How to write a novel in 13 weeks

finished novel

Do you need this guide to write a book? Not necessarily. You can do this all on your own. But sometimes it helps to get a little nudge. We tend to do the things we have to do, but we don’t always make time for the important things, because they’re rarely urgent. Stop procrastinating with your novel writing. It’s now finally time to get started. This guide will help you write your novel in 13 short weeks.

Week 1: Brainstorming ideas

Before you can write a book, it helps to know what the book will be about. You don’t have to know what will happen in every scene yet, but you should have an idea of the general plot.

Your task for this week will be to outline the beginning, middle, and ending of your story. Where does your hero start out? What crisis does she have to deal with? How will it get resolved in the end?

The good news is that finding a book idea is easy. You don’t even have to come up with a story line of your own. You can take an existing storyline and tweak it. Your story idea doesn’t have to be remarkable. Besides, all major story ideas have all been done before. Your book will be different in the way you tell the story and the twists you add to it. After all, nobody will tell the story just like you. And there are an infinite number of variations to every story.

brainstorming story ideas

Here is a list of writing prompts directly out of the book “The Busy Woman's Guide to Writing and Finishing a Novel: Stop Procrastinating and Get It Done (with permission from the author). This list is to help you get started. You don’t have to use any of these ideas, but maybe they’ll spark some ideas of your own. You can also tweak them to your liking:

  • A soccer mom drops off her kids at school before heading out to eliminate her next target.

  • 17-year-old girl is determined to find her parents even though everyone around her knows why it’s a bad idea.

  • Dear diary, today I shot somebody.

  • A team of assassins receive a photo and have 72 ours to eliminate the target.

  • A 3,000-year-old druid is forced to leave Earth for the first time and must cope with space travel.

  • Even though she was severely overweight, she was invisible to her classmates. 10 years later, nobody would have recognized her. Little do they know how much misery her revenge will cause….

  • She met her true love after all this time. But how can she explain that she is pregnant with a baby she can’t keep?

  • He thought it was just going to be another one of those days at the office. But then he looked out of the window and froze…….

  • Nothing ever happened to her, but somehow people around her had a tendency to suffer from misfortunes. Until one day when she realized it was not a coincidence…...

  • A new prescription is making her husband behave very strangely. His pain is gone, but the medication makes him unable to tell a lie.

  • A sexy woman moves into a new house. She finds out the dreamy guy next door is a CIA agent. What's a girl to do? Spy on the spy, of course.

  • After WW III leaves the planet in ruins, the remaining population takes to underwater cities to escape Mother Nature gone crazy.

  • Cyber terrorists threaten to take down most of the world's governments. Can a new international team of hackers stop them before the world goes into chaos?

What if I can’t decide on a storyline?

If deciding on a story line is too difficult, then take the time to write out more than one. You can have more than one storyline and just pick the one that excites you the most for this project. Writing is exercising your creative juices. So the more you do it, the better you become at it.

What if I can’t come up with a good story idea?

This is a tough one, but we don’t really believe you. There are lots of good stories in you; you just have to write them down. If nothing is happening right now, and we do recommend you do this exercise as soon as you finish reading this email, then set the alarm earlier for tomorrow, and try it then.

If you can’t come up with a good plot within the next couple of days, then pick one of the ones above and start working on it. Create a beginning, a middle, and an ending. This must be done within the week or you’ll be behind next week.

How much time will I have to commit?

Everybody wants to write a novel, but nobody has time to get it done. Obviously, you can’t write a novel within minutes. You’re going to have to put some effort into it. We recommend setting aside at least an hour a day for the next 3 months. That’s only 90 hours of your life.

If you start scheduling time to write, you’ll create a habit that will serve you well. And even if you only plan to write for an hour, there will be days when you’ll keep typing because the story is flowing. And there will be days when you won’t feel like writing. Probably lots of them. In a row. Sit down at the computer and start writing anyways. Move the story forward. What happens next? Keep writing and don’t give up.

I already have my story idea. What’s the next step?

Do you already know what will happen in the beginning, middle, and end? Did you write it down? No? Then now is the time to start typing. Having the idea in your head is not as good as having it on paper (or on the computer). By the time you get the next email, you might not even remember which story you wanted to use. So write it down right now.

If you’re still up for writing after that, then you have two options: You can start writing the first chapter and see where that takes you. Or you can start to outline further. What happens in the first scene, second scene, and so forth. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of outlining in a minute, but that’s next week’s task.

What you should do now

Start brainstorming and writing down the general outline of your story. Come up with a beginning, middle, and end. The more details you have, the better. But you should have the plot in place to work on it further next week. Do not continue reading until you have finished this step.


Week 2: Outline your chapters and scenes

outline your novel with Novelize

It’s so good to have you back. We hope you had a successful week. Maybe you’ve already started building a powerful habit of scheduling time to write. If you haven’t, then it’s time to start doing that. Otherwise, there will always be other, more urgent things to distract you from writing.

Now that your general storyline is in place, it’s time to go into detail.

First of all, not everyone believes in outlining. In fact, there are quite a few writers who just fly by the seat of their pants and write their story. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But you’re reading this because you haven’t managed to write a novel, or because you want us to give you the nudge to get the next novel done quicker.

Bear with us. There are some really good reasons for outlining your story before you start writing:

  1. It helps you avoid writer’s block. You won’t sit at the computer, wondering what should happen next in your story because you already know. It’s in your outline.

  2. You story won’t veer too much off course. Sometimes it’s tempting to add a huge backstory about the hero’s childhood. It can be appropriate, but it can also get boring and detract from the main point of your book. Your outline helps you keep the story moving and add some action.

  3. You can write any part of your story first. When you outline your story, you can decide which of your scenes you want to write first. This can be helpful on days when you’re not in the mood to write. Then you can pick a scene that excites you. Your outline ensures that the scene you work on will tie in with the rest of the story even though it wasn’t written in order.

  4. You can still change things while you’re writing. If you don’t like one of the twists in your book, you can still change that part when you get to it. An outline isn’t there to constrict you; it just gives you some structure to get started.

  5. You can move your scenes and chapters around. It’s possible that your events aren’t happening in the right order for your story. That’s not a problem. You can move the scenes and chapters around now or later.

Your task for this week is to outline each of your chapters and scenes. You’ll write at least one sentence per scene that lets you know what happens. Try to include the characters involved, the location (if it changes throughout your book), and how the story moves forward.

Now you may feel some confusion on when to start a new scene or a new chapter. There are no hard and fast rules. After all, you’re the author. So you get to decide. But here are some guidelines to help you.

When to start a new chapter

  • Changing the point of view of the narrator

  • Taking a big jump into the future

  • Adding a flashback

When to start a new scene

  • Change of locations

  • When time has passed

  • When introducing a new problem/situation

  • Introducing a new character

Can I outline my novel in one week?

Of course you can. Or we wouldn’t be asking you to do that. We’re not asking for much. We want you to write at least one sentence per scene of your book. Even if you have 100 scenes (which is quite a lot) and write 22-word sentences (like this sentence), that’s only 2,200 words.

The most difficult part of outlining your novel will be determining what happens in each scene. After all, your characters have to do things to evolve the plot, but not every scene contains a huge crisis.

What should I do if I get stuck?

Writing an outline is a challenging task. It’s doable in a week, but you’ll definitely have to put some effort into it. Getting stuck is no excuse not to keep going. You just need some ways to move forward when you don’t know how. So if you’re stuck and don’t know what to write, take a look at these suggestions:

  • Put up some roadblocks – If life is too easy for your protagonist, then the story gets boring. You don’t have to put up major roadblocks every time. A little crisis is sufficient to keep things interesting for you and your readers.

  • Explore another character – Your protagonist could step out of the picture for a few pages while you dust off another character. It adds another point of view and keeps things exciting. It might also provide some valuable backstory.

  • Explore your world – What’s it like to live in your world? Is there anything unusual about it? Take a little bit of time to explore the surroundings (the community, the people who live there). But don’t spend too much time telling; instead make it come alive by combining it with action.

  • Ask questions – Why does your protagonist do what he does? What are her goals? Why do the people in the community do certain things? Explore the answers in your story.

  • Start at the end – When you’re outlining, it can help to start at the end and work your way backwards. If you know how it will end, it might be easier to have your hero retrace their steps and meet back in the middle.

When and how do I record characters?

Character development is important. And as you outline, you’ll come up with the need for new characters throughout this week. It’s important to keep track of your characters along the way and give them names if you can. You can write them down in the outline, but it might help to keep track of those characters separately, which is where the notebook in Novelize comes into play. Now is not the time to go into a lot of detail on each character, especially the supporting characters. However, if you make up information about your characters, it’s a good idea to record it. You probably think you won’t forget his hair color, her eye color, or the fact that they used to go snowboarding, but you will.

What should I do when my outline is complete?

You’re such an overachiever! But seriously, congratulations in finishing your outline in record time. The good news is you won’t be bored. There are plenty of things left for you to do. If you feel up to the task, get to work on the first chapter or dream up some more details about your characters.

What you should do now

It’s time to work on your outline. Go through each scene and write at least one sentence about what happens in the story. There’s no need for a lot of details here; we just want to get the story outlined so you can get down to business. Record your character details as you make them up so you don’t have to search through your novel for these details later.


Week 3: Write 5,000 words

weekly word count goal

Two weeks have passed, and by now you should have a general outline of your book ready. Seeing the outline probably makes it feel more real to you now, doesn’t it? Your book is really going to come into existence. Let’s keep the momentum going!

Before you freak out, we’re still taking it easy. This book is going to get created step by step or better yet one word at a time. But in order to get this done in a reasonable amount of time, you’ll have to put some real effort into it. The good news is that writing 5,000 words is doable. Some of you may be able to crank out 5,000 words in one afternoon.

But we’re not looking for just any 5,000 words here. This week you’re going to get your story started. For that, we need to start at the beginning. It’s time to introduce your readers to your main character(s) and give them a reason to keep reading.

There are many different ways to start your first scene. In the beginning, you should write whatever you feel like writing. You’ll probably end up revising the first chapter and specifically the first scene quite a bit since it’s very important to your book.

The Importance of the First Chapter

Why is the first chapter so important? If the beginning of your book is boring, your readers will find another book to read. Think about it. How many pages are you willing to suffer through before you give up and read a different book? We don’t want to put any pressure on you…..just make it good!

What constitutes a good first scene is subjective and therefore different for everyone. Your first chapter is probably not going to be perfect after your first draft, and in some cases far from it. But we’re not looking for perfect. We’re looking for something to work with. And more importantly, we want to keep the momentum going and actually get the book written.

Ideas for Your First Scene

There are many different ways to start a book. So there is no limit to the number of possible first scenes a writer can come up with. So if you sit down and take a look at your outline, you might already know what you should write. In that case, you don’t need to read any further. Get to work!

But for those of you who are just not quite sure what you should be writing, we’ll give you some ideas for that first scene.

  • Dive into a conflict. This makes your story exciting for your reader from the start. This conflict is not your major crisis, but it can be related to it (although it doesn’t have to be).

  • Add a flashback to cover some history that’s important to your story. If you choose to add a long narrative here, make sure to keep it interesting so your readers will keep turning the pages. You can also use active voice and write it as if it was happening now instead of just telling your reader what happened.

  • It could be the start of another day in your character’s life. There’s something to be said about giving your reader a fresh start by starting at the beginning of a day instead of the middle or the end of it.

  • Expose a minor character flaw as soon as possible.

Did these suggestions spark any ideas? If not, we have one more idea for you to get going:

Consult Your Favorite Books for Inspiration

This is a task that may lead you to procrastinate. So before you do this, we recommend setting a timer. You shouldn’t spend more than an hour or two on browsing your favorite books for inspiration. You don’t need to reread the first chapter in each book. Instead, just glance at it and try to remember what you like about it. How does your favorite book start? What do you like about the beginning? How could you make it better?

Now take a look at your outline. What’s the best way to delve into your story?

What Should I Do after I’ve Written 5,000 Words?

First of all, we told you it was easy to write 5,000 words! Congratulations. You’re now much closer to finishing your novel, and you’ve only just begun. Now get back to your novel and write some more. It’s not over until you can write “The End”.

What Should You Do Next?

If you haven’t started already, now is the time. Get to work. Your first chapter is waiting for you. Whether you divide this task up and write 1,000 words every day of the week or only work two evenings and crank out 2,500 words each time is completely up to you. Just get it done, because next week we need to keep building the story.


Week 4: Keep building the story


We’re glad to have you with us still. But you’re a writer, so you don’t scare easily, do you? Now that you have the first chapter more or less written, it’s time to keep building on your story. If you’re behind, there’s still time to catch up. But procrastinating isn’t what we’re after. You want to get this novel written, right? So let’s keep going….

Now that you have your first chapter in place, the reader knows who the main character is, and what they’re struggling with. But now you have to make your reader care. Why should they keep reading? What’s keeping them on their toes and encouraging them to keep turning pages?

It’s your job to make the story worth reading. Fortunately, we know you can do this.

Start Developing Your Protagonist

If you don’t have a likeable protagonist, your readers are not going to care about your story. So it’s really important to develop the main character, along with the other ones that are most important to your story. Your character should get themselves into a mess, and then it’s your job to help him get out of it. In the process, your character has to make decisions. By that we don’t mean they should decide what they want eat for breakfast, instead they should decide if they should cheat on their partner, hunt down the villain, or go into the basement. Okay, maybe not the latter one, because that’s how cheap horror movies are made. But you get the idea. And we trust that you’ll come up with a lot more ideas.

Here are some other ideas on developing your protagonist:

  • Give them a past. Talk about what they have been through or who they remember most from their childhood.

  • Give them a quirk. Maybe they use the same greeting morning, day, and night. Maybe they eat their bread butter side down. Maybe they knock on the door three times before entering.

  • Give them a bad habit or flaws. Your main character isn’t perfect. So you should make him appear more likeable by giving him a real flaw. But don’t use something silly that nobody cares about, like constantly forgetting their keys. It should be a true flaw, not an annoying habit. Maybe he gets angry easily. Maybe she lied to her best friend. Maybe she killed someone.

  • Show how they struggle. Your main character may be a princess in a castle, but she still has problems. Maybe her unicorn is limping, and she can’t ride out to meet her prince. Illustrate some major and minor struggles your character goes through and let her/him solve the problem. Sometimes the solution makes the problem even worse.

  • Give your character some emotions. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them dance around with joy. Shake things up a bit. But don’t go up and down too abruptly, or your readers will think your character is bipolar. Unless he is. Then that’s okay.

Create Some Suspense

 It’s no surprise that good stories include plenty of drama and suspense. As the reader, you’re sometimes sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. As the writer, you have to keep your readers guessing. Don’t tell them everything that’s going on. You can hint at the truth, and you can explore the problem from another point of view. You can temporarily move on to something else. But your readers should always be wondering if your character will receive what he desires most.

Here are some ideas on creating suspense:

  • Add a setback. It looks like your character is getting just what they want, but then they experience a setback. This could be a minor hurdle or a major obstacle.

  • Put in some characters as deterrents. Your main character may be asking her friends for help. And those friends turn out not to be so helpful. Maybe they tell her that the guy she wants to marry is a convicted felon, or maybe they say that the villain is really a nice guy. Then back it up with a believable story.

  • Take advantage of the situation. Your main character isn’t always sure that she’s doing the right thing. Take advantage of her uncertainty and cause some trouble because of it.

  • Add a throwback for the character. It could be something that’s happened recently or something that happened long ago in the past. But keep it relevant and let it move the story along a little bit.

  • Raise the stakes. Why is it so important for the protagonist to get what they want? Will it save a life? Will it heal someone? Will it save the world? If it’s really painful when they don’t get their way, your readers will be more interested to find out what happens.

  • Add some pressure. Whether it’s a race against time or almost impossible to do what needs to get done, your hero should really feel the pressure mounting. And all your reader can do is sit there helplessly, wondering what will happen.

Your Task for this Week

Your task for this week is to work on the next chapter. You should write at least another 5,000 words and really get into the story. Use the ideas on character development and suspense creation to keep the story interesting. But most of all, you just need to sit down and write.

Even if the first version of your book is crap, you’ll have something to work with. And the next time around, you’ll get even better.

What If You’ve Already Written a Total of 10,000 Words?

Well, aren’t you just a little overachiever again? Actually, that’s great. Give yourself a pat on the back! Then get back to writing. Your story isn’t done until you write “The End”. And even then, you’ll still have to edit. But we don’t want to discourage you. It’s great that you’ve come this far! It really is. But we’re not surprised. We knew you could do this! Keep up the good work.

What You Should Do Now

Write of course! Ready, set…… write!


Week 5: Don’t let it get stale


It’s good to see you here. Even if you haven’t been doing your homework, at least you have taken the time to read through this post. But seriously, this is only the 5th week, and you have accomplished a lot. With an outline and the first two chapters in place, your story is off to a good start. Now the tricky part is that you can’t stop and rest. You have to keep the momentum going.

Having an idea for that first chapter or two is easy. In fact, there are probably millions of novels in this world that haven’t been finished. And the only thing the writer has to show for their time is one or two chapters. Does that sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be that way. You can really get it done this time. That’s what we’re here for!

The trick is not to let the story get stale after the first chapter. Now that your readers know what’s going on, it’s time to kick it up a notch. Ideally, you’ll be putting up some major and minor roadblocks to move the story along while keeping things interesting.

Define Your Purpose

Your novel should have a purpose or a vision. Your character should have a goal of some kind, and your novel should lead the character to that goal. It could be an obstacle your character has to conquer, an emotional struggle they have to deal with, or something different entirely. It’s important not to lose the big vision over the little things in your novel. It’s easy to get stuck with details in the middle of your book, but you have to keep the journey going and events flowing.

So before you write another word, make sure you have a vision for your book. It will help you get through to the end.

Put Up Some Roadblocks

Sometimes your writing isn’t progressing because your story is just not exciting enough. Is life too easy for your protagonist? Then add some obstacles for your character. Setbacks don’t always have to be devastating, but if your hero or heroine doesn’t have to overcome anything challenging, then your reader will be bored.

Add Subplots

It’s important to have a big story to tell, but you need small plots to keep things interesting. Your subplots don’t all have to feed into the big plot, but they shouldn’t be totally irrelevant, either. There is no limit to the number of subplots you can add to your story, as long as you don’t confuse the reader. Are you not sure what your protagonist should do next? Then make them go on an errand in one of your subplots. Or take a detour and watch another character get into trouble.

Add a Betrayal

Nobody wants to get stabbed in the back, but it makes for a good story to tell and read. Let the best friend betray the protagonist. Maybe he cheats on his wife. Maybe she steals his money. Maybe he attempts to murder him. Betrayals are fun and exciting. And they don’t always have to be major betrayals, either. It could even just be a little squabble among partners who are supposed to work together to save the world. You get the idea.

Add Some Imprudent Romance

Even if you’re not writing a romance book, adding some romance to your story can’t hurt. But an ill-advised romance is probably more exciting than an obvious romance story your reader can smell for miles away. Let people get together who shouldn’t get together for many reasons. But make it believable. Oh, and they don’t necessarily have to fall in love. It could just be about physical attraction. But we’ll leave those details up to you.

Follow the Worst Business Advice

There are lots of ways to get your story unstuck. But adding some pain and suffering for your protagonist is always a good idea. Make life really difficult for him if you can. The worst business advice is actually the best advice you can give a writer: elevate costs and eliminate convenience.

What Should You Do Next?

Your task is to add another 5,000 words to your story this week. If you end up writing more, that’s even better! But 5,000 words is your minimum. You can do it! Use the ideas above to keep things interesting. If you write 1,000 words every day, then you can even take a day or two off from writing. And it would be a well-deserved rest.

If you’ve already written more than 15,000 words, then you’re technically all caught up. But nothing is stopping you from writing more. If you’re in the mood and the writing is flowing, then keep it up.


Week #6: It’s time to raise the stakes

raising stakes

I hope your week is going well, and you’ve been able to get a lot of writing done. Fortunately, writing a book isn’t necessarily difficult, but it takes a lot of perseverance. You have already accomplished a lot by getting about 15,000 words written. That’s a pretty big chunk of your book. If you’re a little behind, don’t worry about it too much. There’s still time to catch up. But if you want to write a book this year, then it’s really important for you to buckle down and focus.

Most books consist of a series of peaks and valleys. If a book is well written, then there are several chapters where the reader is sitting on the edge of their seat, waiting to find out what happens next. Of course, you need to have a major crisis in your book, too, but it’s a good idea to have additional small turning points inside of your story that keep the reader guessing.

Make the Reader Care about Something…

Obviously, you have to do something to make your reader care. It could be a good story, likeable characters, witty dialogue, or all of the above. Your job so far has been to establish your story. What’s going on in your book? What is your main character struggling with?

As you portray your character, your reader will be rooting for them. Of course they want the man to be reunited with his son from his first marriage. And your reader can’t wait to find out that the woman has chosen to marry the man she loves truly. But of course it’s not going to be that easy, because now you’re going to take it all away.

… Then Threaten to Take It Away

The man won’t be able to see his son, because the mother of the child got a totally unwarranted restraining order. Or maybe she decided to abduct the son and flee the country. And of course the heroine won’t choose the man she loves above all others, because something forces her to choose the one she’s currently with. Your readers don’t want this alternative solution, and they don’t really appreciate that things aren’t going their way, but this threat holds their attention.

Do you like to read stories where you know exactly what’s going to happen? Okay, maybe sometimes. But those books are never going to be the books that you will read over and over again. So dare to be different and don’t let your characters have an easy life.

Emphasize the Adverse Outcome

Why should the reader care about the success of your main character? Two reasons: they have come to like them, and the adverse outcome is too awful to contemplate. But right now it’s your job to explain what happens if your hero doesn’t get what he wants. Will Earth get destroyed? Will he never see his child again? Will she just be miserable for the rest of her life?

The adverse outcome or the or-else factor of your story doesn’t have to be very clear in the beginning of your book. But at this point in your story, it’s time to demonstrate to your readers how bad things could really get if the hero doesn’t get what he wants. The or-else threat should keep your readers hooked to find out what’s going to happen in the end.

Consider Using a Ticking Time Bomb

You don’t have to literally add a time bomb to your story. After all, that doesn’t really make any sense for a variety of genres. But there should be a deadline that adds urgency to the story. Maybe the date for the wedding has already been set, and the bride can’t really change her mind afterwards. Maybe he’ll lose custody of his child if he can’t convince his ex to drop the charges by the next court date.

Obviously, the type of time bomb will be different for every novel. And that’s the fun part. You get to create the urgency that moves your story along. Have fun with it!

Make Your Character Responsible for Their Actions

Here is one last bit of advice on raising the stakes: you have to make your characters at least partially responsible for their actions. If things just happen to them, then they’re merely victims. It doesn’t make the story quite so interesting. Instead, let them be responsible. Maybe they made a huge mistake. Maybe they made a mistake by not acting on their beliefs or hunches. If their actions can be a bit morally ambiguous, then that’s even better.

What Should You Do Next?

It’s time to raise the stakes in your novel. You’re going to add another 5,000 words to your novel, but this week you’re going to focus on raising the stakes, explaining the or-else factor, including how your character brought this mess about. The good thing is if your character is not a victim, then they can also figure out a way to get out of the mess they put themselves in. But we’ll get to that later. Ready? Let’s write!


Week #7: Add some backstory


This is the halfway point for this novel writing course. Let’s take a moment and admire the work you’ve done already.

Nice job!

Okay, the moment’s over now. No rest for the wicked. Let’s keep it going. This week, we’re going to continue adding to your novel, but we’re going to add a little twist. It’s time for some meat and some backstory.

It may not be vital to your story to know what happened earlier in your hero’s personal life, but it could be really important for your character’s development. So now it’s time to explore where your hero is from. What happened during her childhood? Does she have siblings?

Ideas for exploring your hero’s history:

  • Share a humiliating childhood incident

  • Explain how their first crush rejected them

  • Talk about your hero’s favorite memory

  • Relive the loss of a loved one (could be a pet, too)

  • Share the scariest thing that ever happened to them

  • Discover what dreams they had as a child

  • Explain why they never want to be young and vulnerable again

How to Move to the Past

To avoid confusing your readers, you don’t want to switch to a scene in the past without prompting. Ideally, you’ll start a new chapter that’s titled appropriately. If you’re using dates to indicate past and present, it’s important to add those dates to your other scenes as well, unless it’s obvious throughout the book. You want to make sure your reader has a reference for what’s happening and understands the difference between a flashback and current events.

You can also use a character-storytelling technique. One of the characters could tell another character what happened in their past. Another idea would be to find an older letter written by someone who knows your main character. If all else fails, you can even pull out the old diaries and have one of the characters read through the entries.

Let’s Add a Secret

Even if you’re not writing a whodunit, it’s not a bad idea to add a secret. It should obviously be a big and important secret that makes a difference to one or more of the characters. If they knew the secret, they might have acted differently. If they knew the secret, their current lives would be unfolding differently.

Secrets do have a way of getting revealed. So when you plan your secret, it’s important to think about how it could be discovered later in your story. And when the secret is revealed, your story will be take a turn for the worse.

When you go back and edit your novel later, you can also plant little hints of the secret sooner in the novel if you prefer.

What Should You do Next?

You already know you should be writing. And this week you’ll add another 5,000 words to your story, same as last week. You’ve already done this more than once, so don’t complain. You know you can do it! But make sure you take at least one day off from writing to help your creative juices refresh themselves. And so you don’t hate us for making you do this……


Week #8: Add a turning point

turning point

What makes great novels really worth reading? Of course there isn’t just one right answer. Great novels have an engaging story, interesting characters, and they keep you on your toes. It’s the latter that we want to focus on this week.

It’s time to add a turning point to your story. Whether the villain is really the hero, or the long-lost family member is out to kill your main character, or an event happens that puts everything into question: it’s time to turn the world upside down.

This week you’re going to add a turning point to your story. It should be a major turning point, considering how far you’re already into your novel. What your turning point will be depends on your story, of course. But we’ll give you some general ideas for what your character(s) could do to hopefully ignite a spark:

  • becoming involved with the main conflict instead of avoiding it

  • discovering a new situation and sets a huge goal

  • encountering new obstacles or significant conflicts, forcing them to reevaluate their goal and how to reach it

  • achieving a significant step towards growth, which is necessary to resolve the main conflict

  • learning that his assumption about the main story is all wrong

  • changing their approach to the main story or conflict

  • having an epiphany that affects how they will process towards the goal

Did any of that help you? Try to apply it to your own story. What would it mean for your main character to discover a new situation that affects the entire goal of the story? If you’re looking for more specific suggestions for a good turning point, we have those, too. Here are some events that could make good turning points, provided they happen to the right people in your story:

  • Murder

  • A lapse in moral judgment

  • Someone changes their mind for good or bad

  • A betrayal

  • A non-violent death

  • Refusal of mercy

  • Unusual natural catastrophe

  • Forgiveness

  • A revelation

Add Some Action

A turning point doesn’t always have to be a passive event or an internal revelation for the main character. It could be an action scene. These might be more difficult to write, but they’ll keep the reader on their toes for sure. So you could add a battle scene or a chase scene to your story at this point. You might also decide to add some seduction.

How to Keep Readers Turning the Page

You probably know the promise to go to bed once you finish reading this current chapter, right? Your novel could be so good that finishing the chapter isn’t helping with the suspense. The reader is going to want to keep reading even though it’s way past their bedtime.

That’s why it helps adding smaller turning points to the end of chapters. You could also shift the point of view or jump to a different time or place. Another effective way to keep readers turning the page is to ramp up the action at the end of a chapter. Even though there’s a chapter break, the reader knows something is going to happen within the next few paragraphs.

Don’t Get Hung Up on the Turning Point

Admittedly, it helps to have an exciting major turning point in your story. But even if you’re not in love with what you’ve created so far, you don’t want to get hung up on it. It’s important to keep the story going. You can always edit it later and change things.

What Should You Do Next?

Now that your head is overflowing with ideas (hopefully), it’s time to sit down and write. You can add another 5,000 words to your story this week and include an exciting turning point in your story. Ready, set…… write!


Week 9: Let your hero be a hero

hero of your story

You’re doing it. You’re really writing a novel. Doesn’t that feel pretty good?

If you have fallen behind, because you haven’t followed along, please don’t despair. It’s not too late to start. It’s not too late to catch up. It’s definitely not too late to write a novel. You can do this, and you can still use these prompts to get your novel written.

But right now it’s time to get to another exciting part of your story. Last week you’ve added a major turning point. This week, it’s time to find out what your hero is going to do about. You’re going to write about how your hero is dealing with the turn of events you’ve added last week. Maybe there was a big revelation, maybe your hero finally realized what’s really going, or maybe someone got murdered. Now what’s your hero going to do about it?

Some Heroes Scare Easily

Not every hero is brave and willing to act. Maybe your hero is just scared. Maybe he decided to run to his parent’s house and hide in his old bedroom. Maybe he’s not willing to accept responsibility just yet. This can be quite believable, especially if scary things are happening in your book.

We’ve all seen the horror movies where fearless minor characters enter the dark basement only to get tortured or killed. Your hero is just not that stupid. And when you’re scared, running away makes a lot of sense. Of course this isn’t the end of your book. So while your hero can certainly run, he won’t be able to hide forever.

Some Heroines Put on a Brave Face

A lot of heroes and heroines are scared of the things that you, as the author, will make them do. But many can just put a brave face on it and power through. It’s not a bad idea to let your reader know in between the lines how difficult it is for your characters to take the action they’re taking. It makes them feel a lot more human. After all, how many people willingly risk their lives without being scared shitless?

Your Main Character Doesn’t Actually Have to Be the Hero

Okay, okay. We just said that you should let you’re hero be a hero. But truthfully, there’s no need for your main character to act like a hero at all if you don’t want him to. He certainly doesn’t have to perform acts that he’s not trained for. By all means let the firefighters rescue the child from a burning building while your hero nervously waits for good news.

But your main character has to overcome something. The point of your novel is to help him or her grow. That means by the end of your book, he or she will be a little wiser than at the beginning of it. She’ll have learned something new about herself. Maybe he will have learned something new about someone else. Maybe your main character has become closer to the people they care about the most.

If your hero doesn’t have to do anything heroic, then what should happen at this point in your story? That kind of depends on what you wrote last week.

What your hero does next is obviously a continuation of the predicament you put him in. It’s time for him to start crawling out of the hole that was dug for him, even if the first step involves hiding. Whether he has to discover the killer, reunite with a lover, right a wrong, or just find the courage to talk to an estranged family member, it’s time to start him moving in that direction.

What Should You Do Now?

We’re so glad you asked! This week your task is to add another 5,000 words to your novel. You’ll be documenting the journey your hero or heroine follows as they try to resolve the conflict. The road ahead of them is still bumpy. They’re not going to solve all of their problems just yet. But it feels like they’re finally getting somewhere and making progress.


Week 10: Add more obstacles


By now, you’re firmly entrenched in your story. You’ve probably come to love your characters, even if they might not survive until the end of the book. Right now, it’s almost looking like things are starting to make sense. Your reader can sense that the hero is close to solving the major conflict of the story.

But it’s not as easy as your hero thought, because this week you’re going to make life much harder for him or her. It’s time to add more obstacles.

You don’t want your story to get boring after your readers have gotten this far into the book. To keep the reader interested, it’s important to add twists, turns, and obstacles for your main characters at this point. Obstacles can be external or internal, too. Fortunately, we have some ideas to get you started.

External Struggles

A lot of the things that happen in your story can’t be influenced by your hero or heroine. So that means your hero is trying to accomplish his or her goals, but still has to deal with people, deadlines, and other complications along the way.

It’s Too Late

Lots of things are time-sensitive. Maybe it’s really important for your character to show up at a certain location on time. Well, what if something happened that causes him to show up late or not at all? The opportunity has gone, and now he won’t have any idea what to do next. Or will he figure something out?

There Are No Messages

Maybe your character needs to communicate with someone via email, letter, fax, or secret message. There are lots of ways for you to interfere. The message can get lost, intercepted, or misinterpreted. A voicemail can get deleted. The possibilities are endless. That could mean lots of fun for you, but lots of frustration for your hero and for your reader.

We Can’t Talk Here

Maybe your main character really needs to speak to someone in private. But that person does not want to and makes sure that they’re always surrounded by others. Or maybe someone else is preventing them from meeting in secret. What’s your heroine going to do? This could highlight some of her weak points, but it could also be the time where she shows unusual cunning.

Internal Struggles

Many books, especially romance novels, talk about the character’s internal struggles in depth. It may be that your character wants to be a good person, but she feels compelled to act a certain way. For example, Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind” struggles through all of her life to be a great lady like her mother was, but she always finds that she isn’t truly great inside. Of course, she has all the mannerisms and proper etiquette down, but a huge part of her doesn’t really want to act demurely at all, and her independent spirit breaks through quite often.

Here are some more examples of internal struggles:

  • Doing something society doesn’t approve of

  • Wanting to do things that might hurt others

  • Wanting to be a better person but failing

  • Trying to hide one’s flaws from others

  • Keeping a secret from someone or everyone

  • Hiding one’s dislike of someone

Now obviously you’re going to come up with much better ideas. But even if you take some of these suggestions and tweak them, you’ll find that they automatically put seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your story.

What Should You Do Next?

Take a few minutes to brainstorm how you can stop your character from reaching their goals. Pick one or several external or internal obstacles and flush them out. Now add them to your story. You don’t have to spend 5,000 words on obstacle building this week. Write as much as you want on the obstacle part, and then continue on with your story. This could also be a great way to discover something new about your character’s personality.


Weel 11: There’s an unexpected twist

unexpected twist shock

So how many words have you written so far? If you’ve been following along with this email course, then you should have a good size story built up already. But of course, we’re not quite done yet.

Last week you added some obstacles to your story. Maybe your hero has already solved some of these obstacles. And your entire story is starting to make sense to the reader. In fact, it’s all coming together quite nicely, isn’t it?

But it’s not over until you say it’s over. In fact, this week you’re going to add an entirely unexpected twist to your story. Maybe the villain is really the hero. Maybe your heroine’s boyfriend has been married to her sister this entire time.

Adding an unexpected twist is not the same as adding an obstacle. An obstacle can be overcome by your hero, at least in theory. But the unexpected twist is a turn of events that your hero will have to come to terms with. It may still alter the ending of the story or change his goals entirely, but most likely, there’s nothing your hero can do about it.

The Benefits of Adding a Major Twist

You may wonder why you would want to add a major twist to the story right now. After all, everyone is plugging along quite happily. But if your story is becoming too predictable, then there is a real risk that your readers won’t finish it.

It’s quite incomprehensible to us book lovers, but the sad truth is that most people don’t finish the books they start. Let’s not let that happen to your novel!

Suggestions for Story Twists

Of course we’re not going to leave you hanging. We’ll get your creative juices flowing by giving you some suggestions for possible twists to add to your story.

  • Someone gets poisoned (maybe even fatally)

  • A minor character believes in something your hero does not

  • Your character dreams about what happens next, only the dream won’t become a reality

  • Your main character’s role model turns out to be entirely different than he thought

  • There’s a natural catastrophe wrecking everything in sight (tornado, hurricane, you name it)

  • Love makes your character do something risky and out of the ordinary

  • Someone betrays your hero’s trust

  • One of the characters leaves her marriage overnight without warning

  • A main character gossips and gives it all away to the wrong person

Now we could keep going with this list, but we think it’s enough to get you started. As always, we know that your ideas will be much better than ours.

Make It Fun

Now that you have decided which twist you’re adding, you get to have fun with the how. How will your hero find out that his brother betrayed him by gossiping with a one-night stand? Will the villain tell him? Will he figure it out himself? Will his brother confess?

As the twist is working its way into your story, there are lots of options for destroying relationships or even lives if you want to. In the above example, would your hero ever trust his brother again? Would he even want to see his brother again? Only you know the answer to that.

What’s the Next Step?

By now you know the drill. Add 5,000 words to your story adding a new twist. If you prefer, it can be a minor twist. But you can also make it big, influencing every single action your hero takes hereafter.


Week 12: Add a resolution


It’s time to wrap things up. Your hero has suffered enough. You’ve put obstacles in his way, you’ve added unexpected twists to the story, and now it’s time to find a resolution.

It’s customary to tie up loose ends in the story before you draw the curtain on your characters. Did your hero accomplish his goal? Did your heroine solve the mystery? It’s not important to resolve everything, although the Dame of Crime, Agatha Christie, does this beautifully in her Hercule Poirot novels. But if you leave too many things unexplained, then your reader will be unhappy with the ending of your book.

How to Bring about the Resolution

Sometimes writing about the resolution is quite easy. All you have to do is invite the reader to attend the wedding (not literally of course), and they’ll know that the couple is happily reunited. If you can show that your villain is behind bars, then that’s satisfactory, too.

But in some cases, bringing about the resolution isn’t as neat. After all, you can’t take your reader behind the scenes to explore the mystery. So you often have to resort to telling them what happened. Here are some suggestions to help you clear up some of the important conflicts:

  • Explore what happened through dialogue with a minor character

  • Add a diary entry for your main character

  • Have your main character send a letter to someone not in tune with current events

  • Extract a confession from the villain

Don’t Make Your Resolution Boring

Yes, you should tie up all of the loose ends, but the resolution needs to be believable. You could add a future scene of what happens long after the conflict has been solved. This allows your reader to picture a continuance to your characters, even if you never write a sequel to your novel.

Happy Endings Are Overrated

There are some genres in which happy endings are required. If you kill the main characters of a romance novel at the end, then it’s going to be considered a different genre entirely. Just think of the difference between the works of Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks.

But generally, there is no law that says your characters have to live happily ever after. Children die. Spouses die. And sometimes heroes kill themselves. It can even come quite as a surprise to you and your reader when that happens, but if you want to put that in the story, nobody will stop you.

You Could Try a Semi-Happy Ending

Maybe the hero was able to marry his heroine. But in the end, their marriage didn’t turn out so magical after all. Or he lost her only too quickly to a terminal disease. Of course, maybe she continues to live on in his memory, which can be bittersweet.

You Could Write an Open Ending

There are some books where it’s not actually clear if the ending is happy or not. In one of the books by Nicholas Sparks, the reader never knows if the girl actually dies or makes a miraculous recovery. The boy who loves her merely says that he believes in miracles. Maybe you like this open-ended idea for your story.

Don’t Drag It Out

If there’s one thing you’re not supposed to do, it’s dragging out the ending. Most writing advice tells you to add the climax and then resolve everything in the final scene. This leaves readers on a high note of action and satisfaction in having everything revealed. If you keep going after this last scene, then you risk the reader’s boredom. After all, what more is there to tell? Save it for the sequel (if you want).

What Should You Do Next?

It’s time to write the ending. Now it probably doesn’t require 5,000 words to write the ending. In fact, it can be done with a whole lot less. But maybe you still have something to say about the twist from last week. Maybe there is one more thing your hero has to do. If not, write that final scene and say goodbye to your story for now.

After you finish your first draft, it’s time to give it a rest. Now is not the time to go back and edit it. That will come later. Let it sit there for a few weeks. If you’re itching to write more this week, start outlining your next story.


Week 13: Learn about publishing

earn money publishing

It can be really tricky to finish a novel even if you’re disciplined about writing every day. How do you know it’s time to stop? What if you have more to tell?

Most writers follow some conventions on how big their books will be. Of course, that’s not always the case. In fact, “Harry Potter” was rejected as much as it was, because it was an unusually big book for juvenile fiction. Until then, nobody thought kids would want to read it. Of course, there are plenty of adults who enjoy reading “Harry Potter”, too.

If you’re going the self-publishing route, then you might choose the option of writing smaller books and adding sequels to them. This can help you tremendously when it comes to selling the books.

This week you’re not going to edit the novel you just finished. Remember, it’s a good idea to let it rest for a little while. You’ll be surprised what your fresh sets of eyes can detect when you come back to it a month from now.

What you’re going to do instead is learn more about publishing your book, unless you only wrote it to share with friends and family. In that case, it might be time to take a short writing break or start on a new outline or attack a different work in progress.

Research Some Publishing Resources

First of all, we’re not affiliated with any of these sites, but we have personally found them to provide helpful publishing advice. This is just to get you started. Once you fire up the search engine, you’ll find more publishing advice than you can ever consume.

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (The Creative Penn)

71 Ways to Market Your Book (Your Writer Platform)

Promoting Your Self-Published Book (The Creative Penn)

Get Reviews

Book reviews help sell books. There’s really no way around it. You’re going to have to put forth some effort to get at least 20 reviews of your book – the more, the merrier. Ideally, you’ll send out your book to readers a few weeks before you launch it. This gives them the chance to read it and post a review as soon as it’s available for sale.

Speaking of launching, you might also want to look at starting a launch team. A launch team consists of a group of people who will help you spread the word about your book. You can set up your own Facebook group to do this or use an email list. Your launch team is made up of the people who will write reviews and spread the word about your book on their social media accounts during launch week.

Consider a Freebie Launch

If you plan to publish a series, then it might be a good idea to wait with publishing your first book until you’re already working on the third one. This gives you the chance to promote them together by adding the first chapter of the second book to the first book with a release date and so forth. It also makes it more likely for readers of your first book to wait for the second one since it will be published within a few weeks or months, not years.

If your book is a stand-alone book, you might consider launching it for free for a week. This allows you to get some readers and hopefully more reviews. Spread the news about your book as much as you can using your blog (if you have one), guest posting on other blogs and possibly social media advertising. After a few days, it’s time to increase the price of your book a little until your pricing is where you want it to be.

By the way, some writers consistently offer a free book to allow readers to get hooked. Many of them will be back to purchase the sequel or another standalone novel by the same author if they enjoyed the book. Its’ a brilliant strategy, because it doesn’t require the reader to take any risk, and it allows you to get new readers you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.

Give Away the First Chapter

Remember in the beginning when we said that your first chapter has to be amazing? The first chapter is what hooks the reader to your story and makes them want to read the rest. On Amazon, most books can be previewed, and the reader can read the first chapter without purchasing the book. You can also make the first chapter available on your website for free.

Offer Free Copies to Influencers

You shouldn’t hand out free copies to just anyone, especially if they’re never going to read the book. But if you want your book to get featured in a book review on a blog (and you do!), then you should be prepared to send them a free copy of your book. Most of them are fine with an eBook copy, but occasionally you’ll have to splurge and send a paperback (if that exists). Consider it an investment in marketing.

What You Should Do Next?

The publishing process can be overwhelming. Writers usually have a hard time with the marketing aspect of it all. Fortunately, it’s neither rocket science nor brain surgery. You can learn how to do this well if you take the time to research it. This week you’re going to create a marketing plan to help you figure out what steps to take next. After all, your book will be ready for publication soon. It’s only waiting for you to start the editing phase.

If you don’t think your book is quite ready yet or never will be (and many writers will always believe the worst about their work), then you might prefer to wait on learning about the marketing and publishing process until you’re closer to finishing it.

If you haven’t been keeping up and are nowhere close to reaching your word count goal, then it’s time to get back in there and write. The words won’t write themselves.


Happy writing!