Writing a novel is no small task. In fact, it’s a momentous task. Some writers spend years just eking out a first draft, followed by years of revisions. And that’s before they even think about the grueling publishing process.
In other words, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your novel. So you better love it. No, wait — loving it is not enough. You have to be in love with it. You have to be obsessed with it.
And obsessions cannot be forced. It’s normal to lose interest when you’re on your tenth revision, but if you’re losing interest in your plot or characters while writing your first or second draft, the problem may not be you or your novel. The problem may be that you tried to commit to something you didn’t love. That’s never a good idea.
For many writers, the trick to sticking with a novel is actually quite simple: find an idea that grips you.
Get in Touch with Your Passions
Before you chase every crazy idea into the ground, stop and take a breath. Think about what moves you: books you couldn’t put down, movies you’ve watched dozens of times, TV shows you couldn’t stop talking about, and songs you played so many times, you’re sure they have bonded with your DNA.
By identifying your passions, you can figure out what makes you tick, and that’s a great start to your quest for novel writing ideas that you can really sink your teeth into.
All your past and present obsessions hold the clues to your future obsession with your own novel. Pay close attention to your preferences for genre, theme, setting, style, character archetypes and above all — emotional sensibility. Make lists of what you love about your favorite stories and soon, you’ll see the shape of your own novel start to emerge.
Generate and Gather Plenty of Novel Writing Ideas
Once you’ve made some general decisions about the novel you’re going to write, it’s time to start generating specific ideas.
Of course, the best novel writing ideas come out of nowhere. You’re on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor and suddenly that big magic bulb over your head lights up. Or maybe you have so many ideas, you don’t know where to start. It’s even possible that you’re aching to write a novel but are fresh out of ideas. Your mind feels like a gaping void.
Actually, story ideas are everywhere. The trick is to collect a variety of ideas, and let them stew while you decide which one is worth the effort. Here are some quick tips for generating ideas:
- Hit the bookstore or library and jot down some of your favorite plot synopses. Then, rework the details to take these old plots and turn them into new ideas. Try combining different elements from your favorite stories. And use movie synopses too!
- Load up on fiction writing prompts and develop each prompt into a short (one-paragraph) summary for a story.
- Harvest some creative writing ideas from the news.
Create a stash file for your ideas. It can be a folder on your computer or a box you fill with 3×5 note cards. You can also write all these ideas in a notebook. Just make sure you keep them together so you can easily go through them.
Let Your Novel Writing Ideas Marinate
Some ideas are so enticing, you can’t wait to get started. If you’re writing a poem or a piece of flash fiction, then have at it. If things don’t work out, you’ll lose a few hours or maybe a few weeks. But imagine investing years in a novel only to realize your heart’s not in it. Try to avoid doing that by letting ideas sit for a while before you dive into them.
The best ideas rise to the top. These are not necessarily the best-selling ideas or the most original ideas. They’re the ideas that are best for you. Those are the ones that will haunt you, keep you up at night, and provoke perpetual daydreams.
These are the ones worth experimenting with.
Experiment to See Which Novel Writing Ideas Can Fly
There’s a reason people test drive cars and lie around on the beds in mattress shops. When you make a big investment, you want to feel right about it. You can’t know how a car will drive until you actually drive it. And you can’t know how a bed will feel until you relax on it for a while. And you definitely can’t know what your relationship with your novel will be like until you experiment with it.
In truth, the experimental phase is when you start writing the novel — just like the test drive is when you start driving the car. But you haven’t committed yet. You’re still open to the idea that this is not for you. This might seem like I’m nitpicking over semantics, but you’ll find that discarding partially written novels wears on you after a while. If you play around with your story with the understanding that you’re experimenting, and if things don’t work out, you can always walk away without feeling guilty or like you gave up. Go back to your idea stash, and start tooling around with the next one.
How do you experiment with novel writing? I’m so glad you asked. There’s a lot you can do. Start by brainstorming. Sketch a few characters. Poke around and see what kind of research this novel might require. Draft a few scenes. Write an outline. If you keep going through these motions and can’t shake your excitement, then you are finally . . .
Writing Your Novel
At this point, you’ve already started writing your novel. But suddenly, you’re not just writing a novel. You’re deeply, passionately, obsessively writing your novel. If a couple of weeks go by and you haven’t had time to write, you miss your characters. When you get stuck on a scene, you simply work on some other part of the story because you’re so obsessed. You have to fight the urge to tell everyone about how the story is coming along. Your trusted buddy, whom you bounce ideas off of, is starting to think you’re taking it all too seriously. “Maybe you should watch some television a couple nights a week,” he says, looking concerned.
This is a story that’s captured your full attention. And that’s a good sign that it will capture the attention of readers.
Many (or most) of your novel writing ideas might end up in the trash or in a bottom drawer. But every one of them will be worth it when all of that idea generating, planning, and experimenting finally pays off. Every idea that doesn’t work will pave the path to the idea that will set you on fire.
So no matter what, no matter how many ideas come and go, no matter how many drafts you discard, never give up. Just keep writing!
Please welcome Idrees Patel with a piece on creating scenes and chapters in your novel.
Fiction writing is one of the most popular forms of creative writing. Everyone is trying to write some fiction — novels, short stories, novelettes, novellas, micro-fiction, and even Twitter fiction. Events like NaNoWriMo are becoming wildly popular. More and more novels are written every month.
But out of all the average work, how do you make your novel stand out?
You know the answer, of course. By making it your own and as perfect as possible. A novel can be made as perfect as possible by learning the art of fiction writing and then editing like mad.
Editing is tough work. Any writer can edit a 500-word blog post, but some freak out at the thought of editing an entire novel. It’s tough. Many writers even think it’s impossible to edit something like that, especially those who enjoy the writing but don’t like revisions.
But editing and proofreading are essential and will come more easily if you know good grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If you understand concepts like structure and plot holes, editing will be even smoother. And if you have knowledge of various fiction writing elements, that’s just awesome.
But there’s one more little trick that will help writers edit novels more easily: creating scenes and chapters. If you create effective scenes and chapters in your first draft, you’ll be well on your way to better editing.
First off, what are scenes and chapters?
What are Scenes?
I’ll just let Wikipedia give you the definition here:
“In fiction, a scene is a unit of drama. A sequel is what follows; an aftermath. Together, scene and sequel provide the building blocks of plot for short stories, novels, and other forms of fiction.”
Scenes are indispensable when writing a novel. A novel is lengthy, about 80,000-130,000 words. Scenes are usually only 400-500 words long. You can easily edit a scene rather than editing the whole manuscript, which makes editing more manageable. During the editing process, you can check for structure, flow, characters, and plot holes. You can also break up one scene into two or more scenes if you want the editing process to be even more simplified.
Scenes in plays are similar to scenes in novels. If you write a short section in which something significant happens in a single setting, then it is a scene. The scene directly affects what happens later. “What happens later” is the sequel. Here is a good article on how to write perfect scenes.
What are Chapters?
“A chapter is one of the main divisions of a piece of writing of relative length, such as a book. Chapters can be numbered in the case of such writings as law code (like Chapter 7 or Chapter 11) or they can be titled.”
A chapter is usually made up of two or more scenes, although sometimes there is just one scene in a chapter. Chapters that have one scene are usually short, although that won’t be the case if the scene itself is long or elaborate.
Chapters can be short, although if you make them too short and have too many of them, they may become less effective. Extremely long chapters, on the other hand, can be cumbersome. Experiment with caution.
The length of the chapter may depend on the audience for whom the novel is written. Children’s books have short chapters whereas adult books have (mostly) longer chapters.
How do you effectively create chapters in a novel? It depends. In adventure and mystery novels, some people like to end chapters on cliffhangers. However, the bottom line is that you should end chapters whenever you feel a major shift in the story, whether it be a change in point of view or a new scene.
Short chapters are easy to write. As mentioned, they often consist of a single scene and therefore rarely become boring or complicated. Long chapters can be dull if not executed properly. As you write your novel, try to strike a balance so that each chapter is interesting to the reader.
Chapters make ideal blocks of text for editing and proofreading for the same reason that scenes are indispensable. You can create separate document files for each chapter (or scene) to help you focus on smaller chunks of text. I’ve done this a few times, and it worked well for me. But then, in creative writing, there is no such thing such as one size fits all. Experiment with various techniques and test your results.
Effective Fiction Writing
Remember that while writing the first draft of a novel, planning effective scenes and chapters will make editing much easier. By including scenes, chapters, and other shorter blocks of text in your fiction writing, you’ll be off to a great start with your novel or other long-term fiction writing project.
Have Your Say
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Do you agree that chapters and scenes are great for editing if you create them effectively? Disagree? Got something to say? Any fiction writing tips to add? Leave a comment below.