Monday, September 25, 2023

Novel Writing Isn't for Wimps & Encouragement to Keep Writing

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

The list of rules, suggestions, and tips for writing a novel can be a huge stumbling block for those who want to write:
  • Three act structure
  • Story elements
  • Story theme
  • POV: Omniscient, first person, third person 
  • Tense: Past or present
  • Show don't tell
  • Use active verbs
  • Curb desire to use adverbs and adjectives
  • Put a new twist on cliches
  • Similes and metaphors
  • Beats
  • Dialogue tags
  • Chapter beginnings and endings
  • Don't head hop
  • Make setting a character
  • Have a strong character arc
  • Interview your characters
  • Archetypes
  • Personality types
  • Goals, Motivation, Conflict
  • Upping the stakes
  • Foreshadowing
  • Rhetorical devices
  • Punctuation
  • Editing

And the list goes on. Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? 

There is so much to learn, there is no way anyone can learn or know it all before writing their first book. I don't know about you, but if you are a new writer, maybe you can relate to my journey. I was a playwright. I knew how to write realistic dialogue. 

But that was it. I think now it was good I didn't know all that went into a good book. I was an avid reader, which most writers are. However, I never analyzed the books I read. To be honest, I still have trouble analyzing them. I get lost in the story and forget. 

So I simply began to write. I found an online critique group and joined it. And the critiques rolled in. Can you say, "deer in the headlights?" I'd never heard most of those terms. 

Omniscient? That's what God is.

POV? What in Granny's fruit basket is that?

How do you show and not tell a story?

I had a lot to learn. So I began with one element and learned it. I tweaked my manuscript. I cut a lot out. (Transparency fact: I kept all those parts I cut in a file on my computer, thinking I'd end up putting them back. After a few months, I deleted the whole file.)

I spent a good year editing and tweaking. Each new elemnet I learned, I went through that manuscript, changing, deleting, and making it better. It wasn't easy, but by that time, determination had replaced naivety. 

The point?

Don't beat yourself up. Take the time good writing necessitates. You may not publish your first manuscript. My first one lives under my bed. I call it my college education. And everyone knows you don't learn all that much in college. You learn more on the job. With each manuscript you write, you grow in your craft.

Writers never stop learning. I have fourteen books published so far, with numbers fifteen and sixteen at my publisher's. And I'm still picking up new techniques.

Writing novels isn't for wimps.

Anyone can start a book, but it takes fortitude and determination to turn it into a good, finished product a publisher would buy. 

So gird up your loins, little scribe, and begin. You can always email me when you feel like it's all too much and need a little encouragement. Because you will. With every book I write, there is some point when I call out to my critique partners, bemoaning my latest WIP is a steaming pile of doodoo. 


Ane Mulligan lives life from a director’s chair, both in theatre and at her desk creating novels. Entranced with story by age three, at five she saw PETER PAN onstage and was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. One day, her passions collided, and an award-winning, bestselling novelist emerged. She believes chocolate and coffee are two of the four major food groups and lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her WEBSITE, AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, THE WRITE CONVERSATION, and BLUE RIDGE CONFERENCE BLOG.

Featured Image: Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash


  1. Ane, thanks for listing all those daunting rules, tools, & tips. I grew tired just reading it. And it is so, so true. And thanks for always contributing such great, encouraging posts to The Write Conversation. Keep 'em coming.
    J in SC

    1. Thank you, J. I'm glad you are encouraged.