How To Series

Learn how to Write A Novel with this five-part do-it-yourself series. Write a novel at your own pace, learn from an author who started at ground zero and now has nine published novels. She’ll walk you through every step to publishing your very own book! How exciting. On your Bucket List? Get started. For yourself. Gift to someone. Do it together.



#1 Supplies

Welcome to my six part series on how to write a novel. Why do I qualify in preparing such a class? Because I did it. I wrote a novel. I’ve written nine books, mostly novels, and I never set out to do this. I always wanted to write a novel, that is one novel, maybe a romance or something like a children’s book. Somehow, I ended up here blogging, writing, learning and wanting to get better and better. I will lead you all the way to water but then you’ll be on your own to market, query, or be content with that book in your hand. I will say there is nothing like it in the world-the content and pleasure you inhabit by holding your own book. It’s yours and you own the journey. It may be the next “Where The Crawdad’s Sing,” which has sold over 7 million copies, or a personal treasure on a bookshelf in your home. Not everyone can write a novel and I know why. It’s difficult!

Before we get started I want you to know I welcome comments and will tell you if I know something or if I don’t. Please tell your friends and family about my site, whether professional or not, you never know who wants to write a book. This is for everyone. Reading English is the only requirement. I hope to release this in Podcast and/or YouTube format after I finish. In the very next paragraph I’ll list the supplies needed but first you’ll need pen or pencil, paper and an open mind. Play some music, light a candle and set the mood to be relaxed where your mind can wander. This class is for fun meaning adventure using the written word.

Here’s a list of the supplies you will need to begin your novel:

1). notebooks

2). pens/pencils

3). thesaurus/dictionary

4). coffee/wine/water

5). music

6). phone/computer

7). credit card

Notebooks are an obvious item, along with pens or pencils, a thesaurus is a great tool because you can scan for words adding to your verbal sentencing on paper. Maybe some of you can talk like you’re highly knowledgeable but for others we need that lift. Words become the paint color and the pen is the brush. Add in your mind, filled with life experiences or thoughts, and now your ready to create. Of course, you can google the computer for a word definition and have it in a few seconds but a thesaurus has all the words at your finger tips. And you know it’s a book. Coffee and wine or water is great depending when you write. When I first began I did writing in the morning and evening, working around family schedules. A glass of wine won’t hurt the first draft but when it comes to editing you’ll need all your faculties! The thing that used to bother me the most was when the power went out and you had to stop because the computer was also down. Music can inspire. I have found certain songs just give me a mood that surrounds what I’m trying to write. Maybe you’ll just need it to get started. I write mostly without anything playing. But if I need inspiration to ease my mind or put it on pause, filtering out all the white noise in the world, a certain song can do that. Without a doubt a computer helps this whole process. A laptop is fine too. I use my phone for research or music but have never typed a novel on it. The credit card is for the last series in purchasing a cover as well as joining a writers club.

I recommend joining a writers club. These clubs are professional and helpful. You will meet other people like you and many others. They have speakers, beta readers, and writers conferences. I joined The Atlanta Writers Club, attended meetings as I could, and also joined The Red Clay Writers Association. I soaked up the knowledge, the readings, etc. for quite a few years. The Atlanta Writers Club has a tent at The Decatur Book Festival which is one of the largest book festivals in the country, and I was able to have a place talking and selling my novels there. That was exciting! The Atlanta Writers Club founded in 1914 has gone online during the pandemic, and hopefully, should be back on again after the vaccine is produced. The cost for joining is $50 a year and the president, George Weinstein, is the best. An author himself he is engaging, giving and encouraging towards new writers. This will make you feel like you are on your way. I am a cost cutting individual, therefore, I tried to expand my dollars over the eight years I’ve been writing. I just didn’t pour money into this. Your journey, your costs, your way.

Going to The Atlanta Writers Club meetings was quite an experience for me. Over the course of my writing career (learning, publishing and now marketing) Atlanta has become the largest film producer state in the country. I’m not a business person but that makes me think I want to sell one of my books or manuscript if I can. It’s a thought anyway. This energizes you for writing that book. One does not know what book will enthrall many readers. And movies, well, Netflix has proved movies are it just in a different platform.

Assess your skills. What do you really know about writing, sentences, verbs, pronouns, quotations, word counts, plots, rising action, poetry, and so many other things? Don’t worry one bit! I only knew what they taught me in high school. I was a reader but hadn’t read but a few novels after having a family. As a nurse I had to describe signs and symptoms in as few words as possible. Then when I went to write a novel they said describe everything and use words, lots of words. Use your senses they use to say. Remember this: “Don’t Always Believe Everything You Read or Hear!” I remember wanting to do something my way and a beta was saying no, no, no, do it this way. I decided to do it my way on that particular occasion. Next thing I know I saw it used in a book. In other words another writer used that technique so I wasn’t totally out of sync. However, early on I tried to learn as much as possible and took hints or instruction believing they knew it all. I wanted to do it the right way. Your way is the right way on most things. I’m giving you the basics-then you create.

Ask questions in the comments or through my email:

Next up is to google “word count” and write these values down on the inside of your notebook: short story, novelette, novella, novel, and do the same for genre. These figures are very important because they represent standards to follow. After you write a short story you might want to send it off to a contest, you’ll need to know the proper word count. Google your favorite novels for word count. I know Color Purple has around 60K and Harry Potter novels have enormous word counts. You might think you want to write a novel at around 50K words but can only muster 30K. What then? All is not lost whatsoever. You have a novella. This happened to me. Believe me I was proud of that gem, my first ever. I figured I had gotten that far just do it again. I fell in love with the written word. It gives you a sense of control. There’s beauty and elegance in controlling something so powerful. Next up, next week, is genre and word count.

By Caroline Clemens

#2 Genre and Word Count

Why you decided to write a novel will likely give you your genre. How you ask? I never remembered learning the word genre until I decided to write a novel. My kids used it for the books they read in elementary school. When did they come up with this word? Was I playing around and not attention so long ago? I never learned it in high school. Possibly because I was not in the accelerated English class. I was in the class full of boys getting into trouble on a daily basis with Mrs. Brown.

Poor Miss Brown-how could she teach a bunch of loud juniors with mischief on their minds? I wish she could know that for my trilogy I used one of the boys names from that class. In other words, Mrs. Brown’s class was not my time to learn about genre and word count. I had to do that later on my own terms. I was jealous, not then, but later on of the single class that got to learn English Literature. Only one class was allowed in our school and I was not in it. All my friends were. Years later I felt deprived for not learning about Shakespeare. How could my high school deny me? For the love of God my last name was Clemens, I was 6th cousin to Mark Twain himself, the famous writer named Samuel Clemens who used the pen name from a ship’s fathom. I was denied for fooling around or maybe a bad grade. Maybe I had a little mischief in me like Twain writes about. I would like to tell Mrs. Brown I derived a couple of characters, and maybe some of my own character from her class. She still loved us, I know, because she smiled at us, even those of us in the back row with rows only four deep.

Not until my fifties and sixties did I learn about Shakespeare, except for the obvious “to be or not to be” and so many other famous writers. What’s the point you ask? The point is inspiration comes from all angles, time zones and experiences. What’s yours? I knew at age thirty I wanted to write a book. It took twenty four years to start. My life experiences got in the way, which, by the way, make for perfect writing of muses, plots, characters, places, etc. Experience gives us knowledge but not desire-so if you are young and feel compelled to write a novel, go for it. Your fresh voice is needed!

Your homework was to write in word counts for types of stories. Use pen or marker to make it stand out. Let’s make sure we are all on the same page:

A short story is 7,500 words

A novelette is 7,500-17,500 words

A novella is 17,500-40,000 words

A novel is 40,000 words

Typically, though, a novel is 50K words (50,000) like NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. You can find this online for inspiration. The idea is to write a novel in a month. Most novels are 60-100K words with 80-90K being a sweet spot and 55-70K words good for YA. YA is considered young adult and that is a very popular spectrum as it garners many readers. Word counts are good to know when you enter the submission arena. Submissions are good for contests, magazines, newspapers, e zines, and blogs, etc. These engage your competitive spirit and give you reasons to keep going. When you eventually type your story on the computer, it tracks your word count. Like my lack of English literacy in high school, and illiteracy, for not knowing genre I grew up not on the computer nor iPhone. I learned it on my own, you can too.

What are you going to write? A romance, historical, YA, fantasy, thriller, comedy, science fiction, memoir, fiction, or non-fiction? Select your genre. Why is this important? In the end it’s your book but if you want to appeal to readers, agents, or publishers they want a category or genre. They want to place it on the shelf with others of like minded wit. But you want your book to go from 2020 back in time and then end up in outer space with a thrilling death scene. Okay. Let’s determine what is it most like? Space or science fiction seems to be the magic bullet, then maybe fantasy by going back in time with a death in the past. Decide the genre before you begin to write as this will help define it. If you still don’t know, then what author and type book do you like to read? Is that similar to what you want to write?

At this point begin a WordPress Blog. They are free and it can be just for you-set to private if you want. Write a 500 word story in your genre with a beginning, middle, and ending. Find a picture, a photo, or something of yours that might be like a cover. If you use something from the internet it may have a copyright to someone else. That’s a no-no. If it’s yours no problem. There are some free photos on Wikimedia Commons. If you need help on WordPress you can ask me or ask the moderators that are there to help you.

Why this homework? You will SEE what 500 words is and you will read and edit your own work. Do you like it? Does it sound authentic? Is it in the right tense? With good English using nouns, verbs, and adverbs? Give your post a title and write in your genre. Re read and edit. Next up we will be learning about the inner beings of a novel, how to grab an audience, and visiting libraries and bookstores. A recap of series #1 and #2: you have a spiral notebook, pens, pencils, joined a writers group, wrote down word counts in your notebook, looked up genres, and started a WordPress blog and wrote a 500 word count story with a title, and picture. Then you edited it.

Use the comment section to ask questions or go to my email: Thanks for joining us. Two done three to go!

By Caroline Clemens

#3 Notebook and Sources

Thanks for joining my How To Series on writing a novel. This is my chance to give back what I’ve learned after nine years of writing books. I knew nothing except that I wanted to-so I had drive. This week in series #3 I’ll be explaining about blogs, libraries, bookstores, and how you’ll begin your story in the notebook set before you. These tips worked for me, hopefully, you’ll have an advantage through someone else’s experience and struggle.

Blogs are a great idea! I ended up with three free blogs, later on I paid for a dot com. This gave me which I pay for on a yearly basis. It’s not much. This became my author blog, anyone can google it, find me, review and engage. One of the reasons I encourage a blog is reading your own words on a page like a kindle makes it real. You can also read other blogs, writers, poets, artists, singers, shop stores, and view photography. Ask them questions. This encourages learning through others. You are not alone. You will also learn how to upload pictures, videos, spacing, and essentially producing your own creativity. This can be set to private or for anyone to view. It’s up to you. Remember the people working for WordPress will help you to navigate their product.

Go to the library and your local bookstores. Browse books for covers, titles, authors, and genres. Look at pricing and what sells. What do you like? Find some favorites, check them out of the library or purchase at a local store. Read but with a new perspective. Look and study the cover, front and back, then go inside and view the title, date of publishing, copyright, and details of the page. You might see the authors name, page number, and/or title at the top or bottom of each page. If you obtain an agent and publisher this is all done for you. If not, it will be up to you, and this is where it gets tricky. I can offer solutions. There are editors out there willing to assist you for a price and format your book perfectly. I discuss that in the last series #5. No worries.

Size of the book is another issue. This year the most popular seems to be in the 8X5 range. I have books 9X5 from a few years ago. They ended up being a bit thin. The sizing was a difficult experience. Once again find the book you like, look it up on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and find the size realizing that larger sizes mean fewer pages, or a thinner book. Possibly your word count will fill it up nicely. My final trilogy had 176K words which made a very nice 9X5, it feels good in your hands with all the pages. I had 400 some pages. Children’s books are of course larger in size with illustrations. When you are viewing a book online check out the pricing for all the ways a book is produced: kindle, print, audible, or hardcover. I chose print and ebook and have not ventured into hardcover or audible. Audible is very popular like podcasts. How many podcasts can we listen to?

Before we begin on our notebook go back to the homework set down in series #2. You wrote a five hundred word story with a beginning, middle, and an end, including a title with a picture. I’d like you to go back and add to your story two aspects: rising action and foreshadowing. The rising action comes right after the beginning and before the plot is revealed. Add a sentence or two to make the story more exciting or colorful. In addition see if you can add two sentences that include a detail that will be exposed in the plot later on. This technique of foreshadowing adds flavor to your story enticing the reader and engaging him further into the threads.

Finally we are ready to set pen to paper in the notebook. Follow the instructions.

Turn three to four pages over and on the right side write out your title. Write “Title” if you don’t have one.

Underneath the title write out the plot in one sentence.

Underneath the plot and leaving spaces write the very first sentence of your novel.

Underneath the first sentence and leaving spaces write out the last three sentences of the novel.

You now have the title, beginning, and ending. This structure is a massive help.

The next page is for the characters names with a small description of age or profession. You can describe them here as well.

The next page, leave empty pages in between, will be for places, cities, parks, wherever your novel takes you.

Leave four to six pages empty and then begin the outline. By making an outline you help yourself to determine the word count of each chapter. Remember word count is important for certain genres. If you selected a thriller at about 80K words then outline for 40 chapters at 2K words in each chapter. On the page write 1). through 15). with a space or two between from top to bottom. This is a fluid outline but keeps your thoughts intact and helps you to remember where you are in the story. Put a few words after each number propelling the story forward with beginning (say 1-20 chapters), rising action (say 21-40), plot and climax (41-60), and resolution or ending (61-80). This is just a guideline. Possibly you want the action to go all the way to the ending and reveal it in chapter 75 or later. It’s all up to you. After the outline is written turn over another ten pages so you have room to redo the outline as you go. One story I used only two pages for my outline of chapters and another I went through 25 pages. Each story tells itself regardless of how much you formulate. And that’s okay. I believe that’s the unique side of storytelling.

Leave comments or email me at for questions.

By Caroline Clemens

#4 Write Type Edit

Pull out that notebook which should contain on the inside cover written in bold marker: genre, word counts, story type and word counts. You’ve joined a writing group in person or online, written a blog post of 500 words which contains a title and picture, have your supplies handy in your writing room, and you’ve written in the notebook your title, plot, first sentence and last three sentences, characters, places and an outline containing your chapters with a short sentences or a few words about that chapter. Now turn forward say three pages and write out chapter 1). You can title your chapters or you don’t have to-that’s your preference. You are the creative, be rigid or flexible. Since you don’t know how many words you’ll write on a page just write out two pages and count all the words then divide by two. There’s your words per page for a handwritten story. Now you know how many pages you’ll need per chapter. It’s a rough estimate but, hey, we are not pros yet.

I wrote out in notebooks by pen or pencil my first four novels. One was a novella (the first), and the other three were all 60K word novels which I then combined into one large story or trilogy. I didn’t know what I was doing but I kept going. By the second or third book I felt rather confident and thought I was pretty good. That took four years. I was also writing poetry during that time, blogging, reading, doing social media, holding down a job, being a mother, driving swimmers to competitive year round meets and cooking for the family. My writing consisted of night time at the computer sitting down around 6pm or 8 pm until 12 midnight, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, and occasionally in the morning when all were in school on my off day twice a week. You must want to do this as we all know a chore is a chore and we put that off til there is no more time. You will surprise yourself at your creativity if you set the mood, have fun, use your thesaurus, and write away. It feels important and it’s all you!

If you need to research then check books out from your local library and record their information so you can type it in at the end of the book. They taught you in high school how to do a report with the books listed. Remember this key element, do not use more than three words in a row from some book or quote unless you quote it and give credit. Look this up on your computer because you do not want to plagiarize anything. There are sites on the web that you can put your writing through to check for plagiarism. They don’t like you using song lyrics, either. Find a good site on the web and learn as much as you can. I’ve been told that titles are okay. For instance you come up with your title but someone else has a book on Amazon with the same title. This should be okay. That’s what I’ve been told but check it out yourself to be sure.

Writing in your notebook is fun. You can read over and change or add up top ideas, etc. You can alter again when you are ready to type. Write out the book start to finish with a beginning, rising action, plot, and final resolution. Once done you are ready to type to your computer. It would take me about six weeks to two months to write out the story, then a month or less to type to computer. Once you finish typing to the computer go back over it and fix mistakes, commas, spelling, grammar, and add any color to your story at this time if you feel it needs it. Remember the senses like smell, hearing, touch, seeing, and tasting are useful to the reader so they feel like they are in the story. I find the typing to be a pleasurable aspect of the writing of a novel. Once I get going I don’t like to stop. I can type 2K words easily and sometimes go to 4K. It’s your adventure you will find your path.

Email for any questions on this series. Leave comments below on writing, typing, & editing.

After four books I participated in NaNoWriMo one November, and although I didn’t achieve 50K words I wrote a Christmas Novella. I still counted myself winning. This contest is motivating and filled with encouragement. Try this sometime. It’s all over the internet. You write the whole month of November as much as you can. This was my transition book. I typed it to the computer from an outline. My very next book was a full length novel for which I had only a two page outline and this is the technique I use now. It is quick and if you are going to continue writing I suggest to go to this technique. I buy yellow tablets and use one per story with the items I told you to write down: title, genre, word count, plot, first sentence, last three sentences, characters, places, and outline, leaving a few pages in between for when you alter the story. Ready. Set. Go. Type your novel. Read aloud if that helps for sentence flow. Then. Edit. Edit. Edit.

Check out the next How To #4 Series. Have a quick look and then when you finish #4 comeback and get ready for the final touches!

By Caroline Clemens

#5 Cover Format Editor Market or Query

The hard part is over, now for the fun. Let the games begin! Wherever you are in this process of writing a novel, one thing is for sure-it NEEDS a cover. This is the artistic part which can easily become a pain in the butt. Two things here, we don’t always explain too well what we want, and the graphic artist doesn’t always get it. Third you get what you pay for and a super exclusive cover costs a fortune. Therefore, I got you covered.

I’m not a cheapskate but I needed to not spend all my money on a hobby or my new profession. Remember, don’t break the bank on this once in a lifetime bucket list, and if it becomes a bestseller you can then purchase a new cover!

Remember that book I told you to buy. Bring it out and study the cover, front and back. See how many paragraphs are on the back. What does it say? Look at the author profile, picture, and bar code area. Do you see the author name at the top or bottom? What colors are in the cover? Do you like your title? If not, change it. Writing the back paragraphs is harder than it appears. Take your time and fine tune this. These paragraphs are important and are likely what you will put everywhere, such as on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram Sparks, Goodreads, Apple Books, Queries, Speaking Engagements, Bookselling, Libraries, and Family and Friends.

First up, I’m going to give you a link for a cover design business. There are many but I’ve used this service for all of my books! Now I’m at the marketing phase, and if I sell well, then maybe I’ll find one that would be suitable and may cost more. Secondly, I want to suggest a format editor, this person will save your life unless you are a professional in this business. Your pages will be lined up correctly with proper positioning and it will look professional! Thirdly, you will need to market and I’ll give you a link for a start up business that helps authors to succeed. Lastly, you must decide if you want to query this book before you attach a cover. Or do you want to self publish? They don’t want your book if its self-published no matter how much you love it. Nada. Nada. Nada. So before you self publish, query if you want a publisher to do #5 in my series. An agent will take your work and find you a publisher, then proceed to do the front and back cover and help you market the book. You can also get into contests and big awards where self publishing has none of that. But when it comes to the dollar you’ll make more per book doing it alone. That’s what they tell me.

1). Covers: Self Pub Covers charges approximately $75-125 separated out by genre and artist. SELFPUBCOVERS

2). Format: Format Editing, Editing, & Reviews. Review Tales Donations. Formatting for a book is approximately $200-400. Interior editing is very expensive.

3). Marketing: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Book Clubs, Blog Tours, Digital Social Medias, Facebook, Goodreads, Ingram Sparks, New Shelves Books, Smashwords, and Twitter. NEWSHELVES.COM

Twitter is a great sight for following all these groups plus there are many writers present on giving tips. You can easily get a link to anything, from your blogs to well known authors. This is how I branched out to learn and came full circle. Goodreads and Smashwords are wonderful places full of writers and readers which you can connect to. Amy King runs the monthly poetry on Goodreads, where you can submit your own poetry, and Mark Coker started Smashwords. Smashwords lets you publish your manuscript and obtain instant readers! You will feel a part of the writing group by joining these places.

If you want to go for it, and by that, I mean the big five in publishing (frankly, who doesn’t want to write a great book and get applause through sales and reviews, maybe a film or book award like the Pulitzer?), then QUERY! Here’s a link to find out how to do just that … QUERY I’m a great believer in hope and optimism but I will let you know I’m somewhere at 100 queries with no positive outcomes. Breaks my heart for my ‘good always wins side’ but heck, I also learned to give ’em some grief. I’m tough just not too tough. Winners never cheat and cheaters never win! Good luck!

By Caroline Clemens

Thanks for joining my series on ‘How To Write A Novel.’ It took me quite awhile to get around the stumbling blocks on the net but I persisted. Hopefully, I’ve put together enough information that all you have to do is dream up your title.

Email or comment below. Thanks for any donation as it may buy me a future cover for my unwritten, as yet, bestseller.

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