SCBWI Recap #5: Paul Fleischman on Surviving The Novel

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One of the most reassuring keynotes at the Summer 2010 SCBWI Conference was Paul Fleischman‘s session, “Surviving the Novel”.

In this keynote, he blended practical advice with honest and encouraging insights, breaking up the arduous process of writing a novel into the following areas: organization, research, writing, revising, morale. Here are his main points from each area.


  • Use separate documents to keep from feeling overwhelmed
  • The more planning you do, the less rewriting you do
  • Save in versions and email the versions to yourself
  • Keep rigorous lists for every aspect of book (facts, details, characterization, research questions, etc.)


  • Bookmark and highlight versions to flag for research
  • Utilize Google street view
  • Research is like a ship: it’s there, underneath, but never seen


  • Don’t waste time; every word for a reason
  • No scenes just because you like them or to show off your research


  • Despite planning, don’t be surprised if you have to do major revising
  • Some things you can’t see until the end
  • “Every book teaches me to write it, but not the next book.” – E. Welty


  • Ask yourself: is writing the best us of my time on earth?
  • It’s hard to get confirmation that what you’re doing is worthwhile because people can’t read it all like they can a shorter work
  • Laughter can give you a sense of control

Writing a novel is not for the impatient.

When writing a novel, you’re part of a community that stretches across the world and time.


6 thoughts on “SCBWI Recap #5: Paul Fleischman on Surviving The Novel

    Lisa Nowak said:
    August 13, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Wow, that’s all advice that I would give, based on my experiences. It’s cool to learn about someone who has a similar process.

    Diane said:
    August 13, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Thanks for the summaries. I feel like I was there.

    S. C. Green said:
    August 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Keen advice and somewhat timely. Thanks for posting these notes.

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