How To Start Writing Novels

Before creating the Art of Murder mystery series, I worked primarily in poetry. Prose was a foreign territory. Even writing reviews of poetry books, which my job required, was a torment that lasted weeks—for a measly 2,000 words. “I’m a poet,” I’d say to myself. “I can’t write prose.”

Be careful what you say to yourself. You’re making it true.

I’m not sure how it happened. I left that job, had more time, true—but that’s what was happening on the surface. Something else changed. I told myself I could write a story. 

And I did. It was not a narrative poem, it was written in the dreaded prose. Eight whole pages of the stuff.

I wrote a few more stories, becoming more comfortable with characters who weren’t me, with dialogue that sounded real, with plot complications and surprises.

All that was fun. So I set my sights on a novel.

The genres I was most comfortable with were literary and mystery. As a teenager I’d read all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy Sayers, one of my mother’s favorite authors. As an adult I looked for Rreal Literature, but that was intimidating to a first-time novelist.

For years I’d heard of National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo), the on-line event during which writers sign up to produce a novel in one month, November. I’d always considered the task impossible. 

But I used to consider writing a paragraph impossible. And I needed some kind of structure to get my novel off the ground.

A short novel is 50,000 words. I divided that by the thirty days. I needed to write 1,667 words a day.

I told myself I could do that. Fifty thousand words remained impossible, but under two thousand? Go for it, girl!