Story of a Novel – Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous blog about writing my first novel, I’m not good a schedules. However, I do need to have a plan – even if I don’t stick to it!

Here are some of the things that helped me on my writing journey:

Share your story idea

Initially, I shared the synopsis of my story with a few friends and I found that retelling it several times over, helped to confirm which bits worked and hung together, and which bits didn’t work so well.

It also pushed the story firmly into my own psyche, so I knew it inside out.

Importance of planning but not necessarily sticking to it.

I wrote a timeline for my characters, so I knew how they fit into the story and into each other’s lives.

Next, I wrote a synopsis of the whole story, with an idea of where I wanted it go. However, as I actually typed or put pen to paper, I found although this was an incredible help, sometimes, the story needed to take a different turn to the one I’d planned. Characters do have other ideas about their world.

Each chapter had its own word document in the overall ‘book’ folder on the computer containing the events I thought should be in that chapter. The order of some of these ideas often moved on, or had to have other events added to make sense of the story. However, without this vague idea of where I was going, I think I would have meandered with no focus.

In fact, the ending of my book changed completely to my initial idea, but I think for the better.


With the first few chapters, I often went back to edit. I soon realised, that if I continued to do this, I would not get the rest of the book finished.  I needed to get the story out of my head and onto paper. For me, I decided editing (apart from correcting the odd typo, or grammatical mistake) on the hoof was a bad idea and stopped my flow. It was something I saved until I got to the end of the writing.

Reading books on writing, and online writing support groups

Sometimes things pop up on your social media timeline about writing books and how to do this and that.

I know lots of people find them useful, but I’ve never been competitive, and I do find the idea of having to share what I’m doing with a load of other people slightly competitive. I often wonder if this is because, as an only child, I’ve always been used to doing things myself, and getting on with it. I do know that if I start comparing myself with other people’s writing, I can easily squash my own confidence. You have to retain belief in what you are writing. 

The best book I have read is Stephen King’s, ‘On Writing’, which is also the book I’ve found the most useful in terms of giving me tips and confidence in my own writing.

Another book, which I won’t name was totally confusing for me, and could easily have put me off what I had already written.

I’d always say, keep believing in your story. Definitely look at other ideas and support tips, but only take what works for you, don’t assume that everything that person says will work for you. Also, don’t assume that the person who is ‘spouting’ the kowledge has actually written and published a bookd. I can’t reiterate enought… It is your story, no-one else’s. Believe in it!

Getting dates right.

It’s easy to get yourself mixed up with dates when writing fiction and the event doesn’t actually exist anywhere apart from inside your mind.  Following someone else’s advice, I found an old A4 desk-diary, with very little written in it, and stuck post-it notes on the dates that were important in my story’s timeline. As my story unfolded, I found it invaluable to have the events on actual dates, so I could talk about how many weeks or days had passed between the action, and it kept me in a type of -reality.

Using post-it notes means you can re-use the diary over and over for each book you write.

Know your characters

In a previous short story, I made the mistake of changing a character’s name half way through, and it took an eagle-eyed reader to point it out to me.

Now, I have some index cards containing my characters names, linking them to their family, friends etc, so that I don’t change names mid writing.

Even minor characters get their names on a card, because you don’t want to have to search through the entire book each time to check what you called someone.  For example, in my novel initially, I kept forgetting the name of my main characters ex-boyfriend.

This idea is also especially useful, if you give someone an unusual name.

Story of a Novel Part 3 will be looking at research; dialogue and description.