How to Write a Novel: The Idea

Almost every time I mention that I write novels, people say something like, "I've always wanted to write a book." My response is always, "Why don't you?"

I love encouraging writers, so I've decided to share some of the insights I've found over the past five years with all of you. Keep in mind, however, that I am by no means the definitive source on novel writing. BUT I have written a few and am learning all along what works best. I'm hoping that this series of posts about HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL will be informative, helpful, and encouraging.

Let's begin, shall we?

Why do you want to write a novel?

Before beginning the agonizing process of writing 70,000 words or more, it's important to know why exactly you want to do this. Why? Because you will need to remind yourself over and over again on the hard days why this is important to you.

Tip: You will never find fulfillment if you write for other people. Write for yourself. Write because you love it.

So you have your reason, now what?

Now you must decide what to write about. There are several ways of coming up with inspiration. Here are a few of my tricks:
  • What is your favorite genre? What do you read the most of? It could be romance, YA, inspirational, etc. Whatever you read the most of is probably what you'll write the best of. You may not realize it, but if you read a lot of YA then you know the market pretty well, which is a must when marketing your finished book.
  • What kind of book would you like to read but cannot find? This is my favorite. Almost all my stories have derived from this question. If you like vampires, but wish you could find a book that mixes them with your sci-fi fascination, then you may have found your niche.
  • Search the world around you for inspiration. Pinterest in a great resource. Flip through the photography sometime. I've found amazing photos that have inspired me to create a story around them. Go ahead and start a new board to pin things that may inspire your writing.
  • A title. My last WIP began with a title that popped in my head while driving. I loved it, so I jotted it down when I was able, and for months, I waited until I sorted out a story to fit the title.
  • Phrases. Once a friend was describing a girl he'd met, and one line of his description gave me a character who went on to be a part of a now published short story.
Tip: Inspiration usually occurs during quiet times, so be sure to create some in your life even if it's only when you're in the car after dropping the kids off at school.


Now that you have your idea. You, for example, have decided that you want to write that vampires on the moon book. Now you'll need to ask yourself What If?
  • What if my main character is an astronaut?
  • What if she went to the moon on a mission to save herself?
  • What if she ran into a commune of angry vampires while she was there?
  • What if there were lots of other people who fled to moon?
  • What if she had to pretend to be a vampire to keep from being killed?
  • What if she found that she liked being one? Hated being one?
  • What if she confided in a friend vampire who outted her to the rest of them?
You get the point. What if questions are the best way to explore an idea. Go ahead and make a list of ten what-ifs for your novel. Go on. I'll wait.

Of the ten, narrow them down to your top five favorites.

Of those five, branch off and ask five more what if questions.

What do you know - you're brainstorming. Remember those bubble charts your teachers made you do in grade school? Shh. Don't tell anybody, but they actually work!

Tip: Freemind is a great resource for a more adult bubble map. :)

Now then

You've got your idea and your questions and are wondering what now? Think on it. Chew on the story that is already starting to take form in your mind. Take a notebook with you and jot down information as it comes to you, and it will throughout the week. And meet me back here next week to find out what to do next.

If you've got other ideas about how to form an idea for a novel, please feel free to share in the comments below.

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