Welcome back my fellow authors!
If you're anything like me, maybe you haven't started writing yet because you have this wonderful, amazing, fabulous plot bunny hopping around in your head, aka a story idea, and you don't know how to cage that thing and turn it into an actual novel.
You aren't alone. Ask any author, established or not, myself included, and they'll tell you they've had the same problem. But you're going to have an easier time than everyone else because you're going to follow these five easy steps below, and flesh out your idea into an easy, manageable novel so you can finally start writing. Let’s get started:
- Brainstorm: Take your central idea, this can be a scene, a character, really anything, and build upon it. Pull out your favorite notebook, open a pack of index cards, or open a Word document, and interview your idea. What? When? Where? How? Why? Who? Every time you answer a question ask yourself, Why? Keep doing this, keep asking why, until you've run out of ideas. Then, take a break, and get right back at it. When you've tired of this, write down everything that might happen in your story as best you can. Write about the different characters that might show up, the places they'll go, and the things that will happen to them. Then pat yourself on the back because that was a lot of work and I'm proud of you.
- Research: Do not brush this off. Trust me, if you don't do at least some of this now, you will kick yourself later when you've written half of your novel and then realize a part doesn't realistically make sense, causing you to have to rewrite everything you've written up until that point. For example, once I wrote about 30,000 words of a novel only to realize one of the laws that was central to my whole book wasn't a law in the state my characters lived in. This was an issue because I'd already researched cities, restaurants, and other places for that state, my characters had already gone to some of these places, and some of their jobs were specific to that state as well. It was such a big mess, that I haven't reopened that Scrivener file since. Learn from my mistake! Start with what you've already written down about your story while you were brainstorming, such as places or time periods, and then use Wikipedia, Google, the library, anything that you can, to expound upon your ideas further. Write down everything! You never know when something you deem insignificant now might be helpful to you later.
- Meet Your Characters: These people are going to become your best friends for the next couple of months. You need to know them like the back of your hand, especially your antagonist and protagonist. Start with these two characters and ask yourself: What's their goal? Fear? Age? Name? What do they like to do? Where do they like to go? Who are they close to? Do they have any enemies? Love interests? Family? Career? Once you flesh out these two characters, it will be easier to flesh out any supporting characters. To help you out I recommend checking out Kristen Kieffer's character sketch on her website. You can find it here. Also, get creative! Create a Pinterest board, a Spotify playlist, or an Amazon wish list for your characters. Remember, document everything! You never know when you'll need to reference these things later.
- Outline Your Plot and Conflict: Later this week, I'm going to post an article about the most common outline, or plot structure, authors use. Be on the lookout for that article. For now, hash out your novel's conflict. You won't need to know absolutely everything, but know at least your novel's beginning, middle, and end. Without conflict, your novel has nothing to stand on so pay special attention to this step. Write down the following story elements:
- Inciting Incident: What causes the protagonist to act?
- Build Up: What obstacles does your protagonist face that ultimately build up to the final conflict?
- Climax/Final Conflict: The ultimate conflict. The event your readers have been waiting for. Do or Die. Will your protagonist win everything or crash and burn?
- WRITE: Well not quite, if you're a plotter like me, look out for my post later this week on plot structure so you can really dig deep into outlining your novel. If you're a pantser, start putting pen to paper, fingers to keys, and get writing. You have the basics, and now the confidence, to get going. I wish you well.
Drop a comment down below, and let me know if this article was helpful for you. Were there any aspects that you struggled with?