Novel Writing: Choosing a Method That Best Works for You

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Novel Writing

We are two days away from one of the most talked about, productive writing months of the year: NOVEMBER! NaNoWriMo! I thought I would celebrate this by including an article here that I wrote several years ago for WOW! Women On Writing, titled: “Novel Writing: Choosing a Method That Works Best for You.” In this article, I summarize several different ways to tackle writing a novel with quotes from writers in the trenches, who use these methods and have written (and published) novels. From outlining to note cards, read on to discover a method that works for you…

Writing a novel is one of the biggest accomplishments of a writer’s life. Every novelist has her own way of writing a novel. From outlining to sticky notes to just writing the darn thing, novel writing is a process that can differ for each writer. If you have never written a novel but you have a brilliant idea for one, then maybe you can find a process here that might work for you. For those novelists out there struggling with their current methods, look these over and try something new.


The very word, outlining, causes some writers to break out in hives. Others can’t live without their outlines, and they refer to them every time they work on their novels. Outlining a novel may not look the same for every writer, and very few use what we all learned in high school with Roman numerals, capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters.

Lynn Viehl, who has written 42 novels in 5 genres under different pseudonyms, writes about outlining novels on her blog, Paperback Writer. She gives several examples of outlining a book by chapters and then outlining a chapter with scenes.

Most writers, who use outlining, swear by it, and they usually write an outline that looks something like this:

Chapter ONE: The Confrontation
Character A will confront Character B about an affair, which Character A will deny.
During the confrontation and denial, both characters wind up dead.
Chapter TWO: The Discovery
Main Character Detective Dreamy enters the scene and declares that there is no way these two could have been involved in a murder-suicide. This is a double homicide.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter summaries take outlining one step further with more details about what will happen in each chapter. They are usually written in paragraph form and highlight the main action in each chapter. These summaries are often less rigid than an outline, and they can be especially useful for people who like to free write about their plans for each chapter.

Sometimes with outlining, people get hung up on the format. These writers may benefit from using chapter summaries. Chapter descriptions can easily be used to write the novel synopsis when the book is finished, and the author is shopping around for an agent or editor.

To read the rest of this article, please visit WOW! here.

Do You Need a Writing Coach or an Editor?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Editor, Writing Coach

By Margo L. Dill

(This article originally appeared here: )

Since I happen to do both writing coaching and editing, I often get requests for either one of these services. Currently, I have one of the most fun coaching clients–she wants motivation to write and plot her book, and she wants me to brainstorm story elements with her. She definitely doesn’t need editing right now–she’s in the drafting stages. I had another client recently who wrote a very interesting ghost story, and she inquired about editing. I asked for some sample pages and told her she was ready for a content edit, but not a full edit with proofreading because she was probably going to have some revisions.

How do you know if you need a writing coach or an editor (and what kind of editing)? If you don’t have anyone who can help you decide or you haven’t really thought about it, then here are some things to consider before you spend any money on services:
1. Have you finished a manuscript and which draft stage are you in?
If you’ve finished a manuscript, then you need an editor. A good editor will let you know what type of editing you need. For example, if you have a critique group that has already helped you revise your drafts, then you probably need a good proofreading. If you wrote this manuscript and no one else has ever read it, then you need a content edit, where the editor will help you with characterization, plotting, setting, and so on.
The only time you might need a writing coach when you have finished a manuscript is when you’re submitting to editors or agents and you need help, advice, and motivation with this.
2. Are you looking for someone to help you polish a manuscript or motivate you to write?
In other words, ask yourself WHY you reached out to a professional to help you with this project. If it’s because you need help with punctuation and grammar, then you need a proofreader. If it’s because you can’t finish the thing, then you might need a few writing coach sessions to figure out why and to give you some deadlines to meet.
3. Do you want someone to hold you accountable to deadlines?
This is what a writing coach can do. Many writers take my WOW! workshop class “Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach”because they like turning in 4500 words each week. It makes them work on their novel and prioritize their writing because they spent money on it, and someone is reading and discussing it.
4. Do you need to brainstorm your plot because you are feeling stuck or unmotivated?
A rule of thumb is this: an editor is generally working with a finished manuscript or at least close to finished. A writing coach can help you at any stage, depending on your goals. A writing coach, like a life coach, is there to motivate you and discuss plot and career with you. (A writing coach can also help with branding and marketing.) An editor is there to help with your writing and to make your finished manuscript the best it can be whether you are planning to traditionally publish or self-publish.
If you have another situation you are in and wondering about, let us know in the comments below, and we will try to help you decide which type of services you need. OR let us know how you have previously worked with a writing coach or editor.