29 Nov 2013: Ingredients for writing a novel


  • Coffee (optional, but it does keep one awake)
  • 2 notebooks (one for story research, the other for a chapter plan)
  • Camera (For details and location ideas… are you really going to remember the colour of that all-too-important bridge/ pub/ café/ house etc several months later?)
  • Computer (to type up that first draft – preferably on a chapter by chapter basis… it wouldn’t be good to lose your work now, would it?)
  • A red marker – for editing!


1. Sketch an outline of your story. Who is your main character(s)? What is the plot (if any)? Or, if none of the above, what is the basic concept of your story? Mix all of these ingredients well.

2. Drink coffee – get those brain cells in gear! A little liquid can soften the mix.

3. Chapter plan – you don’t have to have your opening, but it’s best to try for a rough order of events! Use a cutter and evenly arrange your story ideas.

4. Drink more coffee, or get the kettle back on – fast! More liquid will stop any stickiness!

5. Do research. Get rid of the writing ailments – finger cramp, sore eyes, writers block – by going out to bookstores, libraries or even (if relevant) location scouting. Write notes, draw pictures, take photos. Now you’re ready to stick it in the oven.

6. Get your chapters started before the ideas coagulate in your brain. It’s no good in your head – get it onto paper and you can work with it. Cooking time varies from dish to dish.

7. Once you’ve done the first draft, leave it to cool on a cooling rack for a week or two. Then get back to it, armed with a red pen!

Draft one: needs a lot of work!

Draft one: needs a lot of work!


A first draft can take as short or as long as you like. My first novel (which I finished in 2012 and is currently being considered by a publisher) took me 6 months for the first draft, but the one I’m currently working on took 2 months. I’m currently at the red pen stage… but with a little whipped cream on top, this should turn out to be a tasty enough cake – provided it doesn’t deflate at the last minute!

About Leilanie Stewart

Leilanie Stewart is an author and poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her writing centres around protagonists who are on a journey of self-discovery and who explore their identity by overcoming adversity. She began writing for publication while working as an English teacher in Japan, a career pathway that has influenced themes in her writing. Her former career as an Archaeologist has also inspired her writing and she has incorporated elements of archaeology and mythology into both her fiction and poetry. In addition to promoting her own work, Leilanie runs Bindweed Magazine, a creative writing ezine, with her writer husband, Joseph Robert. Aside from literary pursuits, Leilanie enjoys spending time with her husband and their lively literary tot, a voracious reader of construction vehicle books. CONNECT WITH ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA: https://mailchi.mp/17e6ca162ff3/leilanie-stewart-author

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