Building a Novel by Dorlana Vann

I’ve used a lot of different methods to write my books over the years. The technique depends on the story and if I already have an idea or not. One tactic is to build inspiration upon inspiration, like a house, from the ground up. Creating a novel in phases not only gives you a jumpstart but also challenges your imagination. It’s an in-depth way to really get to know your story, plot, and characters. The process is slower and more laid-back than others. If NaNoWriMo is a sprint, then the Building Method is a marathon. However, I’ve written four novels this way, so I know it works.

FoundationYour inspiration. Purposely seek out something that you can use as an initial starting point. This can be a picture, a song, a childhood memory, a dream or a combination of things. Write it down, pin it on a bulletin board, think about it, and do a little research until a story idea begins to form. For me, when I use this method, fairy tales plus a supernatural element are my inspiration.

FramingWrite a short story.  To support your idea, expand your inspiration into a short story. The trick is, you must get it out your mind that this will be used for a novel. Just write the best short story you can. Under 3,000 words should be a good word count goal. Then edit and give it to readers to critique. Then sit on it for a week or so.

ExteriorOutline. Use your short story as inspiration to plot your novel. (The short story might only be used for the backstory, plot, setting, moral, etc.) Whatever your outlining style – detailed chapter by chapter, pre-rough draft, one sentence chapter summaries on index cards – by the time you’re finished, you will have a few or a lot of recognizable details from the short story, but it will have developed into its own unique design.

InteriorWrite. Fill in your outline with a rough draft. This is your sit-your-butt-at-your-computer-time and write and rewrite. I think having either a word-count or an hours per day goal is essential. Write your first draft using whichever style you prefer: don’t look back or edit and research as you go. And then write your second draft, and your third … until you are sure your story is solid.

Final Walk ThroughEditing. Time is one of the best editing tools. Distance will give you a better perspective. Work on something else for a month and then edit. After that, hand it out to your readers and then edit some more.

ClosingSubmissions. Find the perfect buyer. And don’t forget, you also have a short story.

I posted an example on my blog of how I used this process.

Love and Laughter,


 snowmen banner sept 18


About Dorlana

Dorlana Vann is the author of contemporary novels for teens and adults. Her inspirations are fairy tales, the supernatural, and classic romantic comedies - sometimes combining all three in the same story. She writes weekend reads that have been described as inventive, creative, and fun. “This book is the perfect book to curl up with on a chilly evening.”
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4 Responses to Building a Novel by Dorlana Vann

  1. Your example on your own blog was so much fun, Dorlana! 🙂 And I love your book covers– so fresh and appealing! –katie o’boyle

  2. A very fun process. If you’ve used it 4 times, you’ve worked the bugs out and polished it to a system. Congratulations.

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