plan on getting there.

Ananta65 on August 18, 2008:

Great hub, Shadesbreath. Not that I'm thinking of writing a novel, but still an interesting need. The 'problem' for me is, that I usually don't know how my story is going to end. I don't know in advance if the prince is going to save the princess, the dragon is going to have both of them for super, or the princess gets addicted to the fiery attention she gets from the dragon. It just happens as I write.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 17, 2008:

Hah, first I lure you in with some down to earth writing tips, then, once I have your trust as an instructor figure, I will begin the conditioning to make you an automaton in my army for world conquest.


Seriously, I've read enough of your stuff to know you could totally write one if you ever decided you wanted to. It would probably be pretty frickin good too.

Ricardo Nunes from Portugal on August 17, 2008:

Wow, I felt like I could really write a novel myself after reading this hub. I never saw me like a possible novelist writer but one never know :D , specially with a teacher like you ;)

ps: I´ll bookmark this one just in case LOL.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 16, 2008:

Talented, EVERYONE is having trouble with the first one, lol. Do it man, it ain't that hard. Suck it up and get crackin'.

Misty, it's almost funny how the information we need is not just out, but has been given to us repeatedly. Comes down to we have to be ready for it, I guess. Good luck with your project when you are ready. It's fun.

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on August 16, 2008:

Really good advice and reminds me of when our English Teacher at school used to always say a story needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and to always draw a plan of ideas up beofre you connected them altogether into one piece of work. I am not quite ready to write a book yet, but when I am I shall certainly follow your advice as written here.

talented_ink from USA on August 16, 2008:

Deep beneath your biting sarcasm and foul mouth lies a fountain of wisdom. LOL This is a good hub, but how did you know I was having trouble with my first F--ing novel?!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 15, 2008:

You're quite welcome. Hope you get it this time. Feel free to holler or email if you get stuck and want someone to talk to you in a rude, foul mouthed way as a means of motivating you to action again. LOL.

pgrundy on August 15, 2008:

This is so good, thank you. I am totally in the 60 pages then fall apart and forget it camp. I've done that three times. I'm going to digest this and see if I can actually finish one. This is great. Thank you, seriously.

dineane from North Carolina on August 15, 2008:

I love your suggestions. I've read so many 'how to write your novel' books, but the 15 minute thing might just work for me. I'll let you know. thanks!

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 15, 2008:

Robie: It was the only thing that got me through my first one. I was gung ho for the first 100 pages or so, but then, meh... started running out of gas. But, I'd commited to the 15 minutes, so, I just sat down and wrote... glancing up at the clock, "eight more minutes," grrr, write another couple sentences, look up, "ugh, five more minutes," etc. But I wrote. Eventually broke through that and got another burst for awhile. Kind of off and on like that through till the last fifty pages or so when I realized the end was in sight.

A writing teacher will tell you that 15 minutes a day is NOT enough writing to be a good writer. And that teacher is correct. However, this strategy is just about getting the novel done. Doing so can break writers free and recharge them for years with new belief in their abilities.

Thanks for your nice comment. :)


Sometimes its the simple stuff that keeps us down. The upside is, easy to fix. Good luck with your timeline, and have fun!!!

Tari from New Zealand on August 15, 2008:

Simple advice.. no wonder I couldnt think how to do it.. sigh.. well thank god for sites where someone else can think for me.. I'm off to do a timeline and see how that pans out. Will let you know how that goes :)

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on August 15, 2008:

Love your idea of writing 15 minutes a day every day--really good advice if one can follow it<ahem>. I'm usually either so into it that I write till I drop or so busy procrastinating that I can't get started. Moderation has never been my thing, I guess:-) Another good one, Shadesbreath.

Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 15, 2008:

Yes, this isn't the panacea of prose, like I said.  But even for folks whose novels are more character driven than plot driven, there still needs to be profluence. A difference might be that, rather than being CERTAIN that the prince will rescue the princess, you just make certain that she gets captured on your outline and the prince finds out.  You can let the story unravel as the character faces his inner demons, his cowardice or his inability to kill anymore after the war... whatever. That conflict is the climax for that story just as the rescue is in the example that I made.  It is still useful to have waypoints to help you stay on course to an end, PARTICULARLY for people who haven't FINISHED the first one yet.  That's who I'm aimed at here.

Good luck with  your work too, I'm glad you found your way through the first one.  Everyone has to figure out how to muddle through the first.  Thanks for the comments.  :)

listenup on August 15, 2008:

Great article. I, however, continue to write on a novel so that I can see what's going to happen, much like reading a book. I like your ideas though, and I'm sure it will work for many. Thamks!

Related Articles