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From Idea to Novel

So you’ve got an idea bouncing around in your head for a novel and it won’t leave you alone. That’s great and also intimidating. After all writing a novel is hard work and you might not be sure this idea is enough to craft an entire novel from. So how to do we go from idea to novel? Let’s take a look.

First you have to have a strong idea. This may be a character you envision, a scene that keeps replaying in your mind, or a setting that intrigues you. The first step is to develop it into a story concept strong enough to build a novel on. I wrote about story concepts worth developing here.

Next comes brainstorming and outlining. Freewrite every idea you have for your story. Develop the idea into a 15 word synopsis. Then expand that into a five line paragraph. Begin character sketches for each of your main characters and a smaller sketch for minor characters. Give all your characters a flaw and a goal to work towards, even the minor characters. The protagonist’s goal defines the story and the conflicting nature of the protagonist and antagonist’s goals drives the story forward. Now you’ll need to pick your story’s structure. I’ve written about each main structure; the Three Act structure, Five Act structure, Fichtean Curve, and Hero’s Journey. Find one that works for you and start building your scene list. I’ve written on scene lists here. Decide on each plot point in your structure and then connect all your scenes.

Then create a writing routine. You’ll need to show up and do the work to write your novel. Novels are beyond difficult to write, but having a writing routine can save you from days of writer’s block staring at a blank screen and wondering why you ever decided to be a writer in the first place. Check here and here for more on writing routines.

Write. This is the most important step and there’s no skipping this part. It’s that hard and that easy. Write.

When you’ve finished that first draft, celebrate! Go out with the friends you’ve been neglecting. Eat an entire cake by yourself. Do a happy dance. And put away your draft for at least two weeks if not a month or more. Don’t look at it and try not to think about it too much. This gives you a well-deserved rest and ensures you’ll have fresh eyes to see it with when you’re ready for the revision process.

So now you know how to get from idea to novel so what are you waiting for? Start at step one and let’s get that novel written! Happy writing!


Follow my column at Our Write Side and my Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration and find me on Facebook for weekly prompts and stories.

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