How to Write a Novel in Just 21 Steps

I was inspired by this blog post, “How to take a baby to the pool in just 21 steps” to write my own 21 step outline. Since I don’t have a baby to take to a pool, I thought I’d do one on “How to write a novel in just 21 steps”.  🙂 Here we go…

Image courtesy of adamr/

Image courtesy of adamr/

1. Get inspired. This usually means being struck by a lightbulb (ding!) idea while you are in the shower. The best ideas often originate in the shower, don’t you agree?

2. Start creating. Make up the who, what, where, when and why of your story. Get a good sense of who your characters are, what they look like and how they talk and act. Base them off of real people in your life (but change a few details so the real people don’t get a complex should they read your story one day). 🙂

3. Start writing. This is probably the hardest part because you actually have to take action.

4. Keep writing. I’ve heard that it’s best to just get the first draft down on paper and not worry about the grammar, etc. This usually doesn’t work for perfectionists though who get bogged down by the nitty gritty stuff, but try getting the words down and don’t look back (for now!).

5. Keep creating. Continue making up the story while you drive the kids to school, stand in line at the store or cook dinner.

6. Get inspired again. Sometimes writer’s block happens and your characters are stuck in limbo with no place to go. Read books, watch a movie or TV show to gain some new ideas.

7. Sigh.

8. Moan.

9. And groan…because your writer’s block has turned into a huge boulder.

10. Pray!

11. Get back to writing.

12. Repeat steps 4 through 11. Several times.

13. Get feedback. This is another scary, but essential, step. Join a critique group if you haven’t yet and share your story with them. Ask for honest and constructive feedback and be ready to make changes.

14. Make changes.

15. Have a mid-book crisis. This often occurs when you decide to share your story with your husband who tells you it’s a good story, but he’d add more drama to it and make the characters completely different. Upon hearing his ideas, you decide he might have a point and you may need to rewrite half the book.

16. Wallow in self-pity. This usually involves lying on the bed and contemplating ditching your entire story and never writing another novel again.

17. Come to your senses. Realize this is your story and not anyone else’s (namely your hubby’s). 😉 Decide to write what you are happy with.

18. Finish the story.

19. Read your story from start to finish.

20. Start editing. And editing. Repeat this step a million, zillion times.

21. Get more feedback. Find beta readers who are willing to read the whole book and give you feedback. After receiving their feedback, repeat steps 19 and 20.

Whew! I’m ready to take a nap now. 🙂 Well, the good news is that I have made it to step 21. I’ve also gotten the cover art done for the book and am putting the finishing touches on the story now. I can’t wait to share it all with you guys. Soon, I promise!

Now take a listen to Sara Bareilles’ song, “I Wanna Be Like Me“, which is a good reminder to believe in yourself and your own creativity (I’m referring to steps 15-17). 😉

Now that I’ve shared my 21 steps, it’s time for you to share yours. Pick something you are currently working on and write down your 21-step process. Share it on your blog or send me an email at and I’ll post it here!


  1. Amy from Swag on, Momma! says:

    WOW, congrats on your progress! And, yes–I usually get my best ideas in the shower too! 🙂

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