Is There A Wrong Way To Write A Novel?

So as someone who is crashing around, writing her first novel, I have been pondering something quite a bit lately.  Is there a right way to write a novel?  Or a wrong way?  Sure, I get that everyone has to do what works for them, so maybe the better way to phrase the question would be is there a best way to write a novel?

My approach thus far has been kind of willy nilly, cattywampus, to be honest.  I have basically been writing the scenes in a jumble…one from the end of the book, another from the beginning and then one from the middle.  It’s because I’ve been writing what I know.  Yes, I realize that phrase is normally meant to say we should write about things/places/situations/topics that we know, but in my case, the scenes I’ve written were the parts of my book that I knew.  It just seemed to make sense to get them down and go from there.

But now as I’m nearing the end of the scenes I know, I worry that I’ve made a big muck of things and if I shouldn’t have approached things differently.   So I did the most logical thing when faced with a major life dilemma…I Googled it.

The news wasn’t good at first.  According to the posts, I clearly have made a wonky mess.  I don’t have a plan, a concept, or an outline. I don’t have character analyses or location descriptions.  I didn’t start from the beginning and write through to the end, as advised.


Here is one link (out of a trillion!) that pretty much describes the opposite of what I’m doing:

And here is a link for a novel-writing method that actually has a name, the Snowflake Method.  Definitely a method that is a complete stranger to me.

Both of these links are all about the preparation and starting small.  They are methodical and naturally progress from ideas to a completed work.  And they make perfect sense!

But they are not at all what I’ve done.  Other than writing scene cards so I wouldn’t forget my ideas, I did not plan or prep and the more I read online, the more I was really starting to feel insecure.

Then, hallelujah, I found this article.  Christina Dodd basically says to just write it.  However you need to, whatever works, just write it. There are many different approaches, but do whatever gets your book finished. I can get behind that advice.

And then I found this link, which is an interview of Meredith Sue Willis.  I don’t really know her stuff at all, but it doesn’t matter, because apparently there is a name for the way I’ve been writing so far.  Here is an excerpt:

“One approach I like, which I think I invented, but you never know, is called the Archipelago Method. You write the high points, not an outline, but actual scenes, and those become the little islands (that are really mountaintops) of the archipelago out there in the ocean of the potential novel. After you’ve written five or six of these scenes, you may well have fifty or sixty pages, and then you can keep writing scenes, or you might start at the beginning to see leads to one, to the next, and so on.”

Okay, aside from her ~ahem ~ ego, I was so excited when I read this, because that’s what I’ve been doing!  I feel better.  Of course, I won’t really be able to say my method is successful until I have a finished novel, but it does appear that someone else has been successful with this method and that is good enough for me right now.  Unless her books suck major booty, but let’s pretend they’re fabulous, huh?

Anyone else have a funky novel, short story or blog-writing method?  Or do you do it the traditional way and it really works for you?  I’m very curious!


28 thoughts on “Is There A Wrong Way To Write A Novel?

  1. The short answer is… there is no wrong way. As long as you are getting words to paper (virtual or otherwise), you are on the right track. Certainly there are probably more efficient ways to organize plots, character arcs, etc. etc. But that will all come in time. The best way to write a novel is to do what you are doing… write.


    • Ah, efficient. Not my super power. But I think that’s a great word for it, rather than the ‘best way’. Do it efficiently. Yeah, that makes sense that the more I write, the more I’ll find ways to make the process a bit smoother. God only knows how this first one is going to turn out, but my goal right now is to finish. Rewrites should be interesting, ha ha 🙂


        • The sorting is a little daunting! I know how long I take to rewrite when I’ve submitted blog posts or short stories for Yeah Write…I shudder to think about an entire novel. But I’m trying really hard to not let the rewrite/sorting part scare me from at least finishing the first draft 🙂


  2. I tend to jump head first into things. If I like how the first chapter or two come out, then I make an outline and a little background page for each character (mostly so I don’t mix up details). If I don’t like it, I scrap the chapter but then the idea into a work in progress.

    Do what works for you and what makes you feel right. Screw what the English teachers said. I was the only one who ever jumped right in and usually never did a second draft, but I had some of the highest grades and won a contest in the school. My method works for me (though now I do work on second drafts because typos) so your method should work for you.

    Unless it’s Twilight or 50 Shades Of Grey, in which case, burn it now.


    • What? You don’t want to read about my sparkly vampires that are into S&M? I’m crushed 😉

      Yeah, pretty much I don’t have a choice for this one anymore, but it’s possible, and I mean slightly possible, that I may have a different approach for my next one. But for now, it’s what works.


  3. If you’re using words like “cattywampus” then you’re clearing doing something right with your writing.

    Also, those wiki articles titled things like “how to write a book” just make me want to punch the sweet baby Jesus straight in the face. There is no clear cut way to write a book, and if working a certain way works for you, then keep doing it. Writing the way someone else writes is a guaranteed way to completely mess up what you’ve already started, and we don’t want that!


    • Ha ha, we don’t even use cattywampus in Michigan, but ever since I’ve heard it, I’ve been obsessed with it! It probably doesn’t even make sense in that sentence, but I don’t care!

      I Googled, “best way to write a novel”. You’d be amazed at the pure crap I got in the results. Or maybe you wouldn’t be. But apparently there are a lot of people that like to tell people the correct way. Some of it did have some great tips that I might use in the future, but a lot of it seemed like articles that people ‘researched’ and then churned out as a how-to.


  4. “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
    ― Neil Gaiman

    Funny, even he doesn’t say the scenes have got to be written in proper order. Keep up whatever works for you, Ms. Dane. 😀


  5. I think as long as your words are getting on paper (or computer LOL), you’re doing great. You’re that much farther along than all of the other wanna-be writers who haven’t done anything about it (like me).


    • Thanks! And I wouldn’t say you are a wanna-be writer, considering you write all the time on your blog! I know you’ll get to your novel someday, once the kids are more independent. You have an important job right now!


  6. I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t have any kind of outline, I just have characters I want to run and play with in my head. When their voices pop up, it’s time to get them on paper. Now, that’s a crazy approach but that’s how I roll with it.


  7. So, I had a comment and now it’s not there so if you get this twice – my bad!

    I write by the seat of my pants. I have characters that I picture in my head, a general idea of a story, but that’s it. I just write what the voices in my head say to write. Now, that’s as crazy as it gets! 😉


    • I have it set to the first time someone comments, it has to be approved, just because I ended up in a terrible situation with spammers on my last blog. But so far I’m not seeing any spam, so I might change that.


  8. I wish I had some advice, and although I would like to work on a book someday, I feel I’m still light years away from even attempting something so monumental. In the meantime, I’m having tons of fun listening to other writers talk about their ups and downs, and gathering tips. Tips, I’m sure I will pay no attention to when it comes down to it. Essentially, I’m just daydreaming of what it would be like to complete a book.
    I think, though, from ideas that have passed through my head, that my approach would be much like yours. I get ideas that would qualify as scenes that could be just about anywhere in a book, but no real story line. Maybe I should start jotting those down…who knows, right???
    Thanks for the links, I look forward to reading them.


  9. I say, Write the way that works for you. Don’t worry about those books that promise to tell you HOW to write a best selling novel. The people making money like that are the ones who write the how-to books. I have never written a novel, but when I write long essays/articles, I like to write the parts that I know. Then I fill in what I need. Sometimes I make a list of sentences that I like. I print them out, cut them into pieces, and staple them on a piece of paper in the order that I think I’ll want them. I know I could do that in Word, but sometimes low-tech works well for me. Happy writing! I’m proud of you.



    • I will take your writing-process opinion any day! I like your low tech idea. I agree, sometimes the computer just doesn’t cut it. When I’m really stuck on something sometimes, I’ll grab a notepad and write it out by hand. For some reason, that tends to shake things loose a bit.


    • I had some writing courses when I was a young thing, many moons ago in college. Probably would help if I remembered anything I learned in them, huh? But, yes, at this point, I think I’m kind of forging ahead without. I think because I’ve come to a natural pause in my writing (natural being that I have run out of what I know 🙂 it’s time to do at least a small bit of organization. And characters and plot are the biggies! I think that will help once I delve back into the writing.

      thanks for coming over and for your comment!


  10. I think it’s Stephen King who says he just gets up in the morning and writes 5000 words. He doesn’t care what comes out, it just gets the creative juices flowing and by law of averages, some of it has to be good enough to publish.


    • It didn’t eat it! You are welcome here. No jail for you, Blue!

      Yes, original is just about impossible to a large extent, especially in romance, and appealing…that’s the part that makes me the most nervous!


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