The 10 steps you’ll experience while writing your first novel

“My first novel comes out in March.” That’s a phrase I’ve been saying over and over again to people (and to myself) since last year, and yet somehow, it still feels like a dream. When Bella gave me the go-ahead to write Savor the Moment, as a first-time novelist, I went through a series of emotions and experiences that I’m sure many other newbie writers can relate to. So, if you are sitting down to write your first book, here are some of the things you can expect.


Step One: Panic.

Yes, panic. You had an idea, you wrote a treatment and now someone liked it. Great, right? Yes, but a little bit of panic is to be expected. You’re going to be an author soon. That means you have to finish your book. And you have a DEADLINE.


Step Two: Doubt

This is natural. Don’t worry. We all deal with self-doubt. But the truth of it is, someone, in fact, many someones, believe in your vision. Now you need to as well. You’ve got this.


Step Three: Making a playlist

Some authors can’t write with any distractions, but for me, writing about a musician actually inspired me to listen to a lot of music. What did I want The Nat Chambers Band to sound like? Turns out a combination of a few bands. Listening to those songs helped me connect to Nat’s art in a deeper way. Even if you aren’t writing about musicians, a soothing or stimulating playlist can really help the creative juices flow.


Step Four: Writer’s block

A lot has been said about writer’s block. Some say it doesn’t exist. Some say it’s for amateurs. Neither of those theories is particularily helpful. In fact, it only makes new writers feel more stressed. We all deal with blocks in our lives. It’s just a reappearance of Step Two. Step away, take a walk, listen to music. Give your brain and heart a break. I actually found a change of scenery really helpful. I rented a tiny cabin a couple hours away, and found that I was able to come up with a huge plot point, just by getting out of my everyday surroundings. I also had some wine.


Step Five: You’re on a roll!

You’ve been writing for days, you’ve had breakthroughs, your story is shaping into someone wonderful and tangible! Go eat some nachos, you deserve it!


Step Six: Panic II

Sometimes when we succeed, a little voice inside us sets off alarm bells anyway. It’s taken me years to get over my fear of success. Yes, it’s a thing. You may experience it too. Here’s the deal – you’re working hard, you are trying to create something beautiful for your community. You deserve success. Reach over and toss the panic alarm out the window.


Step Seven: Editing

Woohoo boy. No one tells you how hard this one is. Your book is your baby, you love it. You’ve nurtured it, and now it’s time to put it in the hands of someone who will likely ask you to cut some of your favorite lines and scenes. The thing is, they are probably right. You’ve grown so attached to your work that it’s hard to look at it objectively anymore. I was blessed with the amazing Ann Roberts as my editor and she guided me gently through the process and her suggestions only made the book better and richer.


Step Eight: Crafting

Once you team up with your editor, you have a chance to finesse your story. You’ll find yourself pulling things out of your mind and putting them into your story, that you wouldn’t even have dreamed of before. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and having a little emotional distance from your story can help you see deeper inside of it.


Step Nine: Waiting

Your book is edited. It’s proofed. You have your cover art. Now wait. The waiting…it’s something else.


Step Ten: Promotion

It’s up to you to make your book a success. Polish up your social media. Tell everyone you know about your book, and then tell their grandmothers, too. Well, maybe not. I’ve been talking about my book for eons, and thankfully, no one has told me to shut up yet. Soon your book will be out in the world, and you are its number one fan. I can’t wait to hear about it.



Dana Piccoli’s debut novel, Savor the Moment, comes out on March 14th, and will be available for pre-order on March 1st.

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  • Karin Kallmaker
    Posted February 27, 2019 4:26 pm 0Likes

    Welcome to the fellowship, Dana. I wish I could say those steps go away when you’re on book 10, 20, or 30, but they don’t. Their magnitude shifts with each book so it always feels like I’m having a new experience when it’s the same sequence trying on different costumes. Recognizing it helps – I’ll be back to visit your blog on the next book.

    On Step 4, writer’s block in the midst of a project, a change of scenery is great. I’ve also found that experiencing other people’s art really helpful. A trip to a museum, a local theater play, a book talk at the library. While thinking about how other people get their art out of their heads and into the world it can unlock my own process again.

  • Anonymous
    Posted February 27, 2019 4:26 pm 0Likes


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