Novel Writing: Choosing a Method That Best Works for You

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.

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