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Writing a Novel: The Breakdown

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Writing a novel or short story is totally do-able. However, sitting down before a blank piece of paper or word document can be overwhelming and discouraging. How does one make an idea become a 80-120k (or more)  word book? Your English teacher had it mostly correct: outlines.

There are two ways you can do this:

One way is to buy a super fancy writing software that breaks down bits for you.

The other way is my way. You will need blank index cards, post-it notes, or envelopes. I used envelopes in this instructable. I like envelopes because you can use them to hold the parts of your novel associated with the envelope. I like to break it down into tangible, movable pieces. It makes the task less daunting and your progress more visible, increasing the odds you will finish.
 
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Step 1: Characters and Word Count

Picture of Characters and Word Count
Jenny 130.jpg
Naming your characters and giving them some "life" is the first step for me. I find that the more I flesh out my characters at the beginning, the easier it is to write them in a consistent manner through out the novel. So do the basics first in that old "AOL" chatroom style we know and love :A/S/L. Age, sex, location. Physical descriptions. Any flaws they may have, make a note. That means if your character has a scar on the left cheek, you can always refer to his card/envelope and remember "left." For the photo I combined my protagonists, but for your own work keep one card for each, because it will become full of notes and changes you make later.

Ask yourself: what is their back story? How do they react in tough situations? That sort of thing. It is ok to think in general terms--characters tend to morph and change as you write them, developing their own voice. Just pull out your card for them, make a note and keep going!

Do it for your villains, too, if you have them. Any character you think will have repeated scenes. I like to do these first because I find as I create characters my story begins to formulate more in my mind.

Then do a card with a couple of places that may come up frequently and describe them. Again, continuity. In the photo I combined antagonist and scene--don't do that. Yes, it is a large number of cards to keep up with, but you can quickly file through them and find what you want.

Also, set a goal word count. I find 80-100k words is good to shoot for. The key is to keep your writing from being aimless--you want to write with a purpose, and goals make this feel attainable and exciting. 100k is nice, too, because it makes percents easier. So if you have 20k words written, you are 20% done. It gives small feelings of accomplishment as your fingers hammer out your tale.
hallsan1 year ago
Very inventive and like you said, doable!! Thanks
thanks for giving such a cool advice...............
fonzuzu1 year ago
i soo needed this. Im writing right now and was hoping for an ible on writing novels!. thank you soooooo much :D
This is great! I'm working on a novel myself (though it's largely nonfiction and thus a bit different).
superluper (author)  SelkeyMoonbeam1 year ago
Thanks! Non-fiction will be my next venture--I imagine if I thought researching fiction was tedious, non-fiction will be a bit of a kick in the butt.
i shall have to read it thoroughly but as a writer myself i think that you have done well on this :)
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