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Hello, I am writing a novel for the first time.  A spy novel to be exact and I have three (important) questions I hope you have time to answer:

1.  How soon should you introduce all characters into the plot?

2.  I can't seem to keep one part of the story the same without going back, reviewing it and making changes every so often. I always seem to want to add/delete something after I've printed it out and read it. I think I'm wasting time doing this.  Should I just keep writing and then worry about adding/deleting/changing unnecessary content, development, descriptions, etc., during the rewrite phase?

3.  I have somewhat of an idea how this story will end but no intricate details come to mind yet (more research to be done). My last question is, should I write a synopsis now or after I've completed my rough draft / rewrite since I don't know the ending as of yet?

Thank you in advance for your answer.  

Hello Greg:

Your question includes some important issues, but they are of no importance if you have not answered this question: how many years have you spent as a spy? If you have never been a spy, have you known anyone who has? If not, where do you plan to get your background material? From other spy books? Such a novel has about as much chance of being published as a banana has in the hands of a monkey. But perhaps that's not your aim, who knows?

When it comes to introducing characters into the plot, the time to introduce each character is when the novel can proceed no further without the character.

Your second question addresses a very common problem; after 50 years of writing, I still do the same thing. One of my novels I have been working on almost exclusively for 12 years and I only managed to finish a first draft because I found a fan who loved the story and kept egging me on. If you will go to you may find one, too. It's fun to play, but sooner or later we must settle down and get the thing done. If you can possibly manage it, close your mind to everything else and just write it. Don't stop to consider, just get it down. You can always repair later. In fact, there's no way to repair while writing the first draft because you can't tell yet what the mistakes are.

It might help you to do an outline, rather than a synopsis. Make it loose and flexible; don't set it in stone yet. As things come to you, put them in the outline. Save the "intricate details" for later. Get the dialogue and the action down first, or even just the action.

When you have done that, come back and we'll move on to the next step.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 370 questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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