Some of my clients dream about a story for years. When I say dream, I mean that quite literally. Their creativity invades their sleep time. One client hired me after dreaming about his science fiction story for over five years. Untapped creativity tends to bulge from the seams when unconquered. Do you wish to write a novel, but don’t know where to begin? That is the plight of many. Let me give you a few tips.
When you write a fictional piece, you get to decide how that world runs. You are welcome to throw out the principles of Earth and can create any biosphere that fits your story. This comes more into play with science fiction and fantasy. However, it’s OK to sprinkle new and unique elements into any story.
Worldbuilding would consider the history, culture, religions, and beliefs of the people. Who are these people that you’re writing about? Perhaps your novel takes place in a different era on Earth. In that case, you’ll need to do a lot of research to learn about that world at that time so your novel will be authentic. All writers become historians as they research the eras of their novels.
When you’re just starting to write a novel, I’d recommend that you open a blank document and simply pour out your ideas for world-building inside. These are notes for you, so you’re the only one that needs to decipher them. Grammar and spelling errors don’t matter. Just get the information on the page. You can come back to it as you shape and form your outline.
When you know the inner workings of a character, it’s much easier to write from their voice. If you aren’t sure you fully know the people in your novel, I recommend that you interview them as if they were in front of you. Start by noting down their physical appearance. Do they have any mannerisms (ones that they might not be aware of)? Look at how they dress. How would you characterize their style?
Next, find out about their interests, hobbies, and philosophy. Discover how they might respond to certain scenarios. How do they treat others? Figure out who their best friends are. Observe the way they communicate with the people around them.
Remember, you can always adjust these points. You are your character’s creator, so you get to decide all the details. Whatever you conjure up, write everything down. This exercise will give you a good starting place.
Most likely you have some idea of what your novel will be about. Whatever you know, write that down. Then expand on it. Before you write a word of the first draft, I highly advise that you create a detailed outline. If you aren’t familiar with the three-act structure, I’d advise you to study up on it a bit and create the plot of your story around this concept.
Read and reread books within the genre you wish to write. Note the structure of each story. If it keeps you enthralled, find out why. What are the elements that keep you turning the pages?
If you get stuck on the plot and don’t know what happens, start with the beginning and the end. These are the endpoints of your roadmap (the outline). Now find some middle points. I recently coached a client through an entire story this way. Once she knew where to start and where things ended, she could create the middle.
Keep in mind that a flatlining story will be boring. Include rises and falls. In other words, if your hero is always winning, make him lose (and visa-versa) from time to time. These twists and turns need to continue throughout the story. Feel free to reach out to me if you need help brainstorming ideas. I love consulting writers!
Where to start
I can’t tell you how many people who want to write a novel email me with the question, “Where do I start?” My simple answer is to write down what you know about your story. Download it out of your mind and onto paper (or a Word doc).
A wise mentor once told me to start by defining what the story is about. If you can answer that within one line, it will give you a place to build from. From there, you can create a detailed outline.
Once you have your outline, work daily to write a novel until you have the first draft finished. Don’t stop to edit—just write and write and write. Only when you’re done, should you read over the entire manuscript and make changes.
If you’re in the middle of the process and wish to write a novel, but need help, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ve been through the process a dozen times and am good at troubleshooting.