What I Learned From Writing A Novel “LIVE”

by Carlos Cooper | 27 comments

A couple months ago I wanted to try something new, mix things up a bit. My wife suggested I write my next novel in real-time, for all the world to see. Grammar trolls be damned. After a day to think about it, I said I'd do it.

I was a little scared before I started, and humbled when it began, but in one more day I'll be done with the first draft and I've harvested some great lessons along the way. Here's what I've learned from writing a novel “LIVE”, and why you might want to try it too.

photo credit: WarmSleepy via photopin cc

photo credit: WarmSleepy (cc)

It's Humbling

I don't care who you are, I think it's important to have a regular dose of humble pie. None of us is perfect even though we might pretend to be.

Posting a chapter or two every day after only a quick scan kinda scared me. I didn't know if I'd be hammered for misspellings or smacked for my grammar.

This was me raw under the blaring spotlight of public critique.

Sure it stung sometimes, but it helped me realize that getting knocked down is a good thing. It made me stronger, willing to move forward with a level head.

It's Great Motivation

A lot of writers are lazy. They wait for inspiration to hit, and when it doesn't, they blame their lack of productivity on their muse or their smelly cat.

While I don't need much motivation, having to post something every weekday definitely kept me from taking the odd day off.

The bonus is that even though tomorrow is my deadline, I feel like I'm miles ahead of where I could have been.

When I missed a posting due to travel, I had readers emailing to see if I was okay. I felt like a turd for letting technology get in the way of continuing the story. It never happened again.

If you're looking for motivation, for a daily kick in the pants, writing a LIVE novel can totally give it to you.

It Created New Ideas

I think this was the coolest part. When I started the book, I had a vague idea what it would be about. Along the way, my readers helped craft the story by suggesting plot twists and asking questions. I was able to do a 180 without blinking. Totally cool.

Imagine having a pool of ideas at your fingertips whenever you get stumped. That's what I had. You can have it too.

Can You Do It?

Short answer: of course.

Long answer: If you're humble, hard working and dedicated to your craft, heck yeah! I'm already plotting my next adventure in LIVE noveling. Now that I know a thing or two, I'll bet Round 2 will be even better than the first.

What's stopping you from writing a novel “LIVE”?


Your mission: for the next fifteen minutes write about a reporter who has to be on-air LIVE without the least bit of preparation.

When your time is up, don't edit. Instead, post your practice live in the comments section.

Happy writing!

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Carlos is author of the Corps Justice novels. Get the box set of Books 1-3 for FREE HERE.


  1. Mike H.

    Smoke was bellowing up from the overturned car, with the sounds of sirens richochetting off the buildings, Terry stumbled out of the news van to get ready. With a notepad in hand, he turned around to grab his microphone and call back to John, “let’s setup over by the parking lot on the other side.”
    Terry tried his best to quickly assess the situation, reports of a shootout had been sent over the police scanner, and he wanted to make sure that channel 7 had the first excluseive. Whispers of war in Downtown Seattle between the north west and the rest of the United States was unbelievable, but with all the chaos ensuing, it might just be true.

    Getting into position, the bright light from the camera poured across his face, Terry made sure he felt the familiar click of the on switch on the microphone, and took a deep breath.

    • Carlos Cooper

      Nice. Thanks for sharing, Mike.

    • Jennifer McGinnis

      I like how this one gets into his feelings before the event and then cuts off. Gives us little snippets about what craziness might be happening in all the nation, and then his close up thoughts, as he is under the pressure of reporting something. I also like the ending just as he’s about to speak. We get to imagine what he might say…

  2. Alisa

    The guy saw his ex-girlfriend walking out of the police station. He knew his trap had succeeded; therefore, he approached that girl and started to talk things out with her. He had accused her of stealing, and the police wanted an answer from her. She was innocent. She hated him. She scolded him. They argued. A few minutes later, witnesses saw the guy slapping the girl, twisting her face from left to right, right to left, again and again. After a series of face twisting, she started to feel dizzy. She conked out. He was delighted. He dragged her into his car and disappeared. Police force were now trying to find the location of this girl. She’s 161 cm, fair skin, thin figure, ombre hair and taken away from Pavillion street. The guy was 183 cm, tanned skin, buff figure, black hair. A black colour SUV car was last seen driving away from Pavillion street into Auxillar street. Anyone who had any sight of this girl (victim) or this guy (suspect), please contact police force at 012344556.

    Hi, this is my first attempt, pls gimme some feedback on where can I improve, any grammar or spelling errors. Thanks, appreciate that.

    • Christine

      The very first point of editing here would be to make paragraphs. With a news-type account like this you can figure a new paragraph about every third sentence.
      Maybe I’m fussy, but when I see a blog post that contains solid blocks of type like this, I leave. Too hard to sort out.
      You have the beginning of a good second chapter here, with a good hook. Hopefully the reader already knows what “his trap” is all about and what “things” he wants to talk over with her.

    • Alisa

      Thanks, sry for that. This was my first attempt, will def make paragraphs next time.

  3. Dave LaRoche

    Did a post. You lost it. what kind of site is this?

  4. tyler gregory

    “We’re on in five, four—“

    “Hold on! Hold on!”


    Jerry watched his producer
    holding two fingers in the air, then one finger. The camera positioned infront of his face
    suddenly showed a red light. Theproducer pointed a finger at Jerry.

    “This is Jerry Newland,” said
    Jerry. He looked to the producer, a
    young woman with spikey blond hair. She
    looked at Jerry and nodded her head rapidly.

    “And I am standing here in
    the middle of nowhere, uh, as you can see, there is, uh, well, nothing out here
    but tumble-weeds and sand, and…” Jerry smiled a weak smile and swallowed. He looked from the camera to the producer,
    she stared back with a confused look, finally spinning her finger in the air as
    if to say Get On With IT!

    Jerry looked around where he
    was standing, did a full 360 and looked back at the camera, and continued
    speaking to the live camera—“I mean absolutely nothing here!”

    He felt the sweat rolling
    down the sides of his face and it wasn’t from the heat. It was not hot. He was sweating because no one had yet told
    him what this story was about. There had
    been a mistake made, a big one, and now he was on TV live, his carreer spinning
    into the toilet and down the drain.

    The producer was now pointing
    frantically toward the sky in the East.
    Jerry scanned the sky.

    “In the Eastern sky… there
    are…little whispy clouds…” he said weakly, searching for something to report,
    anything, his heart pounding and his knees now feeling loose. The producer now wide-eyed and throwing her
    pointed finger at the sky like a crazy person,
    Jerry continued, “and now, or very soon, there is going to be something
    coming into—into view—any moment…something will appear I am certain, almost,
    like 90 percent sure, that…something…”

    And then there was something,
    s tiny black spot growing in size as it came over the horizon, a spot getting

    “And there it is!” Jerry
    screamed. Tears began to shine in his
    eyes as a releaf swept through him. The
    camera turned toward the spot in the sky.
    “A spot!” Jerry yelled, beside himself with glee. “A tiny black spot growing bigger, it’s
    coming this way, getting larger now…”

    Suddenly the tiny black spot
    was a huge orange and red fireball blistering the blue sky as it passed the
    whispy clouds over Jerry’s head and almost at once became a tiny black spot
    again until it was out of sight in the West.

    “And there it goes,” said
    Jerry, his voice a breathy berritone, “a great big flaming rock, flaming across
    the sky!”

    The camera was back on him,
    and Jerry felt he needed to sit down now before he fell to the sand. “This is Jerry Newland, out in the middle of
    nowhere for ABC news, back to you Shelly.”

    “Sheila,” said the producer.

    “Sheila,” said Jerry.

    The camera light went
    out. And then there was nothing…

    • Sebastian W

      This one made me laugh, good job!

    • Carlos Cooper

      That is awesome. You had me at “here in
      the middle of nowhere” 🙂
      Thanks for sharing, Tyler.

    • William R. Palacio

      Wow, that was perfect. Great dialog! Very funny stuff.

    • Diane Turner

      Great writing. I was on edge by the time I was a third of the way finished. Poor Jerry, but he pulled it off. Thanks for sharing.

    • Martin F.

      And you did this crispy story in just 15 minutes? It’s awsome! What was this flaming rock in the sky? An asteroid? Then it might have been Jerry’s last LIVE report, haha!

    • Jennifer McGinnis

      That is awesome! To come up with a flash fiction, practically ready to publish as far as I can tell! Brilliant! Really tense and I can feel his embarrassment right with him. Great piece of writing on the fly.

  5. Sebastian W

    “Jeffrey, you have to cover for Dan today. He just called in, telling me his in a traffic jam down on the 102.”
    Jeffrey looked to Elena, felling his heart beat an extra punch.
    “But I… I’m not ready, I barely know what Dan talks about during his show. We always talk about who’s covering whatever story that comes up!”
    Jeffrey already broke out sweat. He hated being thrown in “the pit” without warning.
    “There’s no time Jeff, get in that booth now!” Elena almost shouted at him and before he realized it, he was already heading down the hall.

    As he approached the windowed booth of Radio Dash 97,6 he could hear ‘Dash Frank’ talk about the time he was riding a 87′ corvette down to Half Moon Bay.

    Jeff stopped outside and gently tapped on the window. Without failing Frank ended his monologue with a smooth fading transition to an old classic tune.
    He removed his headphones and opened the door.

    “Jeff? Where’s Dan? He should’ve been here thirty minutes ago!”

    “I’m sorry Frank, Dan’s stuck in traffic. Elena told me to cover for him, god damnit I don’t even know what you guys are supposed to talk about!”

    Frank looked Jeff straight in the eyes. “Do you know anything about 80’s cars?”

    “a little.” Jeff answered a bit unsure.

    “Let’s go.”

    • Carlos Cooper

      Ha! 80’s cars! That is too funny. Thanks for sharing, Sebastian.

  6. Marcy Mason McKay

    Wow, Carlos. I don’t know If I think you’re the bravest, or the craziest man out there. I loved hearing all the ways you grew as a writer. I’ve changed my answer to bravest man! Congrats!

    • Carlos Cooper

      Thanks, Marcy. Not sure if I’m the bravest, but I’ll take it 🙂

  7. Alicia Rades

    That’s a really cool idea. I’m glad you’ve shared with us what you’ve learned. I don’t think I would write a novel “live” because I’d want to polish my work before people read it. However, I think getting ideas on plot twists is a really cool benefit.

  8. William R. Palacio

    Well, here’s mine in all its gory….I mean glory.

    “You’re up buddy!”

    “What the hell do
    you mean I’m up?”

    “Rick is stuck in
    an elevator, you’re going on live!”

    Nathan bit his lip.
    He’d only been an intern at the station for a month and half. In his
    mind live television was a good two years away. Sweat began to roll
    down his forehead, large salty drops. The station manager grabbed him
    by sleeve of his gray wool coat, while shouting across the room at a
    woman pushing a makeup cart.

    “Barbara, fix
    Nathan’s face. He’s live in ten minutes. And for God’s sake get him
    another jacket. What the hell are you wearing kid?”

    The red headed
    woman with cigarette stains around her lips pulled him down the hall.

    “Barbara’s going
    to fix you right up sweetie,” she said.

    Her voice was harsh
    and spoke volumes about the hard life she must have lived. She had
    large pink swirls on both cheeks, dark purple eyeshadow painted over
    her irregular shaped eyes, and scarlet red lipstick, so glossy you
    could see your reflection, she was a clown. Nathan had a hard time
    picturing how she could possibly be a makeup artist. As she began
    spackling his face with base tone, he imagined himself looking like a
    preppy Marilyn Manson.

    The stage manager
    returned. “Is he ready yet?!”

    “Almost done just
    trying to cover these God awful pores. You really need to see a
    dermatologist kid,” said Barbara.

    Nathan followed the
    stage manger and flinched as he shoved in the cold plastic ear piece.

    Just read the
    prompter Nathan. You get stuck, I’ll be right in your ear to help you

    “Any questions?”

    Before Nathan could
    reply the stage manager answered, “No questions, good. Now don’t
    screw up.”

    The hot lights beat
    down on Nathan’s head and he could feel the makeup melting and
    starting to run down the side of his face. His best fake smile was in
    place by the time the promo music was playing and the teleprompter
    lit up. Without hesitation he began to read. As if on auto pilot he
    flawlessly delivered the news. He was a natural. With a smile he
    signed off. This was what he’d dreamed of his whole life. He’d found
    his calling and from that moment on there would be no turning back.

  9. Miriam N

    Dang Carlos. I’m afraid that you’ve sparked a fire inside of me. I really want to write a novel LIVE now. The problem is that I’m really not technologically savvy so I’m not sure where to begin. Where would I go do to that? (I seriously don’t even have a Facebook or anything of the sort. I only have an email.)

  10. C.T.H.

    I shouldn’t feel like this, he thought to himself. The warm breath slowly rolling over his tongue and out his mouth. It was at a normal rate of 13 a minute, adequate tidal volume. He felt warm, almost cozy in his air conditioned car. He continued his leisurely drive to work.

    It’s going to kick in anytime now, he can almost bet on it. He’ll come to the sudden wrenching realization that today is the big day, he is utterly unprepared, and Gracie will be there next to him to watch him fail.

    His mind wanders on the thought of a perfectly shaped female body, the long flowing hair, an almost chocolate brown that gives hints of mystery, a petite face, red lipstick that makes him explode with sexual thoughts.

    “Oh Gracie, why did you leave that night, I know how you feel about me…”

    It wasn’t until he pulled in the parking lot that he began thinking that the all too familiar yet fleeting feeling of panic was not going to rear its ugly head today.

    Am I really that broken, he thought to himself. I must be broken like she is, completely incapable.

  11. Avril

    Good morning, this is Nancie Bennett reporting live from the small town of Motherlode, Nevada, where local resident Avril La Jambon has barricaded herself in the local county library. Apparently Ms. Jambon managed to hide somewhere inside yesterday when they locked up, and spent the night. This morning, when the head librarian, Oletha Bunwarmer reported to work, she was surprised and overpowered by Jambon, who attacked her with a very large edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

    Ms. Bunwarmer was held for two hours, then released. When she came out she carried a leeter from Jambon, which states that this action has been taken to draw attention to Banned Book Week, which started this Monday, the 21st, and runs until Friday, the 26th. Ms. Jambon’s letter further states that she is protesting a recent decision by the Sweetwater County Library Board to ban Mary Poppins from all its branches, on the graonds that it promotes overuse of sugar and contributes fo childhood obesity.

    Ms. Jambon’s letter also threatens that she will start burning books, if the Library Board does not reverse its decidio n by 5pm today. At this time the Library Board has no comment.

    quite a crowd has gathered here at the library, and I’ve been talking to some of the people here, trying to learn a little bit about Avril La Jambon. I spoke to her neighbor, Mrs. Cece Morose, and she said that “Avril is always on her high horse about something.” Another neighbor, who also has worked with her,, Mrs. Maggie Plop, stold me that “Avril La Jambon is known as a cranky troublemaker”. Several people here also suggested I speak to someone who probably knows her best, her exphusband Jake “Mad Jack” Carp. Mr. Carp

    Mr. Carp gave me a little histroy arbout Avril, and seemed sympathetic to her. He says she hasn’t bee the same since her father died and left his fortune to Sugar Rose, the propretiress and madame at The Frisky Fox Ranch in nearby Slag Heap. According to Mr. Carp, their marriage ended amicably, and they stay in touch. He expressed surprise that other loclals had been told by Avril that she is a wrtiter. He says the only thing she’s ever written are very long, incomprehensible letters to the editor of the local paper.

    We are goin to a commercial break. Stay tuned to your local station aKRPP, as this a
    story unfolds.

  12. Avril

    Oh, I just read everyone else’s practice, then checked back at the instructions. I guess I missed the point. Just thought it was that there is no time to prep, so I had the reporter go to a scene that just erupted and is unfolding by the minute. Prep would be impossible. At least i got to practice live writing, no editing. Just raced through, and posted.

    Carlos, sorry I got this wrong. It was still a good practice for me, and I know now, I would be way too chicken to do an entire novel this wly.

  13. Lauren Timmins

    My boss is shouting at me. Shouting! I wince and try to hide behind a camera. It’s seven in the morning and I am extremely hungover. I feel similar to Zeus, back when Athena was still stuck inside his head, pounding her way out.
    “I’m right here… you don’t need to yell.” I frown, as my words still don’t sound quiet right. I put on the most pathetic expression I can manage to earn some sympathy points.
    “Look, Jackie called in sick, Paul’s out of town, and I’m busy with a segment. I need you to cover the wildfire story.”
    I don’t hate my job, but I don’t enjoy it. I wanted to be a director, but found out too late that I was a pathetic writer and hated dealing with people. My neighbor took pity on me and offered me a position at our local news network. I’m the one they send to cover third grade talent shows and sewage issues. I can TOTALLY feel the love.
    “Vanessa, you’re kidding. I’m a shitty reporter, and you know that. I’m hungover and I really-”
    “Suck it up and get in the studio. You’re live in two minutes, which will be spent making you look decent. And if you bomb this, I won’t be happy.”
    The blond she witch stalked off in her high and mighty stilettos, those arrogant little clicks echoing behind her.
    “Kevin, right? I’m Cathy, nice to meet you, I’m just gonna fix your hair here, good, now some powder here, very good darling, now… READY!”
    I was pushed in front of a camera, dragged to a white dot on the floor, and was told to look ‘stoic’ for the camera. Moldy cheese, anyone?
    “Three… two…one!”
    I go blank. My mouth refuses to open. I can’t move.
    “Well, you’re fired.” I think. Wait a minute… fired!
    “Good morning Rivermont! This is Kevin Scarpaugh coming to you live from Nowhere, with a special news report concerning the wildfires blazing in our little town! No, not the wildfires people are calling the worst Rivermont’s ever seen. I’m talking about a metaphorical fire, and that fire is job loss, and I’m pretty sure one just sparked here!”
    I look around the studio, and to my delight, the witch has turned pink, the camera man can’t shut his mouth, and the janitors are cracking up.
    “Every day people are tormented by awful bosses, hateful coworkers, and boring jobs. I’m calling this day National Wild Fired day. I challenge you to stand up, like I am, and make your workplace an absolute hell. We only live once. Do something you want to do. I’m out of here.”
    I give the gang a devilish grin and hand their arses to ’em as I walk out the door. I believe I’m still partially drunk, because I have no idea what came over me in there. I feel justified in leaving, because I really don’t belong there. And what’s the point in doing something mundane when I can be doing something extraordinary?

    Definitely not my strongest work, but this “Live” writing is exhilarating!

  14. Martin F.

    Well, as I am writing in German, I still did the practice in writing LIVE. Maybe some readers in here can read German and give a feedback.

    Der unvorbereitete Reporter

    Als ich aus dem Übertragungswagen sprang, wehte mir ein Geruch von verwestem Fleisch, Fäkalien und verbranntem Gummi entgegen. Unwillkürlich würgte ich und hielt mich einen Moment am Türrahmen fest, so sehr zitterten meine Knie.
    Ich ließ meinen Blick über das Feld schweifen, auf dem sich Männer in gelben und orangen Schutzanzügen bewegten. Sie sahen aus, wie Biologen im Hochsicherheitstrakt eines Virenforschungszentrums.
    Mit zitternden Fingern suchte ich nach dem Spickzettel, den mir John vor der Abfahrt zugesteckt hatte, worauf er Namen, Fakten und Daten der explodierten Bio-Fabrik notiert hatte. Verdammt. Ich konnte ihn nirgens finden. Der Reißverschluss meiner Gesäßtasche klemmte. Vermutlich hatte ich ihn dort hineingesteckt. Dass mir auch immer wieder solche Peinlichkeiten passieren mussten.
    Der Kameramann hatte mittlerweile sein Equipment aus dem Wagen geholt und auf dem Stativ montiert. »Tritt noch 3 Meter nach rechts und etwas weiter zurück. Stopp! Gut, perfektes Bild. Es kann losgehen. Live-Übertragung in fünf, vier, drei.« Mit den Fingern zählte er zurück. Dann verstummte er und deutete die letzten Ziffern nur noch an. »Zwei, eins. Go!«
    Mein Herz schlug mir bis zum Hals. Vor meinen Augen flimmerte es, als ich angestrengt in die Linse blickte. Es juckte mich am rechten Augenlid. Egal, vergiss es! Der Text, der Text!
    »Guten Abend. Ich berichte live vom Schauplatz der Katastrophe im Biotech-Unternehmen außerhalb von Bloomingdale, Pennsylvania. In der Anlage werden … äh … kritische … äh … Viren für die … äh … » Verdammt, wozu wurden hier Viren gezüchtet? Wozu brauchte es überhaupt Viren? Sind das nicht Bakterien, die man für alle möglichen Dinge braucht? Viren sind doch Schädlinge. Schweinegrippeviren, Ebola, Spanische Grippe. Das sind Viren. Wozu also produzierten die hier Viren? Das hätte alles auf meinem Spickzettel gestanden. Nicht einmal den Namen des Unternehmens wusste ich.


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