My newest writing guide is out! This project began when I wrote a blog post about how to write a novel–or, at least I write writing a post, but I quickly just how much I had to say on the topic. It turned into a 100 page guide on the entire process. Take a look at the table of contents below!
(More info on all my books for authors under Authorpreneur Press)
The “Quick Start Guide” to outlining and writing your novel!
Helpful exercises with each step.
Tips for beginnings and more advanced writers.
Have you ever wondered how to write a novel? Have you started and got frustrated? Or have you written a few novels but still want to streamline your process and learn more about structure, plot, characters, setting, and putting it all together? Do you struggle with outlining? 10 Easy Steps to Write Your Novel covers developing ideas, conflict, characters, setting, big plot points, outlining, the writing process, writing scenes, and editing and revising.
Table of Contents:
- Step 1: Develop your Idea
- What about a title?
- Developing “Sparks”
- Questions to Consider
- A Solid Foundation
- Developing Your Idea Exercises
- Step 2: Develop Your Conflict
- Conflict Exercises
- Step 3: Add Your Characters
- Play Around with Character
- Character Exercises
- Define Your Characters
- More Character Exercises
- Step 4: Define Your Setting
- Using Setting to Shape Story
- Setting Exercises
- Step 5: Outline your Big Plot Points
- My Novel Structure
- Expanding the 7 Plot Points
- Step 6: Plan Act I to the Door of No Return
- What about Prologues?
- That Opening Line
- Genre Beginnings
- “The Beginning” Exercises
- The Door of No Return
- Step 7: Plan Act II to the Midpoint
- Act II Exercise
- Low and High Points
- Step 8: Act III: Plan the Middle to the End
- Taking Action
- Dark Moment
- Ending Exercises
- The Last Line
- Step 9: Writing
- Writing Scenes
- Should you write every day?
- Should you set a daily word count goal?
- Should you write in order?
- Should you edit and revise during the first draft?
- Staying in the flow
- Keeping up your momentum
- Celebrate your progress
- Step 10: Re-writing & Editing
- When should you share your work?
- Critique Groups?
- Start with the big issues
- Checking Smaller Elements
- Should you have a theme?
- When is your novel finished?
So whenever I’m working on a novel, the characters basically hang out in my head. I see them going about their day and think about how they think, talk, feel and dream. I’ll get scene ideas throughout the day or even think about how they’d react to what’s going on in my life. That has taken on a life of its own as I work on In My Dreams… I’m starting to feel like Avery in the first book! The reason is both Marcus and Avery feel so real to me. I can see the way Marcus’s eyes light up and how his face changes when he laughs good and hard, and I hear his comments. I’ll be picturing something for the story and hear him say, “That girly? Really? Dude, you’re turning me into a girl.” Or, “You think I’d hold back like that? When did my mouth get so PG?”
And I imagine Avery going through my crap with me – I’m pouring a lot of my emotions into her right now. My life took some crazy turns and I’m starting over in many ways, and she’s like a friend going through the same thing. When my emotions try to eat me alive, she’s there feeling it too. She’s gotta figure out who she is even while she cares about other people so much; it’s hard to see where the lines are. She’s surprised sometimes as she thinks, “Holy shit, I can do this.” But it’s still hard for her to own that.
So this is going to be one interesting sequel – I want it to be as raw and intense as the first one, or maybe even more so. There’s a crazy wild amount of possibilities too, now that Marcus is back in his body and they both have to figure out their relationship and their separate lives again. Of course they don’t want to be separate. Can you imagine having someone in your heart and mind 24-7 and then you can’t hear them anymore? It’s like falling off a cliff in the dark. That twirling free fall is a good metaphor for the emotions pouring out of them and into the story.
And this story isn’t about just them. We have all these other threads to pick up with Kristina, Kyle, Nash and Jazz. And some weird things happened when those guys started talking, and now some of them have their own chapters and are feeling certain things for each other… Yeah, a big hint there, but I don’t want to give away too much just yet!
I haven’t wrote flash fiction in forever. The urge hit tonight, and I decided to play around with words and also write something without real dialogue. I do bend that rule a bit here. And also, don’t worry because I also wrote some on In my Dreams.
When bullets fly
She didn’t see the bullet coming, but even if she had she wouldn’t have moved out of the way. She’d been waiting on that bullet for years.
As she went out to the car that morning, the lightning in the steel sky might have appeared as a sign to the superstitious, which she was. But she felt a strange lift in her chest and smiled. It wasn’t a happy or good smile. More like grinning as you go down in flames. You know that saying that lightning only strikes once? That’s only partly true. It strikes once with the really good stuff, but it hits the shit out of you with the bad.
As she watched the electricity branch across the sky at the stop of 23rd and Polk, a Chevy truck slammed into her rear bumper. After the jolt, she pushed open her door and rose shakily from the driver’s seat to address the other driver…a six foot five construction worker with a buzz cut who reeked of cigarette smoke. Of course he didn’t have insurance or the patience to stay and discuss it.
So maybe the lightning was a sign? Maybe she needed to go home and go back to bed. Some days just aren’t made for getting ahead.
But she didn’t.
She instead went to work to be greeted by the boss by the front door. Oddly, he wore a tie, and escorted her to his office to let her go.
Home and bed would have been the right course of action after that, except that the door was open at Johnnie’s Bar. Johnnie himself was inside finishing a meeting when she walked in. Normally they’d smile at each other. Today he took a look at her and poured a shot of bourbon. Luckily she downed it before the two men walked in shouting. And maybe more luckily, she downed Johnnie’s just as the bullets flew.
It was the strangest sensation past her ear. The spot of heat. The rush of wind. The following caress. And then the sound. The other sounds were far away, down a canyon as she stood still, glass in hand, turned toward the door and staring blankly. Both men wore black leather jackets. One tall, skinny and bald. The other shorter, round and lost in a hairy goatee. Silence rang loudly. Questions floated in the smoke. Mainly, why didn’t she move? They glanced at each other and backed up out the door. Seconds later, Johnnie peeked up from behind the bar. Jesus. What was she doing standing there? Was she hit?
When she finally did turn toward him, the light from the still open door illuminated a puff of hair floating like dust.
Johnnie kept those strands for good luck. She’s not sure if she’d call it luck, but she learned you can’t back down when the bullets fly.
First Tracks Series
First Tracks – When you get to leave your mark on the fresh pow before anyone else!
In My Dreams, Book 2 (All in my Head sequel)
**Spoiler alert! Don’t read this until after you’ve read the first book!**
They can finally be together…right?
Avery almost lost Marcus while he was in a coma. She couldn’t think past saving him. Now that he’s awake, she can finally see and touch him, but she can’t hear his thoughts or feel his emotions anymore. What if he doesn’t need her? Marcus wants her to go back to Ashland to catch up in college and fix things with her friends. She’s not ready to face that mess.
Marcus was a gold medalist in Sochi but now he’s stuck in physical therapy, dreaming of being with Avery and returning to his life. Is his snowboarding career over? Will he ever play his guitar or draw again? And can he let Avery be with someone who’s so damaged?
They’re together—but it’s not what they expected. Marcus has a long recovery ahead of him and Avery needs to put her life back together. Can they make it in the real world?
Here’s a look into the new book: (and if you haven’t read All in my Head, the format is different, and Marcus has his own font when he’s just a voice.) This is after Avery leaves Marcus in Portland to return to school.
Why did it hurt so much? The bed felt wrong just like my life, and I couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Marcus was ok. We were ok. Life was fixable now.
The fixable just felt so big and scary right now. So alone.
“Marcus?” I whispered into the dark, gazing blindly up at the ceiling. “Are you there? I need you.”
I tried to breathe but my body shook, so I rolled onto my side and curled up, squeezing my eyes shut.
Why couldn’t I feel him? Hear him? It felt so wrong to be this far away, knowing he was lying in a hospital bed. What would it be like to recover from a brain injury and a coma? He wasn’t sure about his life and his body right now, and that had to be super hard on a athletic guy like him. I wanted to be there, holding him, telling him it’d be okay.
I needed to feel him.
How was I supposed to focus on my life here when my thoughts would be up there with him?
I needed escape.
Please just let me go to sleep.
The words were like a prayer and I felt myself falling into sweet oblivion.
It wasn’t empty; it was the silence of a white, padded world where everything is brighter, clearer. The smell of snow filled my nose. Clean. Crisp. The cold, clean air shot into my lungs like a drug, racing through my veins and hitting my brain with a burst of serotonin. Pure happiness filled me.
I had a board under me and miles of pristine powder stretching out, inviting me to explore. Diamond-like sparkles speckled the snow, dancing in the sunlight and leading the way as I raced forward. Clear blue sky blessed me from above. Smelling pine, I turned my head. A forest stood off on one side decorating the edge of the clearing, and a mountain beckoned before me.
My core temp came up from the excitement. Pure, so pure. Such a singleness—it was just what I needed. I became aware of board shhhing over the snow, and I suddenly loved that sound with a terrifying intensity.
Overflowing with gratitude, I yelled out, my jubilant voice filling the meadow and slopes and gullies.
I turned my body and took a new direction, gliding over a rolling section that felt like waves under me.
He filled my soul, his joy matching mine.
How’d we get here, babe?
I don’t know! I just know it feels great!
I know, right!! Let’s hit this!
With a whoop, we moved together, flying toward a hill, anticipation of the jump practically lifting us before the takeoff. We flew off the top.
It wasn’t anything fancy. No flips. No 180. No board grabbing.
The beauty of the ride just froze us in a silent flight out over the powder, feeling the cold wind on our skin. That’s what a live feels like. We landed soft knees and glided down.
My thoughts swirled, wondering how Marcus felt out here, with…reality back there. I felt his mind react, turn toward that thought, and then shove it away.
Who cares about that now?
I didn’t. Not when I can have this.
Wow, deep powder out here today.
I pulled in a super deep breath, wanting to capture as much as I could from here. I’d need it later.
We took the downhill, swinging around the few trees and enjoying it silently. Just being here. Just being.
A sharp incline came up and we took it fast. Probably too fast. It didn’t matter. We soared higher than possible, flying, laughing in the face of life.
I expected a complete yard sale but we just fell into the snow and rolled. That’s when I became aware we were both there—it wasn’t just his voice and being filling my head. We were both lying in the snow.
His laughter filled the air, full and sure, one of those laughs that pause life. We ended up side by side on our backs, my arm over his.
I rolled my head to look at him—this was so different to see his face, the sky reflected in his eyes, the white of his teeth as he smiled.
What is this, I wondered, and he lifted his eyebrows in answer.
Just us. We’re different.
I love you, babe.
I sighed and realized I was waking up in bed, alone. I felt around under the covers, half expecting Marcus to still be with me. He wasn’t, of course. I knew that. But he was with me in a way.
So everyone is asking about an epilogue and/or sequel for All in my Head. I’m working on a follow up novel called In My Dreams, and I decided to share the first scene as an epilogue of sorts for the first novel. It’s posted here and added to the first book on Kindle too.
Update: In My Dreams is on pre-order and will release April 29.
Okay, enough talk, here’s the opening scene of In my Dreams, book two.
~ ~ ~
In My Dreams
I look like a maniac and I don’t care.
I ran down the hospital hallway, dodging people without apologizing, tears running down my face and a guitar bouncing against my back. My hair was having a fantastically frizzy day due to the weather, or maybe my crazy life, and I felt it whipping around behind me. I tore around a corner, my shoes sliding before grabbing on.
I had to get to him right now.
He remembers me.
Everything’s okay now.
If Marcus remembered me, then I wasn’t schizophrenic and making all this up. He had been in my head, sharing my life, listening to every thought. People would believe me now. He could tell his parents, his sister, my friends—everyone who thought I’d lost it.
It didn’t make any sense, but it was true. It was true!
The room numbers were climbing and I skidded to a stop, sliding past the door. Grabbing the door jamb, I pulled myself back and threw myself through the doorway.
Four people stared at me, stopping me in my tracks. This wasn’t the rush-in-and-kiss him I’d imagined. His parents stood by the door and Jen stood next to the bed where Marcus laid. Tom and Elaina still looked skeptical. They’d tossed me out as a crazy stalker before, and now they glanced at each other, not sure what to think. Tom narrowed his eyes through his super thick lenses. They were still worried I’d hurt their son. His sister Jen started to smile at me but the tension in the room stopped her cold too.
I finally looked at Marcus. He had his bed raised like he was waiting for me.
“Avery. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I—” He broke off and a smile flashed across his face. “You brought my guitar.”
“Yeah… how many times have you yelled at me to grab it?” I tried for a laugh at my lame joke and set it on a hospital chair. What could I say to him in front of his family? Nervous, I stepped past his parents and rushed to the bed, avoiding their gazes.
“We’ll wait outside for a bit,” Jen said, her voice cautious. And then, thankfully, she herded her parents out of the room. They were quiet until they stepped out, and then their voices mingled together and faded. At least they weren’t standing right outside the door.
“Marcus,” I whispered, my voice breaking as fresh tears filled my eyes. I took a step closer to the bed but something held me back. Did he still like me, now that he could see me face to face? Maybe I wouldn’t live up to the fantasy. Maybe he just needed me before, but not anymore, not when he had his life and body back. I glanced down at myself because I couldn’t even remember what I was wearing.
What did he think? I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t hear him.
That prodded me into motion and I walked to the edge of the bed. He reached out to me. I took his hand, feeling his warmth in a new way. He turned his hand to entwine our fingers, then looked down, confused. I watched his expression and our hands, wondering if he felt weak after being in the coma.
“Marcus.” It felt so good to say his name and see him here with me like this. I’d seen him in my mind’s eye, and in pictures online, and even here sleeping in this bed, but this was different. His warm hazel eyes searched mine, mirroring my emotions, I think. Amazement. Surprise that we made it here. Fear.
“It was all real?” he asked, still staring at me, and lifting his other hand to caress my cheek. I closed my eyes and leaned into him, taking a big, shaky breath.
“It had to be. There’s no other explanation.”
I leaned down and slid my arms around him. We came together slowly, like we were both unsure of this new reality. What was he thinking? But once I felt him this close and smelled his scent under the hospital smells, my breath quickened until I started crying and clinging to him. His fingers sank into my hair and he kissed my head, saying my name. When I lifted my face, he smiled.
Oh, my god, is he handsome. And real. And right here.
We paused, looking at each other, grins coming at last. Then his face went serious, something new in his eyes. He touched my chin and we stretched toward each other, our lips meeting softly.
A shock wave rolled down my body.
His lips, so full, so soft…so wanting.
His breath smelled of mint. I smiled as his lips moved on mine. I’d somehow gotten halfway up on the bed to kiss him back, my hands gently exploring him. His hands shook against my head—from desire or his injuries?
How fragile was he?
Would this hurt him?
A noise rose up his throat. Energy zinged through my veins. With my eyes closed, my body felt like it was floating. He hung onto me tight, his tongue suddenly teasing my lips, before he pulled me further back with him. At the contact, my body came to life, surprising me. We’d been so close but unable to touch before, not really touch. I pulled back, opening my eyes and finding his staring back, warm and dancing.
My lips tingled. All of me tingled. I heard my ragged breathing and laughed. “Marcus.”
Suddenly, he pulled me forward, pressing another kiss onto my mouth. Then he pulled me back and looked at me, staring, taking me in, detail by detail.
“Damn, you are beautiful,” he whispered. “And you look even better from this perspective… I love you, Avery.”
I started to reply and couldn’t find my voice. His warm eyes grew shiny.
I pulled in a quick breath, still so amazed in be in this moment. “I love you.”
Our smiles grew together until we started laughing.
“Everything’s different now,” I said, my voice breaking.
“Better.” His smile faded. “Right?”
“Right.” I looked back toward the door. What would his family think? What would we tell them?
His hand came up to my face. “Ave, we’ll figure it out.”
I lay my head on his chest, breathing in his scent. I could feel him, smell him, kiss him!
“We’ll figure everything out.” His voice came softly as his fingers threaded through my hair. “I love you and we’re together. That’s what matters now.”
Closing my eyes, I decided to worry about everything else later. He was right. Only this mattered now. We were together, really together.
~ ~ ~
They both noticed a woman with long, dark hair and an inviting smile, so they sat at the bar, four stools away from her. She glanced over at their entrance before turning back to her conversation with her friends. Sentence told Story, “Watch this. I’m going to wiggle my perfect construction at her. She won’t be able to resist!”
Story watched as Sentence tried to catch the woman’s eye. The woman and her friends gave Sentence a few polite glances, but they weren’t interested.
When Story had enough, he announced, “My turn!” He walked around Sentence to sit closer to the woman and gave her a nod and a wink. The woman immediately moved down the bar three seats to talk to Story.
“Your characters are amazing! How did you come up with this idea, anyway?” She leaned closer and tilted her head back to tease him with a half smile. “And the twist at the end! I didn’t see that coming, but then it made perfect sense. Please tell me there’s a sequel. Does Jake ever win Kathryn over, and does his father ever forgive him? Is there another mystery to solve?”
Story motioned for another round of drinks and murmured, “I’ll tell you everything if you have a few hours…”
Sentence sulked in his seat. What had he done wrong?
“Sentence” missed the simple fact that readers don’t go into bookstores and online retailers to buy groups of sentences. There aren’t any reviews that read, “This book is full of perfect sentences! Check out the metaphor on page 82. The sentences were so wonderful that I forgot about the story and highlighted the commas and semicolons. This author knows how to vary sentence length! Wonderful!”
Readers often say a novel is well written, and they might mention the imagery or fresh use of language, but that alone won’t win readers. Personally, I don’t want to throw a reader out of the story with a impressive sentence. I want the plot and characters to pull the reader in so she’ll keep reading past her bedtime. Of course, I don’t want poor writing to distract the reader either, but I know the point of the novel is the story.
As an artist, do you want others to see the picture you’re painting or the brushstrokes?
Do you need to write well on a sentence level to write good stories? Yes, of course! But are the sentences more important than the story you’re telling? Not in my opinion. Aren’t authors selling stories, not sentences?
Writing well is very important. I don’t mean to argue that point, but it really bugs me when I hear someone put down a mega bestselling author for their writing. It’s usually on a sentence level: “Look at all the clichés, passive voice, and simple sentences! A fifth grader could write better.” It could be true–the given book might very well be full of sentences that could be written better. Maybe their modifiers don’t line up. Maybe they like using clichés as shortcuts in certain places. Maybe they choose choppy or run on sentences over proper grammar to show the character’s thoughts and emotions. But, if the writing really is that poor, then the author must be doing something else right. And that “something else” really sells copies. Millions of readers are buying those books. Despite what people say, you can’t sell a book month after month on marketing alone. If it’s not a good story, people complain. They won’t tell other people about the book.
Readers want an experience away from their life. They want to get sucked into a great story that makes them forget everything else for a few hours. They want to connect with the character and see the world differently. They want to experience a great story. They want to feel.
So, yes, please learn to write sentences well and play with language. Study English, spelling, and grammar. Create fresh images and strive to be original. Learn how to write well so readers can understand what you’re saying. And if you want to sell that writing, remember your job is to tell a damn good story.
So, on the writing front, I edited several novels over the last few months for other authors. It’s been a hugely fun process, and I got to work in romance, fantasy, historical, and crime fiction. I’ve been editing for ten years, and the last few years I’ve seen a dramatic increase in quality in terms of writing and the stories I’m seeing. I think it’s due to the Indie movement and all the content so readily available. There’s books, articles, blogs and Facebook groups that help writers learn about writing and the publishing process. So, it’s lots of fun all around!
And yes, I’m working on my own novels too. I’m working to finish the 4th novella in the Stranger series. It’ll be the final one and complete the story, although it opens the door for a new series if I want to continue it. Here’s the cover for the 4th book:
(I don’t want to give the story away yet, especially if people didn’t read the first three.)
I’ll publish this one and then a full novel version with all four novellas.
I also started another story inspired by a video on Facebook. You might have seen the clip of a girl at a cam when the kiss cam zooms in on her and her boyfriend. The guy ignore the kiss cam but a mascot runs over and carries her off. I love that video! And I wanted to start a story with that, so I did. It might be a novella – I’m not sure at this point. I’m just having fun with it and writing away. Here’s the cover. What do you think???
This story is lighthearted and fun with a big dose of humor.
The Trail Blazer’s mascot sweeps Abby off her feet, literally, but she doesn’t get his name. Luckily he happens to know she writes the “Honest Abby” column in a local paper. The mascot is a fun loving, hot guy, but he also has a sick father and a load of responsibilities that lead to a little complication.
Why start from scratch and reinvent storytelling? Instead, use a 7 point plot outline developed from wildly successful novels.
“Blockbuster Books, Broken Down” is a workbook style guide that reveals the structure and elements in huge bestsellers of the last fifteen years, many of which became movies. By breaking down these books, we can see how successful authors are breaking out by satisfying readers’ needs.
Part 1 deconstructs today’s bestsellers and offers insights and keys to blockbusters and the Blockbuster Novel Map.
Part 2 guides you in creating a breakout idea and developing that into a solid plot with a novel map. Build from the ground up with 7 points to ensure your plot will connect with readers.
Buy the workbook and you can get the Kindle book free through Kindle Matchbook.
Covers these books and more:
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Twilight and The Host by Stephenie Myer
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Maze Runner by James Dashner
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Notebook and Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Part 1: Deconstructing Bestsellers
Does Genre Matter?
Hook, High Concept, & HUGE Stakes
What’s Different About Today’s Blockbusters
The Blockbuster Novel Map
The 7 Point Outline with 3 Act Structure
The Key to Blockbusters
Part 2: Building Your Bestseller
First, Know Thyself
Your Big Idea
The Breakout Idea Checklist
From Idea to Plot
Which Came First: plot or character?
Writing Your Novel
Ways to Improve Your Writing
Make Any Story BIGGER
Writer’s Block: specific cases and how to fix them
Your Novel Map
Novel Map Worksheet
From Novel Map to Outline
Your Setting/ World
Your Setting Notes
*This is a hands-on fiction workshop packed with insights, exercises, and worksheets to quickly teach you breakout plotting and novel development.
Amazon – Kindle ebook and print workbook available