How to write a novel, according to Stephen Power

In author Stephen Power’s blog post “How Do I Write A Novel? Or, Hugh Howey Is My Co-Pilot” he says finding the Wool series led to a breakthrough of sorts:

“It dawned on me… that in today’s digital world, a novel doesn’t have to be 100,000 words. It could be far shorter, and who couldn’t bang out 40,000 words? You probably write that many words in memos and emails each month. Brandon Sanderson writes that many in 10 days.”

He goes on to talk about how outlining can give you a book in 4 steps, more or less. 40,000 words is often considered “novella” territory (20k-40k). Still, you can scale up the wordcount goals until you get to where you want to be. Power says he ended up with a draft of 105,000 words without originally intending to – and already has sequels on the way.

This is how he does it:

  1. 2,500 word pitch. A very rough and basic outline on the story’s premise, characters, etc.
  2. 10,000 word outline. Here you fill in more details, laying out each act and major scenes.
  3. 20,000 word storyboard. This is a scene-by-scene outline going through each beat and general emotion.
  4. 40,000 word first draft. (Note: Most fiction novels have a wordcount of 50,000 to 100,000.)

Breaking a large task into smaller, more manageable pieces, is how a lot of people do things. Why should writing be any different?

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