Monday, September 24, 2012

So You Want to Write a Novel: Part One -- The Idea

So you want to write a novel: Part 1 – the Idea

I’ve come across dozens of people who, after I tell them I’m a writer, say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

Why don’t you?
If you’ve somehow stumbled onto my blog, then you’ve made the conscious decision to start reading up on this marathon that you want to undertake. Because writing a book is a marathon that lasts a few weeks for some, and a few years for others. But how do you get started? I’m about to start writing a new book myself, so I thought I’d catalogue the step-by-step process, from idea to agent, to give some of you a glimpse into how the process works.

Disclaimer: This is my process. It’s different for every person. Do NOT feel pressured to conform to one way of writing. We all have to find our groove, this is only one option.

What do you need when you get that brilliant idea? How do you go from inspiration to chapter one? Honestly, this is the craziest part of the process for me. For several weeks beforehand, I go through a “musings” phase. This is when I absorb as much inspiration as possible, stretch my creative muscles and let my ideas take form in my subconscious. Often I need some time to sit back and think about everything before I even get started.
Once I’ve got all the Thinking done, I move onto writing some of this down in note form. Before I start a novel, there are some things I NEED to know. I’ve learned it’s far easier to plan, plan, plan than to go back and try and fix major plot issues later down the road. Some writers don’t like to do as much notes as I do—often they take an idea and just run with it. I do this too in some ways, but in order for me, personally, to take writing from a hobby to a profession, I need to stop saying to myself, “Ah, I’ll figure it out later” and start with, “Let’s deal with this now.”

Many things change from beginning to end, but before anything happens, I need to know The Bare Bones:


 Main Character

è Who are they when they’re alone? Are they quiet? Easily bored? Extroverted? Introverted? Do they prefer a loud party or a quiet walk through the park?

è Who are they with people? How do they act around those they like? Those they hate?

è What motivates them? What do they want more than anything in the world?

è What makes them angry? What gets them depressed? What makes them want to give up?

è What is their biggest dream? Their biggest fear?

Once I’ve answered all these questions, I move on to secondary characters, a love interest, and antagonists. Planning out things like appearance, nationality, sexuality, ect., are just as important, but I find those very easy to plan out, so I try to focus on the things that aren’t always so obvious to me.

Note: Antagonists don’t necessarily have to be characters, but they must be well-thought out. Your antagonist is just as important as your protagonists, and must have wants and desires that are as believable as your MC’s.

 Main Plot:

è What is the major problem at hand?

è Who/what stands against the MC? Why?

è How does your MC plan to fight back to achieve his/her goals?


Subplots can be a great thing, so long as they don’t overcrowd your story. I always tend to overdo it, so I try and plan out which subplots will play an active role.

à Decide on what kind of subplot you want. Is it a romance subplot? One of self-discovery? One related to the MC’s family/home life?

è Why is it in your book? Is it really necessary, or is it simply a darling you don’t want to kill?

è What does it add to your story?


Your setting is, in a sense, its own character. It should receive just as much attention as the other components of your novel.


è Where are you setting your story? Why?

è Does this setting have a connection to your characters/plot?

è How does your atmosphere reflect your story?


è How does your world function? Even if you’re writing a contemporary novel, the town/city you set it in should have its own unique characteristics.

è Where do people get their food/water/medical supplies, ect?

è How does the landscape affect how the people live?

è What is unique to the world you’ve created?

è What beliefs/prejudice/myths are prominent in your culture?


è What POV will you use? Is it 3rd person, 1st, or 2nd? Do you have an omniscient narrator? How many narrators will you use? Is this in present or past tense? (Or perhaps future tense?) And of course—WHY?

è What tone will you use? How does your narrator affect your word choice, diction, style, ect?

è How will these decisions affect the story you’re trying to tell?


è What don’t I know that will better my story in some way or another?

è What things could I incorporate into my story? What is something I’ve been interested in that might work well with what I’ve already chosen to write about?

Anything else?

è Is there anything I want to plan out before I start writing? (Certain deaths, character traits, plot twists, ect?)
Once I've answered all these questions, and I feel I have a decent grasp on my idea, the characters and the world, I move onto the opening pages.
Oh joy. Those damn opening pages.

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