12 December 2010

How To Write A Novel: A Step-By-Step Guide

For anyone who might be wondering how to write a novel, here's a step-by-step guide to the process (updated November 2010 during the writing of my most recent novel).

1. Turn computer on. Wait fifteen minutes for the dumb thing to boot up.
2. Open iTunes, some kind of web browser, and Notepad (for plot hashing, of course).
3. Open several tabs in the web browser -- one for Facebook, at least one for your webmail, one for your Blogger dashboard, and anywhere between one and... dozens to catch up on your blog reading.
4. Read your email. Catch up on your Facebook news feed and read notifications. Ignore twelve FarmVille requests.
5. Look at list of twenty people that you really should email back.
6. Decide that you'll reply to those people later. After you've made your quota.
7. Read blogs for a half hour.
8. Refresh Facebook.
9. Get up and go to kitchen to get food. Find nothing of interest. Return to computer and refresh Facebook again.
10. Consider actually digging out flash drive containing novel.
11. Read more blogs.
12. Refresh Facebook. Write status bemoaning lack of inspiration.
13. Scroll through iTunes, trying to decide on music to listen to.
14. Remember you wanted to search for a song on the iTunes Store.
15. Search song. Add to wish list.
16. Click on interesting-looking album at the bottom of the page.
17. Preview entire album.
18. Add ten songs to wish list.
19. Click on interesting-sounding song nearby.
20. Add three more songs to wish list.
21. Check wish list.
22. Decide to buy some songs.
23. Check wallet. Find no money. Sigh and return to iTunes library.
24. Scroll a little bit more, looking for a musical selection of interest. Find nothing.
25. Go back to Facebook. Hit 'refresh.' Get no response.
26. Spin circles in desk chair for five minutes.
27. Threaten computer with hockey stick. Computer calls your bluff.
28. Bite back nasty words and check how much money is in the 'MacBook Savings' envelope.
29. Sigh. Pound desk in frustration.
30. Ctrl-Alt-Delete and kill off web browser program.
31. Wait ten minutes for computer to realise 'End Program' actually means 'End Program.'
32. Reopen web browser and all tabs.
33. Scroll through iTunes library a bit more. Narrow your current listening choices down to five different albums.
34. Get flash drive with novel out of drawer/bag/pocket/trash can.
35. Refresh Facebook.
36. Plug in flash drive.
37. Spin more circles in chair as you wait for computer to load flash drive.
38. Start playing a song in iTunes. Decide you don't want to listen to that song now. Start playing a different song.
39. Open file on flash drive that isn't at all related to novel.
40. Come up with brilliant plot twists for nine other stories you're putting off until the current one is finished.
41. Oh yes, the current novel. Go back to drive contents window.
42. Refresh Facebook.
43. Remember you wanted to update profile picture.
44. Open resource-hogging photo editing program.
45. Scroll through three folders looking for photo you have in mind. Realise it wasn't as good a photo as you thought.
46. Scroll through eleven other folders looking for suitable photo.
47. Stumble across those lovely family portraits you took three months ago and never did send to your grandmother.
48. Email photos to grandmother.
49. Do some light editing on about a dozen photos.
50. Get bored with photo editing. Decide to write.
51. Go back to Explorer window of flash drive contents.
52. Click on 'Screenplays' folder.
53. Open two screenplays-in-progress.
54. Reread them and remember why you abandoned them in the first place.
55. Correct spelling of main character's name in four places.
56. Close files.
57. Go to 'Novels' folder.
58. Open novel file.
59. Wait three minutes for Word to open and load file.
60. Refresh Facebook.
61. 'Like' two posts and comment on another.
62. Look at four or five profiles, chosen largely at random.
63. Read another blog.
64. Check email.
65. Refresh Facebook.
66. Get up and go to kitchen.
67. Look for food. Find nothing of interest.
68. Make stop at washroom.
69. Return to computer.
70. Refresh Facebook.
71. Think up potential simple math problem for a different story idea.
72. Write out problem in Notepad file, using spaces to line up columns perfectly.
73. Solve problem.
74. Forget what answer to problem was for.
75. Realise that computer seems sluggish.
76. Look at Taskbar to see what programs you can close.
77. See novel file. Bring that window to front.
78. Hit 'Enter - Tab' to start a new paragraph.
79. Watch blinking cursor for a few minutes. (Optional: Spin a few circles in chair.)
80. Decide to write blog post about lack of inspiration.
81. Refresh Facebook.
82. Write blog post.
83. Revise blog post. Extensively.
84. Publish blog post.
85. Notice typo.
86. Edit blog post.
87. Refresh Facebook.
88. Publish newly edited blog post.
89. Go back to Facebook. Realise the idiots changed the layout. Again.
90. Spend twenty minutes trying to figure out how to update your status.
91. Write angry status update about stupid Facebook developers.
92. Check email.
93. Add three sentences to novel.
94. Refresh Facebook.
95. Start playing a different album in iTunes.
96. Play air guitar, air drums, and/or air keyboard to seven rock songs in a row.
97. Refresh Facebook.
98. Pick a new album to play in iTunes.
99. Decide to actually take a stab at writing this time.
100. Start writing. (Hint: See if you can introduce a talking fish or a random fireball or something. That will help with this exercise.)
101. Get lost exploring random unrelated-to-plot thought in main character's head and manage to scrounge up 6,000 words by bedtime (meaning four AM, of course).

There you have it. Repeat this schedule every day or two and you're bound to come up with a novel eventually (as long as you work on the same file every time).
You're welcome.

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