Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Write a Novel in Ten Easy Steps

Allie here. I’m busy putting the finishing touches on my Alaskan historical, and life has forced me to do a lot of writing in public places lately. Which means lots of people have stared at the two-inch-thick stack of papers in front of me and asked me what I’m doing. Which leads to the “I’m an author,” conversation, which leads to the inevitable, “Where do you get your ideas?” question.

I always give the same answer: “I don’t really know. I’m afraid if I thought about it too much I’d ruin the wonder of it.” It’s usually then that I get the “you’re one of those crazy artsy people, aren’t you?” looks, as if fiction should be more scientific. As if you could craft a magazine article entitled “How to Write a Novel in Ten Easy Steps.”

So I got to thinking....

Allie Pleiter’s How to Write a Novel in Ten Easy Steps:

1. Gather chocolate, coffee, a fussy laptop, and about 200 hours of uninterrupted peace. Start typing.
2. Dream up the woman every one of us would like to be. Then give her a few flaws so we still like her, because we can be a catty bunch and we’ll get mean if she’s perfect. Type until you break a nail. Get manicure before going on to Step 3.
3. Discover what she loves most, and then figure out a way to put it all in jeopardy. Replenish supply of chocolate and refuse any familial offers to consider decaf.
4. Dream up the man we all wish we married--mentally, physically, spiritually, and maybe even financially--and ensure he says the perfect thing at the right moment. Then mess him up a bit because every woman still holds to the fantasy that she can fix her man. At this point you will probably be typing faster, so keep your manicurist’s number handy.
5. Have a creative crisis. Throw manuscript across the room in fit of terror that your talent has somehow left the building and the book police will take away your future once they figure out the fraud you really are. Eat any chocolate you may have left.
6. Project aforementioned crisis onto your characters. Figure out the highest cost she’ll pay to reach her goal and then double it. Uncover the last thing in the world your hero wants to do and force him to do it--repeatedly. Make sure, however, to do all this between scenes of unspeakable tenderness and things so romantic they’d barely ever happen in real life.
7. Let your heroine and hero discover their love. Cry so hard your family members (and perhaps your pets) show concern for your perspective. Show spouse where the number of pizza delivery service is because doing something so mundane as feeding the family can’t compete with true love.
8. Have a family crisis. Every author worth her salt has one per book, often several. Really, how would we know what real life is if it didn’t keep sticking its nasty nose into our writing lives?
9. Type until every one of your nails is in hideous condition and the “e” is worn off your keyboard. Make your hero a better man because of your heroine’s love. Let your heroine be forever changed by the love of her man. Resolve their problems in ways that have you reaching for tissues every ten minutes.
10. Type “The End.” Consume much chocolate and more coffee, dance around the house in your sweatpants because who has time for laundry? Make sure your printer breaks just as you need to print it out--this is every author’s badge of honor.
Ha! You thought we could stop at ten? Start all over again, kiddos, now we need to revise.....

If you want to see how well this system works, check out my novella
Bluegrass Easter in the March release, Easter Promises.


  1. Allie, you nailed it. Must. Have. Chocolate. But that's exactly how we write. The big secret is out!

    Love you

  2. Now I don't feel so bonkers. :-) I keep a jar of chocolate handy and I allow myself 1 peppermint mocha double shot a day. No, I don't remember where the laundry is or the vacuum or what time dinner was supposed to be. Yes, the "E" wore off my laptop and off my ergonomic keyboard. Hmm. I feel really good now that I know I'm officially an author, lol. But it works that way for non-fiction and cookbook writers too, just sayin'. ;-)
    Thanks, Allie.

  3. I tried not to laugh too hard! You have SO got what it takes! The E isn't entirely worn off the laptop, but it's a good thing I know where the L, O, and N are, because they are LONg gone. (G is still extant, however.) C is 3/4 missing, though.
    This is TOO good! Love it! Thank you so much for sharing it with us! Yes, Reading and Nonreading Public, there ARE Ten Easy Steps to Writing.... :D

    If there's a drawing, please enter me! Thanks! guitarista at iwon dot com (I've stopped using the other address since I now get critiques there and the inbox is waaaay too full.) ;)

  4. I'm on Atkins Induction right now, which means going through sugar withdrawals. To try to make it easier, I decided to give up ALL artificial sweeteners. Which meant NO COFFEE FOR ME---because I just can't drink it without its being creamy and sweet.

    I finally broke down today and made coffee. Hot tea just wasn't cutting it for me. How could I have even thought I could give up coffee? I'M A WRITER, for Pete's sake! ;-)

    Feeling a little more human now and ready to tackle this 10-step program once more.

  5. Thorougly enjoyed reading Easter Promises so much that i finished it in 1/2 a day. I'm a crocheter so the sheep crisis and knitting kept me turning the pages. Love the 10 steps!

  6. Oh my gosh, I'm howling laughing, Allie!! Such a great summary! And so true.

    And you know, one of them gave me an idea for a scene I'm revising right now! LOL

  7. Allie, did you jump in my head to write that? Too funny. As an aside, I have acrylic nails now, the glorious pink and white ones. Too costly to go for daily manicure and can't stand ugly nails. ;-)


  8. what a fun post! My friend Renee Ryan steered me here and I must say I'm impressed with the 10 steps to writing a novel. And oh how true the family crises are. Dear Lord, yes! So much drama in real life, no wonder we escape into fictional worlds where we seem to be in control.

    Enjoyed it!

  9. Allie! ROFLMBO! That was just hilarious and so so so so true! I've given up on the chocolate though and gone straight to throwing the manuscript across the room. Can I use that to put on a t-shirt??

  10. Wonderful, Allie. You got it exactly right, meaning it's time for chocolate and coffee--oh, and maybe pen and paper :)

  11. Great post, Allie! I'm off to get a manicure...


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