How to Write a Novel. (Using One Sheet of Paper.)

Last week I had the sudden realisation that ‘the writing is going well’.

Ermahgerd! How much do writers LURVE that?

The Writing is Going Well.

Can we put that on a t-shirt, please?

Cups quietly multiplying while I’m lost in a world of make believe.

Last year when I started writing this novel, I was really enjoying it. I felt inspired and energised and happy to dip in and out.


Now and then.

To squeeze the new novel into my rather hectic, jam-packed, constantly quacking (aka girl&duck) schedule.

But it’s a new year.

I’ve been getting slammed with emails (from many corners) about goal setting.

I’ve been think about goal setting.

Pondering goal setting.



Dum de dum.

I’ve also been wondering, how do I write a book? Seriously. HOW do I go about it?

To be honest, dear reader, I’m rusty.

If you’ve been following me for any time you might have gleaned that I’ve experienced a bit of Writer’s Burnout these past couple of years.

Not exactly burn out. I guess you could say I’ve been feeling… singed.

When the final Truly Tan book and the final Danny Best book came out in 2021, I suspected I was done.

Done with writing fiction. Done with the constant deadlines, relentless HOMEWORK, the nauseating uncertainty of a writer’s life, and the rollercoaster of trying to bankroll one’s creativity.

Much happier to pass on the baton. To teach, mentor and inspire others.

I’m good at that.

I have control over that.

I have a lot of say about what goes on here at girlandduck. All the say, actually. I’m the boss, you see, and that’s very cool. Founder. Director. Chief Inspirationalist.

Pack horse and show pony, that’s me.

But of all the labels, I take Chief Inspirationalist most seriously.

Last year, I even studied life coaching just to be sure I knew what I was doing. To check if there’s was more I could do, or a better more impactful way of doing what I was already doing.

You see, taking other people’s precious creative dreams and aspirations in your own hands, embarking on the journey with them, is no small thing. It requires energy, compassion, commitment. Generosity of heart, mind and spirit.

Stuff like that.

Hey Jen, WTF has all this got to do with writing a novel?

I know, right? I’m all over the path like a broken trike.

The thing is, I suppose, that most of us are trying to write our novels, stories, plays etc in the midst of Life.

For me, it’s rarely been any different.

Even when I was a full-time author without the demands (and peachy distractions) of girl&duck, there was always, ALWAYS something. Some. Thing. Something other than writing was pulling on my time.

And that’s when goal setting became my saviour.

But not every book I’ve written has kicked off with the same considered, carefully structured SMART goal.

Many of my books began gingerly.


In many cases, I have let myself be cajoled by a story, courted by a story, for many months before I’ve made a public, 14 carat gold commitment to it. (And by public I mean getting a publisher, editor or agent involved).

Months before I Set A Goal.

Such has been the case with my latest novel.

This has been a groovy, dreamy kind of courtship.

But now, with a new year before me, and goal setting back on the playlist, it’s time to commit.

When To Commit? Sensing The Third Act.

My desire to commit to a novel doesn’t always come with a new year. More often it comes when I have the third act well within my sights.

Mind you, I never consciously construct my novels around three acts. But the three-act structure is always there. Hanging loosely in the back of my mind. I sense the structure rather than dictate or prescribe it.

Story structure
It’s good to visualise the shape of your story.

And my new novel is definitely barreling towards the third act. I sense it shimmering up ahead. Like a roadhouse in the desert.

This brings a feeling of relief AND renewed energy.


I can do this, I know I can.

And that means it’s time for that precious piece of paper. The one with the ultimate goal laid out.


So that’s basically how I go about it.

I write roughly 30,000 words while we are on our first date (in this case, 27,951 words).

Then, with that third act firmly in my sights and my fears gently held at bay, I grab a piece of paper and BEHOLD, I commit to my goal.

In this case, 75K words (first draft) by April. End of April, naturally.

And that , dear reader, is how I write a novel using one precious piece of paper.

It’s an immensely high tech system.

Perhaps I should patent it?

Meantime, as a reader of this blog and my esteemed guest, feel free to use it any time.

Cheerio for now—and may your writing always go well.

Jen xo

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New kitty. Only available for photoshoots while sleeping. The rest of the time? Way too busy to stop and look at a camera, thank you very much!

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