Four methods for writing a novel

writer with notepad and laptop

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to writing a novel — after all, it is a very creative process and intrinsically subjective. However, there are four overarching methods of writing a book of fiction that most authors will fit into in some way. I wanted to share these with you in the hope that someone who’s new to writing or who needs a new process may recognise one as the right option for them.

Confused about how to get started with your first novel? Trying to find a new method that works better for you? Take a look at the options below and write to your own strengths.

Just write it!

This method is fairly simple — just sit down, write, and see what happens! Go to your notepad or laptop with a vague plot or a potential character, and get writing. Don’t edit as you go — this method is all about pouring the thoughts and ideas out onto the pages without any filtering. Once you are done, you can start the arduous editing journey, which will be the stage that really defines what your final story will be.

You’ll probably find that, because you didn’t make a plan before you started, you filled the story with too many plot twists, characters, and events. This often results in stories that either don’t make sense or don’t flow. This will mean you’ll have to be prepared to cut perfectly good sections out to make this particular story work. Just save the cuts for future writing!

Edit as you write

Much like the above method, this one involves going to your notepad or laptop with a few vague ideas and fleshing them out into a full story with no prior planning. However, in this version, you pause as you complete each chapter and edit it over and over until you’re happy with it as a (somewhat) final version. Then and only then can you move on to create the next chapter, and so on, until you have written a whole story.

This means you get all of the hard work (editing) out of the way as you go along, however, you need to be careful that working on a chapter by chapter basis doesn’t result in a lack of flow. Also, with no prior planning, you may run out of ideas and need a break while you conjure some up!

writing a novel outdoors

Create a partial plot outline

This method involves some prior planning, with you creating a vague plot outline but nothing too detailed. This offers you the security of knowing you won’t get lost while you write, but it does mean there will be lots of details to add in as you go.

This method safeguards you from that ‘what do I write now?’ moment, but does mean that the writing process will be more arduous than if you’d planned in detail before getting started. Which brings us onto the final method below.

Create a full plot outline

This method involves lots of planning before you even write a word of your novel. This means you sit down and plan the storyline from start to finish, using maps, timelines, and character backstories to ensure it’s all ready for you to flesh out when you start writing.

This method is beneficial because you will never be sat thinking ‘what do I want to happen now?’ However, this level of planning can be risky too as you may find, when it comes to writing the story, the character arcs don’t quite fit, and so tweaking is often required as you go along.


Which method do you use when writing? Let us know in the comments below! Want more writing tips? Learn how to find writing inspiration in this recent blog post.

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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