The Seven Stages of Novel-Writing

Jane Casey

This week I am very, VERY chuffed to share a spot-on post from one of my favourite crime authors, Jane Casey, where she imparts her solemn wisdom about the process of writing a novel. I haven’t made it to #7 yet. I mostly hover between#3 and #5 then go backwards… 

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The Seven Stages of Novel-Writing

The highs and lows of writing are pretty legendary. There doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid passing through these emotions on the way to The End. For your entertainment – and fair warning – here are the seven stages of writing a novel.

 1. Exhilaration

You have an idea and you think it could actually become a book. Spoiler: this is the best bit, because nothing has yet gone wrong. Exhilaration is what gets you through writing the synopsis. Writing a synopsis is almost as painful as writing a book, except you can skip large chunks of plot development without actually having to think about how they might be developed, or even if it’s possible to develop them without being a different writer in a different genre. This will cause you problems later, but for the moment, pat yourself on the back for being a genius. It’s downhill from here.

 2. Confusion

You sit down to start writing the book but oh dear, you’ve forgotten how you planned to do this. The synopsis makes no sense. The story makes no sense. The basic idea might make a novella, or a short story. Or 140-character flash fiction. It is not going to stretch to 120,000 words, which is what is in your contract. You do a chapter plan. Many of the chapters have blank spaces where their plot is supposed to go. Never mind, something will occur to you.

 3. Panic

  • You have forgotten how to write.
  • You write.
  • You cry.
  • You write some more.

 4. Wavering confidence

It’s all coming back to you. And you’ve managed to get your characters off the first page and into the story. Nothing can hold you back now.

It’s a shame it’s TERRIBLE.

 5. Despair

So much left to write. So little time to the deadline. So little point in even switching on the computer when it’s STILL TERRIBLE.

 6. Determination

You’re not a quitter. Besides, there’ll be editing. It will get better. You just have to finish it.

 7. Euphoria/Exhaustion

You type THE END.  For all its flaws, the book exists – not as you imagined it first, to be sure, but it lives! And you think it might be your best yet. Or possibly it’s your worst. You can’t be sure. All you know is that you’re very, very tired.

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About Jane

Jane Casey was born in Dublin and worked as a children’s books editor before her first novel, THE MISSING, was picked from an agent’s slush pile and published by Ebury Press. She writes crime novels for adults (the Maeve Kerrigan series published by Ebury) and teenagers (the Jess Tennant series, published by Random House Children’s Books). The first Jess Tennant book, HOW TO FALL, has just been published. Married to a criminal barrister, she lives in London. She is currently working on her seventh novel.

You can find Jane on twitter @JaneCaseyAuthor

You can read more about HOW TO FALL via the links below:

It’s an excellent read that works for both the intended audience, i.e. Young Adults, and the slightly-older ones *ahem* like me who just wish they were sixteen again 😉 It’s a great twisty-turny mystery with well drawn characters that left me very nostalgic for my youth! I’m really looking forward to Jess Tennant’s next outing.

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3 thoughts on “The Seven Stages of Novel-Writing

  1. I haven’t actually experienced 3-5 myself – well unless the panic is in the form of ‘is there a point in writing this, as no one will be interested!’ But No.2 I know well – often I think there is not enough there, but my last novel was 128,000 words, so…erm…maybe that is clearly not true!

    I also don’t like to think in terms of synopsis, as I find that thought daunting, I just list plot points and start from there.

    No.6 is a MUST! and when you do get to No.7, it is exactly that. Although now my book has been sitting here for months and I haven’t yet mustered the strength to edit. What about seven-stages of editing? so I know what to expect! ( ; >

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