Saturday, December 3, 2011

How to get your novel started Part 3

Ideas for your book.

By now you should have decided what you want to write about. Maybe you even have a title in mind. But if you don’t right now, don’t worry about it.

Let’s get right to it. If you’re going to write a novel, you need a plot. The plot is what keeps us turning the pages. However, you can’t just throw together any series of events and expect it to keep people interested.

A plot must meet two major requirements.

1. The events must be linked in some way. They don’t necessarily have to be predictable, but they should follow a logical order. And of course, they should be significant in some way to the lives of your characters.

2. Readers must care about how the events in the story are going to turn out. If your story doesn’t grab the reader’s attention and make them want to turn the page, they aren’t going to keep reading. A good plot creates characters readers can identify with and care about. It also puts those characters to the test.

There are four basic components to every plot.





Well, obviously you need characters. Ideally you should have two or more characters readers can relate to and care about. Otherwise, they won’t keep turning the pages.

Conflict is probably the most important thing in the story. Because without conflict, there is no story. Conflict is the force that drives fiction.

Conflict normally gives rise to crisis. This is the dramatic high point in the story and the point everything else revolves around.

Finally, there has to be change. If your characters are not changed by the experience then why should we read about it and more importantly, why are you writing about it?

Whatever you chose as your conflict should be significant. If this is not the most dangerous or challenging aspect of the character’s life thus far, then why should anyone care?

Simply start with a character, give them a problem and show what happens when they try to solve it.


Set aside about 15 minutes to work on this. (This is my favorite writing exercise.)

Choose your topic and write it in the middle of the page or you can start in columns if you like. Write down any ideas that are relevant to your subject. My brainstorm for my first book looked like a storm. Ha. Ha. Ha. But from that storm came my first book and many sequels.

This leads to your outline

Why do you need an outline?

1. It will help you to cover all the topics you meant to include. This will keep you from getting to the end and realizing you left out a key point.

2. An outline can also help you determine which order or the best order to cover topics. (Remember what I said in Part 1, this is only a guideline. You don't have to follow it strictly.)

3. By creating an outline, you will save a lot of time in the writing itself.

Outline your book first and write it second.

Decide the number of chapters your book should have. (These numbers are only a rough "average." This is to give you a basic idea of your goal.)


Literary Novel 36-44

Fantasy 35-40

Horror 35-40

Kids 9-12 12-15

Young Adult 18-20

Sci-fi 30-32

Mystery 28-32

Romance 18-24

How many pages per chapter? My chapters are typically 10 pages long. This is mostly just so I can keep up with where I’m at and know when to start a new chapter.

Writing Exercise #2

Freewriting. Close your eyes and point to three random words. Next, write about them for five minutes. Begin writing anything inspired by these three words. Relax and don’t analyze. Just write what comes to mind. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Just keep writing until the time is up.

















Dead Body


Black hat

Severed Head








Done? Put down your pen and read what you’ve written. This is just to show you that you can write. I’m sure you’ll notice some grammar and punctuation errors, but how many people are impressed with their ideas? This is a good exercise to get your creative juices flowing.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. There is no such thing. But life does happen. This can help you focus on your writing again instead of whatever else you might have on your mind.

Now, take these random thoughts from our brainstorming activity and start putting together your outline.

Your outline doesn’t have to be long. It can be only one page or it can fill up a whole notepad. It all depends on what you want to cover.

In between now and the next section, continue to work on your outline. Within one week you should have your book pretty much planned.


Ezmirelda said...

Great post! Really helpful.

I've honestly never read a YA novel with less than 20 chapters though, much less 18. 25-30 chapters is more accurate.

Tracey H. Kitts said...

Thanks:) Like I said, those numbers are just a rough estimate and only from my experience. I'm just trying to give people a very general idea of what to shoot for.