Steps I Took To Finish My Novel – Help For You Too.

I sat down with a great guy today.  He’s been a writer for years.  We have a lot in common.  He’s a Firefighter, so am I.  He’s cool.  I’m cool (maybe). He wanted to ask me what it took to finish my Novel. Basically, we’re like twins.  The main differences being obvious.


For example. We’re not twins.


So… We sit down and drink coffee and share thoughts on the reg.  He’s been a mentor and helped me find my writing style.  He can see the line in a story and keep you on it.  However, he has never written a novel.  Now, I’m no expert.  I’m not Stephen King or anybody with any kind of credit.  I have written a novel though.


I’m currently working on several more books and a comic series.  I found something I love.  Writing stories. And my friend wants to know how I managed to write a novel (a pretty good one by his account too) without the incredible amount of classical writers training that goes along with it.


Everything starts with an idea. 


The Stonebinder Covenant is and was no different.  I used to walk my daughter Abigail and son Mark along a trail several times a week.  We lived next to a river. The trail we followed was only about a mile long.  They loved it.  We would hunt for Faeries.  The idea was that you could never see them if you looked directly at them.  You could only catch a glimpse out of the corner of your eye.


They were five or six years old when we started.  We’d spend hours walking along the river spotting Faeries.  They would tell me where the Faerie forts and houses were.  They would even tell me about how they had alliances with certain insects.  Little kids with gigantic imaginations and the desire to believe.  It was the stuff that magic is truly made of.


Girl looking at small Fairies


I thought I should write a book about it.   


I should use the magic world they made and make it more real for them.  So I wrote eight pages of a story and didn’t go back to it for five years.  I’m pretty sure this is where most novel ideas end up.


Then I found out another one of my friends died.  He died from “heart disease” at 32.  We were overseas together and he was extremely fit.  He liked to find every advantage possible to be fit if you get what I’m saying.  He’s the second friend I’ve had that has been extremely fit and died of a heart attack before the age of 35.


Image of a man looking sad


I don’t really feel like it’s a coincidence.  They made choices that set them on a path.  They died young because of those choices.  It hurts my heart that they are gone.  I know they both had some big plans and were doing things to accomplish them.


I realized through this loss that I had BIG PLANS too, but I wasn’t doing shit about it.


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I started writing again.  Within six months I finished my Novel.  With the help of my good friend and many others, I whittled it down to the appropriately distilled proof it is now.  In the first edit I think I chopped 25k words from the original draft.  I even deleted an entire chapter. Some sections were rewritten ten or eleven times too.  But, with much chagrin (thank you Stephanie Meyers), I finally finished finishing it.


This still begs the question of how.  I didn’t have a degree in anything useful towards writing.  I took a couple of creative writing classes and did okay in them.  Couple that with my hatred of proper grammer (I spelled that wrong on purpose.  THAT is how much I hate grammar.) and you’ve got a guy who shouldn’t write a novel.  This is exactly why the how becomes a what.


What I did to prepare without realizing it is read… a lot.  I have so many series that I love too.  THE DRESDEN FILES are awesome.  THE MAGICIANS series is totally amazing.  Anything STEPHEN KING writes is epic.  Most political action thrillers make me want to poke my eyes out.  I still read them though. So…




All this reading and remembering helped me with the basic construction of book framework without thinking about it.  I modeled mine after what I already knew. It was organic, easy and fluid because I’ve read book after book and knew how the basic beats of a story should flow.


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I created a beginning and an end.  Then, I started filling in each phase with successive conflicts.  No one wants to read a book about unicorns jumping over rainbows and giggling all day long.  Too much happiness.  We read for the love of conflict, growth and resolution.  It’s what almost every book gives us.

I read some more.  WIRED FOR STORY is a great book about how to understand plot and character construction.  It helped to memorize the thing.  I looked up George Lucas and learned about all the ways he created the Star Wars characters and what made them so great.  I wanted to build my characters and world in a way that people could connect with.





When I write a story there are three thoughts in my head at all times.


The plot line guided me. 


Which is always an easy thing to say, but a lot harder to do in practice.  I’ve actually done a ton of research into plot arcs and plot development. There are several worksheets I’ve created to help with this and I use them frequently.  Even while writing short stories, I find it helpful to break down the story and ensure I hit all the proper beats.


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The sub plots and mini stories within the story grew and accumulated over each chapter.  Once I created enough detail in the world, then I found I could go back to things I planted and use them again in different ways.


It made the story more interesting and created additional depth.  It was and IS fun.  I tell people that the more you tell a story, the better it gets.


I know a guy that never went to combat, but nowadays he tells people Rambo looked like a wimp compared to him.


The stories might not be true, but they’re really good stories.  I’m reminded that writing is an art.  I look at a book like a sculpture when I’m editing.  The first draft is the creation of rough stone.  Through editing, we chip away at it, sand it and refine it to something beautiful.


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So it’s simple really.  To answer the question my good friend posed to me of HOW I was able to finish my novel. It required one major ingredient.




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