Writing a Novel


 Home Page



Structure & Plot


The Writing It Part


Writing Links


Novel & Scriptwriting Books and Software 


Learn more about non-fiction writing and my book on fatherhood.


Learn More



How to Write a Novel


Tip: read these articles in sequence starting with Conflict


“When I went to write it, no words came out.”

I fell in love with the story I finally created for my own novel. But when I went to write it, no words came out. After three months spending hours a day I was only able to write two pages. So I quit. But the story never did. Some stay with you. 

So four years later, with two simple tricks, I broke the spell and now average 381 words (nearly a page) an hour. This section tells you how I did it. I’m sure it will help people.

Why I couldn’t write

I didn’t know at the time why nothing came out. Now it’s all so laughingly clear. It was because the story—my book—was so important to me. So much so that I didn’t give myself the space to mess it up. The business of writing books is a wild imaginative romp, at least I discovered it was for me. To do it you have to completely let go and white knuckle down for the ride. You can’t worry about tacking words together in just the right order and continually checking them against your story plan. First you must pull the giant cork out of your arse, only then can you sit down in the driver's seat. It’s a rush when you finally get there. It's not the dreaming part or the outlining part, certainly not the editing part, that's the magic. It's the writing. But you gotta get there. 

Follow me to my garage out back, I’ll show you my wondrous self-invented uncorking machine.

How I overcame the roadblock—four years later in 15 minutes

As I mentioned, I loved my story. And I knew that millions of other people had been able to write books. So I knew that I could too. I just had to approach it somehow differently. 

One day I had a simple idea. I wondered how many words I could write if I were completely unlocked from whatever I was writing. And what would it sound like? Just simple curiosity. So I gave myself 15 minutes to sit down at my laptop and grind out as much rubbish as ten fingers and the dreaming part of my brain would allow. 

Guess what...where before I had been able to write only maybe 1100 words in 3 friggin' months, in fifteen minutes I wrote 527. What did it sound like? Well, not brilliant. Very rambling, as you can imagine. But also...not bad.

Here's the beginning:

I’m really curious how long it really takes for a writer to write a page, approximately 500 words. Do they simply let their minds wander from one word to another, sifting through the vivid landscape of their unconscious, the words flowing out and down through the fingers, etched in living color, or black and white actually, on the page. Or do they slowly knock the words out, painfully, one by one by one. I can easily imagine that, as it always seems to be, it’s a combination of the two...

Want to read the rest? Download the actual document at the bottom of this page.

My Book Tracking Graph

The second trick that helped me was to simply track of my progress. Some days the writing feels so slow, yet I'm always amazed at just how many words I manage to write. I only knew because my book tracking graph kept telling me.

I made a spread sheet into which I put my writing goals and every day my total word count. The spread sheet not only keeps track of my writing relative to my goals, it also tells you the following:

  • Number of words/day  

  • Number of words/hour

  • pages/hour                               

  • Total words                             

  • Total pages                              

  • Months till 270 pages 

  • Days till 270 pages 

  • Days left till goal  

  • Hours/wk needed to reach goal  

  • Percentage of book written  


It then graphs my progress and estimates when I'll finish. I chose a random 'goal' of 270 pages at 450 words/pagethis comes out to 120,000 words. That's the upper comfortable limit some publishers are willing to take from a new author. Of course, it goes without saying, you write exactly as many words as your story demands.

I've prepared a blank version of my Book Tracking Graph for you. Download it below and try it out. You'll be surprised what it tells you.

The best novel writing books. You have to do it, but these will help.

>> See More Books about Writing a Novel or Film Script

 Download the entire 15 minutes of my writing breakthrough

 Download a blank of my Book Tracking graph and use it yourself