Veronique Darwin

How to Write a Novel in Pieces

In My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on January 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm


I feel like a lost a friend, but the friend just cut her hair and stopped communicating with people. She still has a complex inner-life, I assume, but she’s been really out of it lately and though I feel bad for her and I sort of want to see her, she’s just too much work. And then I’d have to apologize. And she has all these problems I forget the nature of and this new boyfriend who I can’t figure out.

My novel has been on a stand-still for months now after a one-year passionate love affair. I’m back at school and ignoring it. Then again, I feel it’s living on without me, because every time I return to it it seems to have evolved.

I’m trying my best to figure out the formula for how to work at a novel when I don’t have time for a novel. How am I supposed to write a novel in pieces of twenty and thirty minutes? How am I supposed to write a novel that has fallen into disrepair?


(from Wikipedia)

First, I think I have to acknowledge that my novel is a living thing. It’s not being led by me anymore. I created it and it’s constantly living in the sinews of my body. It’s living in notes on the backs of store receipts and in endless disjointed notebook entries I try to convene under the header “Journal of a Novel.” It is living in this blog and it is living in it chapter documents I open up and write notes on, like I am God and my novel must listen.

I tried a strategy today I would like to name flashwriting, because it happens quickly and it resembles writing. It’s all about going into one moment in my book and writing about it, all the while forgetting there is a book that exists around this moment. It’s about creating a book out of images. If I created two thousand beautiful postcards, because I had two thousand periods of twenty or thirty minutes in which I wrote, then that’s almost a novel.


Another strategy I’ve been doing is larger, an all-encompassing strategy. Unfortunately, this method involves direction – a compass – and I only have this kind of confidence on certain days. It’s a clear-sighted method of editing, where I rearrange chapters, write out scene plans for scenes that were already written but suck, where I see things in ways that suddenly seem obvious.

This is the beauty of leaving my novel aside – it falls into pieces, yes, but sometimes those pieces scattered out in a new way show me something I didn’t know before. Before, I knew nothing, so anything is always an improvement.



  1. Thank you for sharing your insight. I found it very helpful as I just wrote the first draft of my novel and I am still overwhelmed even after three weeks of putting it away to simmer. I was very upset during the writing process to discover what a huge undertaking writing a novel is and always wondered how I would deal with the thoughts and the notes, and the journal entries piling high. Your thoughts on writing one moment of the story at a time….I loved it! I think I can do that! That doesn’t seem so overwhelming! You’ve just sent this writer to the store tomorrow to buy a new journal to begin another try at my story, which you said it perfectly, is alive! Thanks again, and good luck to you in your quests :’)

    ~ O

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