Wednesday, November 25, 2020

How I Write a Novel by Elva Cobb Martin

Writing a novel is no easy task. Do I hear some amen’s from the back row? Having just finished my fifth novel’s first draft, I now have a workable plan that I stick to in order to get a novel finished on time. BTW, the FIRST novel was the hardest to finish, so don’t give up. Get that first one done, and it does get easier. ( :

Here are tested and tried tips that work well for me.

I. Prayer and Faith

I love to share how important prayer and faith are in writing Christian Fiction. I have a special prayer I pray over my writing daily and some strong Christian Writer's Faith Confessions. You can read more details about this here:

II. The Difficult First Draft

Writing and finishing that easier-said-than-done first draft is the hardest part for me. I start with a plot storm document to jot down all my ideas, H/H sketches, pictures, and a short synopsis (the
opening, middle, and ending scene ideas) of how I think the story should go. Then I write as fast I can with little editing to get the main plot points down. Editing comes in the second draft. I aim for about 40,000 words in this fast first draft. While writing this first draft, I have several documents opened on my computer that I'll keep adding to as I write the first draft. The first document is the “01 Georgia Ann ms in progress” where I actually write the novel. (I put the 01 before all these documents so they’ll open up right at the top of my documents list.) The next document is the “01 Georgia Ann Chapter & Scenes Outline” which I compose as I write scenes for each chapter. The third document is “01 Georgia Ann Names of Characters & Places.” I also usually keep a “01 Georgia Ann Appendix” doc open to keep adding definitions that might be needed in my historicals. These documents really help me stay on target and keep the book fresh in my mind over the months it takes to write it. Read more about writing the first draft:

III. The Second Draft

This draft seems much easier than the first draft when I was working hard to get the main plot points of the story down. So I now have my basic story, the beginning, middle, and end, in about 40,000 words. My goal is 60,000 for this second draft, so I must keep writing.

In the second draft, I do some fine tuning:


  • Add more details, descriptions, research, I skipped or skimped on to finish the first draft.
  • Check for staying in deep point of view (DPOV) with each main character's voice.
  • Add in the five senses and emotion more, especially ramp up the romantic scenes.
  • Double check the book's opening hook and make sure each chapter ends with a cliffhanger hook to keep readers reading.
  • Evaluate/strengthen the three main parts of my story: the romance, the adventure (outside happenings that affect the H/H), and the spiritual arc or how my H/H will grow in their faith, or be tested and overcome.

III. Editing before Sending Off

I run each chapter through, which I highly recommend. At some point I ask an English teacher friend to proof as well. During all the above writing process, I also submit pieces of the ms for our ACFW-SC Chapter critiques. The chapter critiques have proven quite helpful in writing all my novels. My final thing is to print the entire ms and read the hard copy to find any more errors with my own little red pen.

FINALLY, I send the ms to the publisher, and every time I kinda feel like my grandson Samuel when he caught his first string of fish.

Thanks for stopping by. Do you have a tip to add in writing a novel? Would love to read your comments.


Elva Cobb Martin

Writing a novel is no easy task. Here are tested and tried tips that work well for me. via @ElvaCobbMartin #SeriouslyWrite


Elva is a multi-published author. Her inspirational novels have spent time on Amazon's 100 Bestseller lists for Women's Religious Fiction. She is currently finishing Book 3 in a three-book Charleston Brides historical romance series contracted with Wild Heart Books. Book 2, Georgia Ann, released November 17, 2020. Her articles have appeared in Home Life, Charisma, and Decision magazines. A mother, grandmother, she lives in Anderson with her husband Dwayne, and serves as president of the ACFW-SC chapter. Elva always stops to sample chocolate, to love on babies of any kind or stripe, and to smell the roses. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other media.

Link to all her books

The lure of the legendary Spice Trail beckons, but he may never find a spice more precious than the treasure he left in Charles Town.

Two Charles Town men love Georgia Ann Cooper—Samuel Vargas and his step-brother, Joshua
Becket—but only one both intrigues and infuriates her. Even though he’s a dangerous budding patriot and a privateer—or more likely pirate—Samuel fills her dreams and waking moments. When he leaves Charles Town for high sea adventure on the legendary Spice Trail, she determines to push him out of her thoughts and her graces. A task made easier when she sets out on her own journey to England on one of her father’s merchant ships.

Samuel Vargas is determined to make his own way in the world, not live in the glow of his parents’ escapades in Charles Town and the Spanish Main. There’s no better place to earn his fortune than the Spice Trail and along the Barbary Coast of the Mediterranean. But the adventure becomes more than he bargained for when at Tripoli he stumbles across a familiar face from Charles Town in a sultan's dungeon, and he’s forced to use all his abilities to save the life of the woman he’s been trying to forget.

As their paths intertwine on a journey filled with Barbary pirates, intrigue, and romance, only love and the grace of God can overcome the past and ignite a new beginning for Georgia Ann and Samuel.