Writing is hard. Writing a first draft of your first novel is even harder. The pressure to get it right. The wondering if it is good enough. The anxiety of even getting to the end. But, its also the best learning experience. Another author, Nicole Wilson, shares lessons learned from her first draft of Deception.


I have spent the last seven months working toward living my dream: being a full-time paid author. First step: write the book. In those seven months, I’ve plotted and outlined a novel, written a first draft, edited twice myself, and had one other person edit it. It has been amazing. I never thought I would have done my first novel so quickly (though I know I’m not finished).

But through all of the stages of this first novel, I have learned one crucial thing: writing well is hard.

That’s right. Just writing, with no audience in mind, with no purpose, can be easy. Less stress, no deadlines. But drafting and writing and editing and polishing takes a lot of work. There are more pieces to the puzzle than I first saw when I said I wanted to write a novel. From character profiles to editing three or four times before letting ANYONE else see it, it’s a difficult process.

Plotting and Outlining

When I first decided I wanted to write a novel, I had four or five ideas swirling in my head as possible choices. I’d picked up bits from books I read, movies I’d seen, conversations I’d overheard. But I just had a kernel of what I needed. After two months of thinking about my novel, not even to the point where I was putting together an outline, I had a page and a half of random bullet points and a temporary title (which didn’t even get used). I didn’t even have a name for my main character.

I spent the next month trying out a new outlining style, one I’d not done on any of my short stories: notecarding. Basically, you write all of your scenes on notecards, one scene per card. This way, it’s easy to rearrange scenes or add in additional ones later. And that’s exactly what I did. When I finished my first pass, I think I had about forty notecards. That meant I had to average about 2,000 words per scene. I knew that was unrealistic since some of my scenes were, for sure, going to be less than 500. So I read the story to myself in notecard format and added in additional scenes where I could.

I also learned, though not until halfway through my first draft, that during this stage I should be drawing up character profiles. You can read my earlier blog post on this topic, but in short, I need to learn who my characters are. Why they do what they do? What makes them different than all the other characters in my book?


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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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