Itching To Write a Novel?

Itching to write a novel but don’t know where to start? This post will give you a leg up. (Can’t believe I wrote that. I hate puns.) Make that two legs up.

Leg #1: Retell an old story. It’s a time-honored tradition. How many authors have penned novels based on Romeo and Juliet? The fact is the story had been around long before Shakespeare retold it and made it a classic.

Retelling offers you a number of givens, the plot being the main one. (What I wouldn’t give for a ready-made ending for my work-in-progress at this point.) And take as much as you want from characterization and setting.

You have lots of latitude with your retelling. You can set your story in 14th century Verona, Italy, or 19th century Osaka, Japan, or 21st century Tupelo, Mississippi. Your characters don’t even have to be teens or Italian.

Retelling offers plenty of room for your imagination. The story gives you a framework. You get to figure out things like the cause of the ancient grudge between the Capulets and Montagues, how it manifests in the lives of Romeo and Juliet, and what happens when even the servants feud.

Leg #2: Write fanfiction. How many times have you read a book or series and thought, “wouldn’t it be fun if such-and-such happened?” With fanfiction, the characters are already fully developed, often the setting as well. You get to dream up the plot.

My suggestion to write fanfiction comes with a caveat. If you want to publish your work, even just on your web page or blog, check the legalities. Some authors welcome fanfiction; others will come after you, your brother-in-law, your best friend, and your pet goldfish.

So doing a retelling or writing fanfiction isn’t the story you always wanted to write about how your grandmother was sold as a child to a farm couple who worked her mercilessly until she ran off to join a traveling band of accountants. That can be your next book. For now, think of this project as a) fun and b) your customized writing workshop. As you put one word after another or drift off during a conversation with your partner because you’re thinking about getting your character out of peril, you’re learning how to write a novel.


There’s no harvest so bountiful as one’s own pain.

–Sandra Scofield

Your thoughts? Leave a comment.

2 thoughts on “Itching To Write a Novel?

  1. Great advice, Leanna! I wrote fanfiction for a bit to hone my writing skills. A huge benefit was that fanfiction readers comment profusely on what they read. I loved the interaction (because I’d respond to every reader comment), and reading their opinions and takeaways from what I wrote really helped me understand what readers were looking for and how to make my writing better.

    As for writers and whether or not they like fanfiction about their works, I’d be flattered beyond belief to read Joe and Devin’s adventures as envisioned by someone else.

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