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Almost every piece of advice about story-writing comes with a disclaimer

Results may vary! Doesn’t work for everyone! 

The only universal truth is that in order to write a book, one must write. At its most basic, we all write the same way: one word after another. 

But how we get from a blank page to a novel is not basic. Every writer has their own methods and practices. 

Herded Words is all about finding your methods and practices so that you can write your stories. Who are you? What works, and doesn’t, for you?

Let’s get started – there’s a lot to do!

do you write your books on a laptop like this?

1. Preparing Yourself to Write

The first thing you have to do is prepare yourself to write.

A Writing Space

You’ll need a writing space. This can be anywhere – some people prefer cafes, some prefer dungeons. You do you. You don’t need a perfect space, just somewhere you’re comfortable.

Writing Supplies

Next up is supplies. Gather everything and keep it in your writing space (or in a portable container). 

I’m talking physical supplies like pens, pencils, post-its, highlighters, wet wipes, paper, notebooks, a computer, etc., I’m also talking about technology like software, apps, etc.,

My personal physical supplies include a book of cheap graph paper (I don’t know why I prefer graph, but I do), a Moleskine for my purse (you never know when you’ll want to jot something down), colored fine markerspencils, a pencil sharpener, and a million post-its

For technology, I use a 2013 MacBook Pro and Scrivener. You don’t need the latest and greatest technology to start writing – you just need something.

Schedules & Deadlines

You’re not done getting ready yet. You should evaluate your schedule and set yourself some deadlines. 

When can you write? How much time a week can you make? Are there things you can stop doing to get some extra writing time?

Setting a deadline for yourself can help motivate you to keep going. But make sure it’s a reasonable deadline. An 80,000 word novel at 1,000 words an hour (your speed will vary) means 80 hours of writing. That doesn’t include planning, editing, research, staring at a blank screen, etc.,

Prepare Yourself Resources

2. Pre-Writing

There’s still a lot to do before you dive in and start writing your novel.

Finding Ideas

Ideas can come from anywhere or everywhere. Maybe you have a million ideas, but if you have none don’t worry we can help with that!

Big, small, long, short, crazy, boring – it doesn’t matter! An idea is an idea. Find yours, write them down. You don’t have to use all your ideas – that would be impressive – but you can’t use what you don’t have.

Once you have the ideas, it’s time to evaluate them. Can you turn your idea into a story?

Ideas aren’t stories and not all ideas can become stories. An idea can be anything but stories need a plot, characters, settings, etc., Making it even harder, sometimes our ideas just don’t suit us as writers.

Planning (aka Outlining)

I think outlining is the most personalized and debated aspect of novel writing. There is no right or wrong way to plan your novel!

There are those that plan every single detail, those that just start writing, and those that fall in between. Common terms to describe them are planners, pantsers, and planters.

The best outline is the one that works FOR YOU! I can teach you my 15 Step Master Outline for Fiction and it’s what works for me. I believe (firmly) that it can help anyone. HOWEVER, it will help you the most if you’re willing to be flexible with it and change the parts that just don’t suit you.

That’s what outlining is. It’s preparing a story idea as much (or as little) as you need so you can start writing. The key is YOU.


Personally, I don’t like to interrupt the flow of writing with research. I like to do as much research as possible before starting the novel. Then, I make a note of anything I want to research as I’m writing. I do additional research at a time separate from writing time.

My #1 research tip is to make a list of names before you start writing. I usually make a list of about 50 male and 50 female names. This means I can easily choose names while writing AND I can make sure that my names aren’t all too similar.

you have to write a book before you can sell one

Making Style Choices

You’ll need to decide on a number of style choices for your book. What genre will you be writing in? What tense and point of view will you use?

The genre of your story will influence the length, how much research you’ll need, and more.

There are four points of view: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Limited, and Omniscient. There are 3 tenses: past, present, future. It’s extremely uncommon for novels to be written in the 2nd person or the future tense.

Beating Writers Block

You’ve done everything above and you think you’re ready to start writing. But writing is where a lot of aspiring authors lose focus. So many writers use writer’s block as an excuse to never finish their story. Don’t be one of them!

Pre-Writing Resources

3. Start Writing

It’s time to start writing! Get those words down on the page.

Try to avoid editing as you write, there will be plenty of editing when you’re finished the first draft.

Here are some additional resources that might help you while you’re writing.

Writing Resources: Plot

Writing Resources: Character

Writing Resources: Other

4. After Writing

You’ve finished the first draft – Congratulations! Don’t celebrate yet though, there’s a lot of editing work to do. The Creative Penn has great information about what to do next!

Get Started Writing YOUR Book

PinThis: how to write a book (a comprehensive list of resources)

Now it’s time for you to start your own novel. Follow the steps above and use the resources and you’ll have a completed novel before you know it.

Everyone starts at the same place – with the first word of their first novel. Get started with yours now.

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