How to Write a Novel
Beating Writer's Block
I've written many articles like these, that have been published. However, my two fictional works have not been published. Mostly due to not trying. I've spent years trying to figure out the best way to write a novel. For me, outlining is not all that useful. I always have other ideas spring up during the actual writing process and it ends in my outline not being effective. Here are some ways to get past writer's block and start your novel:
1. Who is the protagonist in the story? Start by developing a character, and then create scenarios to determine your main character's personality, her flaws, her insecurities, her strengths, etc. If your protagonist spills a cup of coffee on herself on the way to work, does she cry, go home and call in sick for the day, or does she pull a new blouse from her backseat, change and go about her day? This might sound insignificant, but it can give you an idea about who your main character will be.
2. What genre is your novel? Whether you enjoy sci fi, horror, fantasy, or romance, your novel should have one main genre. Write down everything you love about that genre. If it's horror: haunted houses, spooky cemeteries, old cities with haunted histories, ouija boards. If it's fantasy: vampires, fairies, enchanted creatures. Whatever your genre may be, develop the story around things you know and enjoy. It is much easier to develop a novel if you are familiar with and like your genre.
3. What are your favorite books? If you like to read, you most likely have a favorite novel or novels. Make sure you aren't stealing ideas from those novels. It is okay to develop ideas based on something your favorite author has written. Every great idea stems from another idea. Obviously it's not okay to steal the idea completely. Make it your own. If you haven't read your favorite book in a while, and you've forgotten what it was about, read it again. Not only is this a great way to stimulate your creative side, it's a great way to be sure you are not plaigerzing or lifting the author's ideas. For example, my favorite childhood book is Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes. I hadn't read it since I was 11 years old (25 years ago). Of course, I had to make room for things in my brain like, "What time is my son's soccer practice?" and "When is my daughter's school project due?" I had long since tossed out the memory of Tiger Eyes. I wrote my first novel, and one day stumbled upon a full description of Tiger Eyes only to realize I had many striking similarities to Ms. Blume's book. I was mortified. It is amazing how repressed memories work that way. Save yourself some editing time by re-reading those favorite books.
4. Who said you had to write the story in order? If an idea comes to you, start writing. Whether it's the beginning or the end, write it! You can change it later if you need to. Keep your characters and the storyline in order with short descriptions and key points to the chapters. This is sort of an outline, but in a very basic form. Also, keep a file on the computer called, "Ideas". When you have one, jot it down. If you have general ramblings about characters, plot lines, or anything else about your story, put it in there. It will help you figure out what direction your story will take in the long run.
5. Keep a notepad everywhere you go. I have great ideas in the shower, the car, in my dreams, etc. Sometimes I have a really great idea, I neglect to write it down, and what happens? I can't remember it to save my life. Write it down immediately! Dreams are excellent resources for writing material. Keep the notepad on the nightstand and quickly jot down every interesting dream or terrifying nightmare.
6. Notice things around you. Take a couple hours and sit outside. Watch people interacting, cars driving by, dogs walking, nature taking it's course. You can get great ideas from normal, every day occurrences going on around you. Meditation also works well for quieting the mind and generating your creative side.
Don't get discouraged if the entire novel doesn't come to you all at once. I often have a very basic idea that I begin to write about. As I go along, the plot falls in to place and eventually I can think of how I would like the novel to end. I also usually come up with several endings to my stories. Writers block is cured with writing. If you are stuck, take an afternoon and brainstorm. You are bound to come up with something great!