How to Write the Perfect Novel in 49 Easy Steps

  1. Have a brilliant story idea and spend the next day/week/month madly scribbling down/plotting out what is easily going to be the next big bestseller. No, not just bestseller. This is going to be the book that changes the world. This is going to be EPIC.
  2. Open a new document on your computer.
  3. Stare at blank screen while considering the perfect first line.
  4. Decide to format the document instead. Add page numbers.
  5. Go back to page one.
  6. Add a title.
  7. Delete title.
  8. Add a different title.
  9. Delete title.
  10. Add title placeholder for later consideration.
  11. Go back to the first line.
  12. Stare at blinking cursor for several minutes before deciding to come back to the first line later as well. Start writing from the second line. 
  13. Write 12000 words over the next five hours. Forget to eat because it’s going so well.
  14. Realize you can’t possibly put off a bathroom break any longer. Come back after bathroom break and accidentally read what you’ve written.
  15. Delete all bar two sentences.
  16. Read over two sentences. Delete them too.
  17. Decide to sleep on it and start again fresh tomorrow.
  18. Have brilliant brainwave with the perfect title and a zinger of a first line at 1:30am. Know they’re so perfect there’s no way you could possibly forget them.
  19. Forget every single one.
  20. Decide some of the words from yesterday could probably work. Put 4000 of them back again. 
  21. Repeat Steps 13 to 20 ad nauseum for the next several months. 
  22. Have another middle of the night brainwave. Finally learn your lesson and write it down on the notebook you put beside your bed for this exact moment.
  23. Try to translate the scribbles the next morning. Give up. 
  24. Get three quarters of the way through the first draft and realize you have plot threads dangling everywhere, characters who keep changing eye colors, a story you have no idea how to finish, a world that makes no sense, no theme whatsoever, a spineless hero, and WHAT WERE YOU THINKING TO THINK YOU COULD WRITE?!?!? They’re going to know. The readers, the editors, the publishers. Ugh. You’re a fraud. You have no idea what you’re doing and they’re ALL going to know.
  25. Barely conquer temptation to throw story—and computer—out the window. 
  26. Eat ice cream while glaring at computer. 
  27. Eat chocolate while glaring at the empty ice cream carton. 
  28. Feel sick and decide never to do that again. The temper tantrum bit, not the ice cream. You ARE an author. You DO have a story to tell and you’re going to finish this thing if it kills you. 
  29. Repeat Steps 13 to 20 until you suddenly realize you’re done.  
  30. Write THE END. Even though you know you’ll delete it before sending said book to anyone to read. It just looks cool. And you earned the right to write those two amazing, incredible, awe-inspiring words. 
  31. Celebrate with more ice cream. 
  32. Remember you need to go back and write the first line. Spend far too long trying to think of the perfect one. 
  33. Write first line, title, and dedication page. Sit back and smile. Now you’re done. 
  34. Almost get to the freezer for ice cream when you remember two other things you needed to fix. 
  35. Fix two things. Find five more. Fix them too.
  36. Save a new, clean copy of your now completed—and absolutely brilliant—manuscript. 
  37. Remember that you also forgot to change the main character’s eye color back to brown in chapter seventeen. Fix that. Save again. 
  38. Sit on your laurels for a week or two. YOU WROTE A BOOK!!
  39. Proudly sit down to do a complete read through of your brilliant work. 
  40. Find a typo in the first line. And the second. And a day with 33 hours in chapter two. 
  41. Pull out a notebook and pen to take notes. This could take a while. 
  42. Wonder again what you were thinking as you ruthlessly cut, hack and edit your precious book. 
  43. Find a line that makes you smile. Vacillate between pride and wonder. I WROTE THAT!! WAIT, I WROTE THAT?!? Wow! I AM a writer!
  44. Find a line that makes you cringe. Quickly delete and thank God profusely that no one saw it. 
  45. Spend two hours trying to fix one sentence. After two hours decide the first option was best. 
  46. Repeat Steps 43 to 46. Many times. 
  47. Finish edits! 
  48. Send clean, completed manuscript to editor. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve done it. You’ve written a book and it’s absolutely brilliant. Bestseller list here we come! 
  49. Find another error. 

Okay, yes, this is completely tongue-in-cheek but, well, there might be some truth to it. Wherever you’re at in your writing today, remember, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there—and will be again—and you CAN do this!

Happy writing ☺ 

This post was first published on

2 thoughts on “How to Write the Perfect Novel in 49 Easy Steps”

  1. This is brilliant! Such a roller coaster journey and now I have a lot more appreciation for authors and the perseverance you have to do it all, over and over and over again without giving up. PS: thanks for writing, deleting, re-writing, staring at screens, eating ice cream etc. I love your books! (And will have to send more ice cream and chocolate to keep your freezer stocked as you continue to write. 🙂 )


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