The 14 Stages of Writing a Novel

1. You start your novel with the enthusiasm and energy of a 7-year-old hopped up on sugar packets. 


2. Quickly becoming rather impressed with yourself. 


3. …Then the distractions come. Mostly social media, even the ones you never used to use.


4. Then the sugar high wears off and you remember that it’s really hard. 


5. So you spend your time doing “valuable research.” 


6. Now you just accept it. 


7. No matter how urgent, your novel can always wait until later. 


8. Then you feel guilty. So you rationalize it. 


9. Then you get the kick you need to start writing again. 


10. And you’re flying. 


11. And you’re convinced your novel is going to be bigger than Harry Potter. It’s going to be HUUUUUUUGE.


12. So you follow your notes and outline, and push yourself to your limits. 


13. And you finally reach The End, although you’re a little beaten up.


14. And then you make sure that when your friends ask how it went, you put on a good face. 


Question(s) of the day: Any of these familiar to you? Which one hits closest to home?


  1. Great news letter. I think the gif of a certain mr trump is appropriate for the one it was on lol/

  2. So much familiar!! I pretty much spin out at the research, and when I return it’s always to a different thing. “Maybe I’ll work on poetry now…no, no today is for the memoir look outside this is memoir wheather!” I am having trouble sticking with you one projects.

  3. I am the worst with research. I haven’t yet started a novel, even a short story, because I just want to learn all the things first.

    You know, scour Wikipedia pages for history, ideas, intriguing happenings, read all the writing books (plot, dialogue, world-building…), gather a big list of other novels that might inform my understanding of my subject, end up throwing away ideas because I don’t know enough about the people or setting involved, etc. They do always say “Write what you know,” after all.

    Ben, have you dealt with this? Do you have any advice on knowing when you’ve done enough research? Do you believe writers should write what they know now, until they can learn enough about that one burning idea to do it well?

    • Hey there! Great questions. You’re not alone in this. It sounds to me like it’s rooted in fear of failure, or you can use the more harmless street name “perfectionism.”

      Right now, your fear of failure is greater than your passion for writing. There’s an analogy from Elizabeth Gilbert that I love: she says that everything in life comes with a shit sandwich. There’s no such thing as a job or role that doesn’t have downsides. There will be good things about it, but it comes with a shit sandwich that you have to eat. If you love something so much, that you’re willing to eat the shit sandwich associated with that job, then it’s worth it to you. If you take a bite of that sandwich and think, “This is SO not worth it.” Then you need to be doing something else.

      You might have a romanticized view of what writing is. Maybe you need to take off the rose-tinted glasses and recognize that writing is hard work. It’s rewarding, fulfilling, and captivating, but it’s hard work.

      All that to say: If you’re willing to endure pain and failure because you love writing, then go for it. You need to do it. If the love of writing doesn’t compensate for the shit sandwich you have to eat, then try something else.

      My advice would be: you know too much. Research is hindering more than helping you right now. Research is to support the accuracy of your PLOT. If you don’t have a story, then your research is just busywork. You just need to say NO to yourself/research for the FIRST TIME and get your butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard and start clacking away.

      Here are two blog posts I wrote on the subject that I think will help you more tactically for how to approach it. 🙂

      My weekly writing tips I send come from my personal email address. If you ever have questions or want me to review something, just reply to one of those emails. I’m happy to help.

  4. The one with Stephen Colbert.

  5. Hilarious post! Also a bit frightening… considering how close to reality it is, at least in my case =D

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