How to start a novel.

Photo Credit

Jodi Dee


How do you get started on a new project?

Me personally, I like to plot things out. Yeah, I’m a plotter. I have researched all manners of ways of plotting out a novel and kind of mashed them together and made my own.

So here is my process.

  1. Get Idea – Light Bulb Moment – Flash of Inspiration – Or, maybe, just a question you had.
  2. Write it down. I’m not kidding. I can’t tell you how many times I would get an idea that I was so sure I would remember. Yeah, no. Write it down.
  3. Put it away. I mean it. Don’t look at it. Leave it alone.
  4. In about a week, look at it again. Is it still as good as you thought it was when you first got it? Can you expand on it? Will it carry a full story? Yeah, sweet, let’s get started.

Ok, so we have the idea, you wrote it down (I hope), you let it sit for a while, and now you have decided that it’s still as great as when you first thought of it and you’re dying to get started. If you’re a pantster, you’re likely to sit down and just start writing, and if that works for you, great.

But, if you’re a plotter, you need a little more before you get started. Where do I start? My Main Character.

I start asking him/her (usually her) questions. Where is she? What does she like? What does she hate? What scares her? What is she good at?

Yes, I have full blown conversations with my protagonist. No, you’re not crazy, and yes, they do talk back. Once I have a good feel for her, her answers have usually already told me what time period we’re in by the way she speaks, I can hear her voice, and I can tell her age. That’s a good place to start.

Now, if you know your protagonists fears and what scares them, there’s your conflict. How will they over come them?

Are they scared of the dark? Why? Is there a monster hiding just behind the shadows that they can’t see? Use these. And then you will get your overall plot.

For example:

As I was writing this I have a FMC that’s sitting in the back of my head driving me crazy. She wants out. She is afraid of not passing her chem final. If she doesn’t, her grade will drop and she will lose her scholarship. If she loses her scholarship, she will be kicked out of the private school she attends. If she is kicked out of the private school she attends she will have to move back to her aunts house. And Sandra will have won, finally getting her out of school making her valedictorian.

I have my protagonist, I have my conflict, and I have a very rough idea for the antagonist.

Now, this wasn’t a great example, but you can see where I’m going with this. Write it all down. And keep expanding on it. Your plotting and outline can be as short or as long as you want it to be. Some writers like to do a minimal outline, only a brief synopsis of what each chapter needs to move the story forward towards the ending. Some writers like to outline their chapters and each scene so they always know where the story is going.

There is no one way to do it. There is no right and wrong way. It’s what works for you. What gets your fingers moving to get that story down. My outlines tend to be a few pages long with a lot of details, but that works for me. It may not work for you, and that’s ok!

If you have never tried to plot our your story and you find yourself getting stuck or writing yourself into a corner, try plotting and see if it helps. If you’re a plotter but find yourself uninspired, try pantsing it for a while and see what comes out.