On Writing a Novel, Pt. 1

The key to writing a novel really comes down to planning and patience, but of course it goes much deeper than just that. I’m Jamie Shank and I’m going to talk a little bit about what it took for me to write Just ‘Cause, my two part,160,000 word war story.

First off, when I got the idea to write Just ‘Cause I knew I wanted to break it down into four parts; the main character, John Anderson, Jr., getting drafted and having to leave everything he knows and everyone he loves behind, the basic training portion of the story where John meets the group he’ll be serving alongside of (which I also knew would introduce a whole new cast of characters), the war which takes place in two parts (the original three battles start it off followed by a build up to some internal controversy and an ambush that leaves John and three other characters running for their lives), and finally there’s the crash on the way out of the war zone which leaves John stranded out in a strange land all alone. This fourth and final chapter is a mysterious survival story which was the original inspiration for both Just ‘Cause and the Crossover’s anthology.

My goal was to create an artificial world based off of fundamental characteristics of our own Earth, and to do that I knew I would have to open up with some World history for the prologue. After telling a little about John Anderson Jr.’s family history, I then introduced the concept of two main continents, New World and Old World, I told about how Old World was united under a King Hammel many years back, and I told a couple of stories about the good king and his close allies because I already knew I planned to parody these characters in a future novel. Call it a little bit of foreshadowing, if ya will.

I go on to tell about the discovery of the New World with a Christopher Columbus parable, I talk of a Revolutionary War (The First New World War), a New World Civil War, and all the time I’m building the reader up with references to the Second New World War, the war John Anderson, Jr. will be a part of, in the beginning and throughout this elaborate introduction.

Many of the events that take place in the prologue to Just ‘Cause don’t really go to support this particular story any further, but by the time one finishes reading it they understand where they are in the timeline and feel a sense of what is going on in the World. Namely, there’s an impression of the tension that the war brings.

This is a long story, divided into four parts which I’ve dubbed chapters, each chapter  made up of about 40,000 words and consisting of many sections. The prologue of Just ‘Cause builds up to the upcoming draft, and Ch. 01 of Just ‘Cause, entitled “The Letters Are Out,” begins with John Anderson, Jr.’s mother, Peggy, receiving the John’s draft letter summoning him to serve the nation of New World in the Second New World War while John is away at work. The next section details John’s overall reactions towards the war and the draft before he receives the letter and works up to his reaction upon returning home and learning of the letter’s delivery.

I’ll go into more detail on Ch. 01 in the next edition, “On Writing a Novel Pt.2.” For now let me just say that once you’re done writing a novel, you’re still only halfway there. Planning and patience are only the first part of the process. Putting a novel through the proper reviews is what makes for a finished and complete, nearly perfect product.

I start with the vision, I move on to the notes, I often write a handwritten copy of what I’m trying to accomplish (though I’ve never been good about sticking to handwritten drafts, they always change so much they’re unrecognizable by the time I get halfway into ’em), I do the original typed version, I keep an F.U.’s page for all my immediate notes and anything that doesn’t make the cut, and then I put the novel through more reviews than I care to admit to once I’m finally finished with all that. It’s about as much busy work as it is creativity sometimes, but if that’s what it takes to get the story right and produce a great product then so be it.

Be meticulous!

To preview excerpts from Just ‘Cause and other novels by Jamie Shank visit: 


To purchase Jamie Shank’s novels, Just ‘Cause – Overtures and Just ‘Cause – Further Explorations (a two part, 160,000 word war story), Conner (an 88,888 word prison story about two unfortunate fathers, a mysterious visitor, an unruly bunch of death row inmates, and the prison staff), and Kapooka; A Crossover’s Pet (a 95,000 word story about a real-life kitty cat told through one of this saga’s main character’s point of view), visit: Amazon.com

Jamie Shank’s Yahe (113,000 words), the story of Damien, a young man who gets mixed up in the world of organized crime and later becomes a hit-man for a crime syndicate, leading to one of the biggest assassinations of all time and then a return to the Land of the Ancients.


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