Wednesday, May 9, 2012

8 Stages of Writing a Novel

Likely you’ve heard of the five stages of grief, yes? Well maybe you didn’t know there are eight stages of composing a novel. (Making this up. But let’s go along with it for the sake of this post.)

Quick review of the stages of grief:
Denial & Isolation

Now for the universal stages of writing a novel:

The birth of the idea or character.  You are pure genius.

The characters, the plot, the setting…all of it. You’re in love with all of it. Words spill out of you. The sun shines brighter. Bluebirds land on your windowsill, serenading you with a song you’re pretty sure you can interpret as “You are made for this writing gig.”

Ack. You’ve hit a stale patch. What to do here? Invent a nemesis? Stop writing? Delete everything you’ve written? Create a new story? You slam your hand in the window while shutting it to block out the jabbering birdie. Ack!

Wait, you thought you were born to write this story. What’s going on? Why the lull? Why the lack of tension, or characters weaker than tea that’s been steeped for mere seconds? Why? Why? Why?

Doubt & Fear
You’re only halfway in. Not sure you can do this. Bit off entirely more than you can chew. No one will read this. No one will buy this. No. No. No.

Suckin’ it up. Getting back on the horse. Cantering. Shoving the words on the page with the effort one might use to smash a bullfrog into a thimble. I will do this. I must accomplish THIS!

The End. Typed. You stare, scrunch your nose, then reread the words. Me, you think. I did that? Why yes, you very well did.

After a good scrub, shake down, declawing, shave, bath with stringent soap, and 182 other ways to edit your work, you find a way to let it go. Into an agent’s hands. To the Internet. To a publishing house. Take your pick. Find your way. But no matter, you release it and watch it soar.

Which stage resonates with you most?
*planning to continue with these 8 Stages of ____________ over the next few Wednesdays
**photos by stock.XCHNG


  1. At the moment, frustration is where I am. Starting a new project, dabbling in poetry, and paralyzed in fear. Do I continue with a YA novel or write in Memoir? Am I far enough along in skill to even go on or do I need a class or two? I'm totally at a standstill.

  2. I'm currently in the perseverance stage, just recently leaving the doubt and fear stage. I had to face some not-so-pleasant feedback, suck it up, and move on. But it's worth it! And the story will be better in the end.

  3. Hahaaaa, I think I always fast forward to doubt, confusion and fear. What I really need to do is keeping walking right into perseverance. lol Love this!

  4. Great post! I'm flailing somewhere between enamored, confusion, and frustration at the moment.

  5. You totally nailed it. I think I pass through each one of those stages!

  6. Wendy, Been there, done that with each new book. Currently editing one and trying to write the next, so I'm all over the place. Pick a stage--I'm there with one or the other. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This is spot on, Wendy. I need to let my hubby read your post so he knows I'm not the only writer who bounces from emotion to emotion as I work on a story. =)

  8. Doubt and fear are the worst! Hate that stage.

    But it's worth it to follow through on the brilliance and make it all the way to the feeling of release when it's finished.

  9. I feel a lot of doubt and fear, but typically it's in the beginning stages. I don't really like starting a new novel. :)

  10. Where's the "eating my way through a bag of jelly beans" stage, Wendy? Oh, that would be Frustration, Confusion, Doubt and Fear ...
    Love this blog post and so glad you're going to be sticking with this for the next few Wednesdays.

  11. I love the Brilliance and the Perseverance.

  12. Right now I'm at perserverance! I WILL FINISH THIS BOOK (and get it to publisher on time!!)

  13. Lol! I spend most of my time vacillating between Doubt & Fear and Perseverance! It's kind of like my own personal roller-coaster ride. :)

  14. I think I'm in various stages. What's the one where you get a really good stride, then get held up by college for four years, then procrastinate getting started again after graduation?

  15. LOVE this! So fitting for my current state of mind! I think I recognise every stage.


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