Tips for Writing a Novel: So You've Got an Idea -- What Now?

Below are some tips for writing a novel that will help you turn your ideas into a story or novel plot. (What is plot?) This is just one of many pages on the CWN website with novel writing tips and creative writing ideas. At the bottom, you'll find links to related pages on how to write fiction.

Taking your idea to the next level

Different fiction writers have different approaches for getting started. Here are some of your options:

1) Start with a character. Invent a character (if you want, use the CWN worksheet for writing character profiles). Think of something your character desperately wants. Then invent obstacles or problems that will get in the way of the character's achieving his or her heart's desire. Show the character trying to overcome these problems, and you've got yourself a plot.

2) Start with a problem. This might be anything from a disease to a career crisis to a difficult mother-in-law who decides to move in. Then invent a character who might have this problem and who would react in an interesting way. Put it all together, and you've got the beginning of a plot.

3) Start with a setting. Is there a particular place that you can write about vividly? Maybe your neighborhood, the city where you grew up, a creepy house on the corner, a woods where you go camping? Great, now you have a setting for your novel. Next, you need characters and some kind of problem or conflict that you can turn into a plot. What kind of problems do people have in your particular setting? Snakes, crime, forest fires, pollution? What kind of person is likely to react to your setting in an interesting way? Maybe a small town girl who feels lost in the big city? A real estate developer who will immediately want to turn your nature preserve into condominiums... unless the locals can find a way to stop him? You have the beginnings of a novel.

4) Start with a concept. Some people think in abstractions. Maybe you want to write about "Creativity" or "Religion" or "The Corrupting Influence of Power." Great! Since you will be writing a novel and not a philosophy dissertation, your next step is to turn the abstract idea into a specific situation where your idea plays a central role. For example, if you want to write about "Religion," you could invent a character who has a crisis of faith after something terrible happens to his family. Come up with a concrete problem related to your abstraction, and invent a character that this problem will happen to. Your abstract idea will be the novel's theme, and the character's battle with the problem will be your plot.


Next steps

To find more tips for writing a novel, choose one of the links below:
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