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Writing a Book? Resources for Students: Novel Writing Tools and Methods

Novel Writing Tools and Methods

Novel Writing Tools and Methods


There are two main methods authors use for writing a novel: "Pantsing" and "Plotting."


"Pantsing" is when a writer flies "by the seat of their pants" as they write. They may simply have an idea for the plot and characters in mind, and just start writing, seeing where it takes them. Stephen King is probably the most famous example of a writer who uses this method.


"Plotting" is when an author has an outline for their story in mind and on paper to refer back to before they start working on their manuscript. They may only have the beginning, middle, and end planned, or they may have an outline so long, it's practically a book itself! James Patterson, the best-selling author of our time, is the most famous example of a writer who uses this method.


So, who are you? Are you a "Pantser"? If so, you're not alone. "Pantsing" is probably the more common choice. Many people love to see where their story takes them, or don't want to waste time planning it out. However, when you're a "Pantser," you also often have to go back and revise things more often as your story develops, and your novel may need more editing than a "Plotter" who has written a novel. For this reason, it is considered a better idea to be a "Plotter" rather than a "Pantser."


If you're not sure where to start, don't worry! That's what this page is for!


For more information on both methods, refer to this article: Plotting vs Pantsing | The Ultimate Guide


Ultimate Writing Tip: A good rule of thumb is to write 500 words (or about one page single-spaced) a day. Writing a book may sound daunting, but breaking the process down into smaller, more manageable parts makes it seem more possible!

Quotes About Writing

Inspirational Quotes from Authors


"This is how you do it: you sit at the keyboard and put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." - Neil Gaiman, author of, among others, the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book.

“I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.”  - Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties and In the Dream House


"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein." -  Zora Neal Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dust Tracks on the Road, and more.

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." - Stephen King, author of, among others, Carrie, Cujo, Misery, IT, and Pet Sematary.

"I do what I do, and write what I write, without calculating what is worth what and so on. Fortunately, I am not a banker or an accountant. I feel that there is a time when a political statement needs to be made and I make it." - Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things.


“Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you're working. Tell them it's research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone.” - Jennifer Weiner, author of Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and more.

"You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important." - James Baldwin, author of Go Tell it on the Mountain, Giovanni's Room, and more.


“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” - Sylvia Plath, poet and author of The Bell Jar


“Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.” -  William Faulkner, author of, among others,  The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom!

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." - John Steinbeck, author of, among others, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden


"I am a person who thinks about the nature of the spirit when I write. I think about what can't be known and only imagined. I often sense a spirit or force or meaning beyond myself. I leave it open as to what the spirit is, but I continue to make guesses." - Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter's Daughter, and more.

"Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write."  - Rainer Maria Rilke, poet.


"Go home and write/a page tonight./And let that page come out of you —/Then, it will be true." - Langston Hughes, prolific poet, novelist, playwright, and more.


"A wise man, when he writes a book, sets forth his arguments fully and clearly; an enlightened ruler, when he makes his laws, sees to it that every contingency is provided for in detail."  - Han Fei, Chinese philosopher


“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” - Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries

"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good." - William Faulkner, author of, among others, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom!

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  - Maya Angelou, poet, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in My Name, and others.


“Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.” - Rainbow Rowell, author of the best selling, NaNoWriMo-winning novel Fangirl, Landline, and others


"Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. ... [Write] knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them." - Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory, The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story, and more.

Good Tools for Writers

Good Tools for Writers

There are countless tools out there designed to help make organizing your book and your ideas, and that can make it hard to choose! The following tools have been recommended by writers, for writers to help make the process easier to navigate. Note that some of these tools are available for free, and others need to be purchased.


  • Scrivener - Scrivener is an application designed to help writers plan and write their manuscripts. Research can be compiled within the same file as your manuscript itself, and you'll be able to do things like bookmark important text, easily break chapters into sections, move parts of your manuscript by clicking and dragging, and more.
    * Scrivener has a 30-day-trial available as well as a large number of training videos on becoming familiar with the application. The application is available on both desktop and mobile platforms. After the trial period, it is a one-time payment of $50 to purchase the application.

  • ReedsyReedsy is a free online book editor that is similar to Scrivener. It allows you to type, import, format, and typeset to EPUB and print-ready PDF files. The interface is set up for distraction-free writing and allows for real-time co-authoring for those working on a collaborative manuscript. They also offer weekly short story contests where writers respond to prompts.
    * Reedsy is completely free.

  • The Snowflake Method For Designing A NovelThe Snowflake Method is one of the most popular methods used by "planners" to design their manuscripts. Why is it called the Snowflake Method? Oddly enough, this tool for writers comes from a mathematical term called the Koch Snowflake. The Koch Snowflake is a fractal curve that can be constructed into a snowflake by starting with an equilateral triangle, then recursively altering each line segment until it resembles a snowflake. Creator of the Snowflake Method, Randy Ingermanson, argues that planning a good novel works the same way: you start small and build, build, build until you have a fully-realized manuscript in front of you.
    Articles on the Snowflake Method are available for free on the creator's website, but books and software are also available for purchase.

  • Grammarly Grammarly is a service that automatically checks your writing for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes as you write. 
    * Grammarly is free, but some more advanced features, such as a plagiarism checker, are available for a premium subscription.

  • Evernote - Evernote is an application that allows you to take notes and store documents from anywhere. Evernote can also synchronize your documents from anywhere, making it easy to work on your writing whenever inspiration strikes.
    * Evernote is free, but some more advanced features can be purchased for a premium subscription.

  • Hemmingway Editor - The Hemmingway Editor analyzes writing for clarity and simplicity. This editor calculates readability and highlights adverbs, passive voice, lengthy sentences, and dull, complicated words.
    * The Hemmingway editor is completely free.

  • Cliche Finder - As the name suggests, this tool finds cliches in your text, making it easy to identify and remove them from your writing.
    * Cliche Finder is completely free.

  • Hipster Sound - Did you know coffee shop sound is actually optimal for creativity? It's true! And this generator allows you to recreate the atmospheric sounds of a coffee shop.
    * Hipster Sound is completely free.

  • Freedom - Freedom blocks distracting sites and apps so you can focus on your work.
    * Freedom has a free trial of 7 sessions across devices but costs money after the first 7.