What could be more fun than loving a book you’re reading and at the same time learning to write a book of your own?

Take a book you’re already enjoying and start reading it again, trying these steps for a quick start:

  • Jot down a line or two about how the novel opens. When you come to the end of the first scene, stop and imagine what could happen next. Write down everything you can think up. Do this with other places that make you want to find out what happens next.
  • List what happens in the beginning and ending of each chapter, if they grab you. If they don’t interest you that much, pay attention to why not and vow to do better yourself.  Especially note cliffhangers and really exciting chapter openings. (Special non-happenings to watch for—openings with a character getting up in the morning alone and thinking; closings with the character thinking and getting into bed alone.)
  • When you’ve finished reading the book, make notes about what you liked about it and what you didn’t. (You can do this as you go along, as well.)
  • Use your notes to outline your next book. Not the actual happenings, but when they happened: In the book you read, on page one, what happened? When did the inciting incident occur? Was it in the first chapter or later? How does the second chapter open? Put down the most interesting things that happen and on what page. Now see if you can pencil in plot points for your own book around the same page numbers.

Using this method, I think you will quickly learn what works and doesn’t work when writing a novel, maybe even a non-fiction book. The most important goal of any writer is to keep the reader interested in reading all the way to the end and to have such a great ending that the reader will want to read more of the writer’s work.

The only trouble with this method is that it probably will take some of the enjoyment out of reading that particular book, and it will tend to get you paying attention to the inner workings of future books you read. I make up for that with my own writing which I mostly tend to enjoy doing. I wish the same for you. I suggest trying this with blockbuster bestselling books, such as those by James Patterson or Mary Higgins Clark. Please let me know if you try this and how you felt about it when you finished. I’d love to hear from you.


Once you get into some good habits, it’s pretty easy to write a novel. First, sit down around the same time every day and write. Most people find the best time is very soon after they get up in the morning. But if you’re a night owl, pick a time you know will work best for you.

Sit there until you write something. Tell yourself you cannot do anything else until you’ve written something to move your story forward. If you feel stuck, ask yourself what could happen next, letting your imagination loose with everything wild and crazy you can think of. Make a list, make your choice, and continue.

Decide on a certain word count for each day. Not a time period because you can fritter that time away. If you work toward a word count, you’re apt to finish the novel sooner. Not only that, but you’ll be able to figure out about how long it will take you to complete the first draft. Six days a week, one thousand words for a novel of about 84,000 words will then take you fourteen weeks. Three and a half months. Not bad, is it?

Along the way you may have had others look at chapters. If you have time, you can go through their critique notes and make changes, but don’t use your writing time for this. The trick is to get through that first draft.

Do not spend your writing time editing until the first draft is finished. Just plow through it. When done, take a week off from that project, then go back to edit it.

There are all kinds of ways to do edits. I suggest you go on-line and read articles and blogs about different processes and pick the one (refining it for your needs) you think will work best for you. The first two or three times it’s going to be really tough. But the more you do, the more you’ll find ways to help you go through each pass quicker. Keep notes about what works and what doesn’t for next time.

After you’ve done all you can think of to do to make your novel the best it can be, it’s time to get a professional editor to go over it for you. I recommend you do this before trying to submit it to agents. And absolutely do this if you’re going to self-publish. You want people to love your story, not complain about typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes. These errors will totally distract many readers from your prose. And some of them will mention that in reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and other places.

Good luck! If you try this, come back later and tell me how you did. I love comments.