There Is More To Writing A Novel Than Pouring Out A Story

I have time. After all, I have waited thirty-five years to get to this point. I am as committed to completing the Millard: Warrior of the King series as Frodo was to getting the Ring of Power to Mount Doom. Doing a project as vast as this requires time and a great deal of patience, especially if you want it to impact your audience.

For any of you who are considering writing your first novel, let me make some recommendations before you spend six months to a year revising your manuscript five or six times.  Go back to school!

I don’t mean literally, although if you have the time and money, go for it. What I mean is read some books on the subject. My editor recommended three books for me that I have found extremely helpful and eye-opening.  Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark; Elements of Fiction Writing-Characters and Viewpoint by Olson Scott Card; and Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld.

In my case the story of Millard literally poured out of me at one sitting in 1992. I have read that J K Rawlings had a similar experience writing her first Harry Potter book.  When it happened to me, I could see the beginning and the end very clearly. Since that time, I have had similar experiences, leaving me with dozens of pieces of a story to assemble into a book. Cutting and pasting was a disaster. I found myself with duplicate storylines, too many explanations, and even the wrong names for characters (because I forgot that I had changed some of them).

Once I was in the proper setting (living in the mountains) and had the time available (without too much interruption), I started from scratch. Just like 1992 the story poured out of me. I had literal visions of the beginning, the middle and the end, and I worked to fine tune the middle. When I had completed my first draft, I went through it a second time, and a third, fourth and fifth, quite proud of myself for completing 80,000+ words. Not being very disciplined at anything, I felt that I had really accomplished something. However, was it everything it could be?

No. Not by a long shot. Just because you have a story that you know is God-breathed, does not mean that it is ready to print. Sure, you can go ahead and self-print a book without it being professionally edited, but your work would probably be mediocre at best. (I am referring specifically to works of fiction, not to biblical teachings or inspirational books.) Knowing and understanding the process of writing good fiction is an absolute necessity if you want your work to be excellent.

Because one of my majors was Journalism, I thought that I could write. I had gotten straight “A”s in every writing, literature and English class in both high school and college. But journalism and fiction are different. Writing fictional novels requires a great deal of thought and planning; trial and error with point of view; strategic scene development; knowing what clichés, phrases, adjectives and adverbs not to use; and a firm commitment to go the extra mile.  Plus, you cannot be sensitive to constructive criticism. Be humble and teachable, even if it is “your baby.”

A good editor is one who truly wants to see your book become the very best it can be, and is willing to work with you to achieve that goal. Not a proofreader, but more of a building inspector.

I am in the middle of this process now, and it is wonderful. I have no doubt that when this first book is released, it will be the very best it can be. I have to do my part, but I am willing and determined to see it through. I really have no choice in the matter. It is part of my destiny.

My thanks to NY Book Editors (, to Dan, and to Andy, my editor. I won’t stop working until it meets with your approval!