Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From Idea to Novel: How to Write Your 1st Novel

The 4 Essential Elements of Novel Writing

So, you're a complete newbie to writing? You want to write a novel, but you have no idea where to start? Chances are if you want to write a novel, you already have a great idea. That's the first step! Now you just have to get organized and flesh everything else... or you could start writing and see where it leads you.

You have to start somewhere. IT'S NOT GOING TO BE PERFECT. You're going to have to rewrite and revise many times. It's all part of the territory. Here are four essential elements for writing a novel: character, plot, conflict, and theme.

Free write a few paragraphs for each and see where it takes you. When you're ready for the next step, it's time to map out your plot.


If you have an idea for a novel, you likely already know your character, at least a little bit. You could Google the ethers and find all kinds of character worksheets to fill out, or you could simply start with the basics: goal and motivation.

The goal is what your main character (MC) wants. The motivation is the why. If there's no why behind the desire, then the goal is arbitrary and has no meaning. The reader wants to care, so make sure your MC cares about what he or she wants.

If you're struggling with some of the finer details, you can do an activity I call "Alphabet Soup". Take each letter of the alphabet and list out things about your character in a word or a short phrase. Nouns work best. Adjectives are the least intriguing. For example, which gives you a better image of a character? Smart? Or six books about how to grow a dandelion garden?


Without plot, there is no story. But there's also no story without character or conflict. The plot is the thread of what happens. But it can't be random things that merely happen just to have something happen. They have to be connected and have a point for happening. There are actually 5 main plot points that can jumpstart your novel.

  1. The Signup
  2. The Gunshot
  3. The Halfway Point
  4. The Wall
  5. The Finish Line

Think about a marathon. Think about what your MC wants (that's the finish line). Work backwards and reconstruct how that goal will be reached.

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Map Out a Basic Plot For Your Own Novel

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Conflict is merely a series of ups and downs in the plot. Conflict makes the story interesting, believable, and worthy of reading. We crave good stories that allow us to root for someone. We want to see the MC win, just as we ourselves want to reach our own goals in life - like writing a novel!

What obstacles can you throw at your MC to make life difficult. They have to have something to overcome. Make it hard. Like a 10k race with no porta potties, no water stop, no shade, and no breeze. Those are real challenges to a runner. What challenges does your MC have to face?


Without theme, there's really no purpose in telling a story. If it doesn't teach us how to be better humans (in a very non-teachy way), then what was the point in telling the story (or reading it) if we can't change along with the MC?

Theme gives our stories purpose, passion, and a reason to be written. Novels are complex works of art and have multiple themes that intertwine and overlap. Life is messy and complicated. A well-written novel helps us make sense out of the chaos.

Your MC's why may be related to the theme. So if you don't know your why, you may have a hard time saying what it is you're really trying to say. And as writers, aren't we simply trying to say something meaningful to make the world a better place (and entertain while we're doing it)?

Which element do you find the easiest? Hardest? Share in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How Can the Story of Easter Help You Write a Novel?

The 5 Main Plot Points of the Life of Jesus Christ

As I write this, Easter was about a month ago. Even though Easter is over, it's a timeless holiday that most Christians celebrate all year long. So how can taking a second look at the world's greatest hero who ever lived help you write your novel? Well, following the Marathon Method of Plotting, you'll see how even the life of Jesus follows the classic plot of the Hero's Journey.

The Sign Up

Just like any racer would never run in a race unless they first register for it, Jesus' life never would have happened unless He was born. He had to be born on the Earth before his story could truly begin.

The Gunshot

When the gunshot of a race signals the runners to take off, they embark on their journey. They accept the journey ahead and continue running (or occasionally walking) to finish the race and complete their goal.

With the life of Jesus, the Gunshot point is when John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan to "fulfill all righteousness." He was baptized to show his willingness and acceptance of the Plan of Salvation. Once he was baptized, there was no turning back on his journey to save all mankind. He was in it to win it.

The Halfway Point

In a marathon, the halfway point represents a major accomplishment: a HALF marathon! You're halfway there!

In the life of Jesus Christ, the Halfway Point does not correlate directly to the halfway point of his years lived on Earth. If that were the case, it would have occurred when he was merely 16, but it didn't happen when he was a teen. The Halfway Point is when Jesus gathered together his twelve disciples. He is receiving help along his journey, as well as training them to continue after he's gone. This point represents reaching a major milestone.

Outline Your Novel:
Learn How to Study Books and Movies So You Can
Map Out a Basic Plot For Your Own Novel

The Wall

The Wall is the point in a marathon when your legs are like rubber, and your feet are throbbing (more so than usual). Mental blocks are formed, and you're racked with doubt, fear, and pain. How does a runner get past the Wall? They look inside to their internal inspiration and simply keep going.

The Wall for Jesus, in the story of Easter, occurred during the events of Easter week, when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane to redeem all mankind from sin. The Atonement is the Wall because it represents the lowest point in Jesus' life - when he redeemed all mankind. He bled from every pore because the agony was so great.

The Finish Line

Once a runner crosses the finish line, the story isn't over, but they have reached their goal. When your main character accomplishes their goal, the finish line (or climax) has been reached. The Finish Line for Jesus is when He was lifted up on the cross at Calgary and he cried out, "It is finished." Then He died.

Bonus Plot "Point": The After Party

What comes after the Finish Line? The After Party!

After three days, Jesus Christ was resurrected, the final act in his journey to help mankind reach eternal life. Because Jesus Christ was resurrected, all those who have died will also be resurrected. When Mary learned of his resurrection, she RAN to go tell the others. It was a celebration of life *and* death! The ultimate "after party" indeed!!!

When you follow the Marathon Method of Plotting, you can start writing your novel as soon as you can define these 5 main plot points in your own story.

Do you have a special request for a story, novel, or movie to be added to the Plot Arc Library? Let me know and I'll add it to the queue! Share in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...


Monday, April 9, 2018

Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

What Should You Do?

If you have written a book and you would like to get it published, there's likely one big question you've asked yourself. How do you get started?

There are basically two options. You can self publish, or you can find an editor and publish with a reputable publishing house, aka traditional publishing. So, how do you choose?

Should you publish traditionally or should you self publish? Where do you get started when you're looking for a home for your manuscript? The following nuances should help you decide.

Traditional Publishing Route

Traditional publishing is the way publishing has been done for years. The editors and publishers act as gatekeepers to ensure that high quality books are introduced into the world.

When you publish with an established publisher, whether it's a small press or one of the "Big 5", an editor will pay you for your work if they want to publish it. You may or may not get a publicist or marketing team behind you. But the publishing house will likely give you guidance and help along your publication journey. It also seems to take forever and don't get to make all the decisions.

To a lot of people, traditional publishing feels safer or like it's more real. You also don't make as much money per book, although you will likely get a nice advance, depending on your genre and your contract.

Self-Publishing Path

Self publishing has exploded in the last decade. It is a great option for writers to get noticed and get their work out there. It's faster and often more profitable. But it doesn't come without a few drawbacks. It's easier to publish your work, but that means it's also easier to publish when the work isn't actually quite ready. You have to find a good editor, pay for the editing services, a copy editor too. Book cover design work. Marketing, and more. You have to do it ALL. It's a huge learning curve and a lot of work. If that sounds like fun, then go for it!

I have at least two books that I may want to self publish one day, but I'm not ready to learn everything that goes into it just yet. Self publishing gives you more freedom over choices, more money per book, and you can get your work out there a lot faster. But you don't have an editor, an art director, a team of people helping you and cheering for you. Self publishing is kind of the go-it-alone route and it's perfect for those who love adventures and want to stay in control.

But I urge you - do it right. Get an editor (or two or three) and make sure the quality is high standard and professional. And never ever ever PAY to have your book published. That's called vanity publishing. Really it's not publishing at all. It's paying to have your book PRINTED. Paying a vanity press is NOT self publishing, at least not anymore.

How to Decide on the Right Publishing Path for Your Book

Both options are viable. You can also be both traditionally published and self published. That's called a hybrid author. I may fit into that category.

If you believe in a book and feel that you can have better success with it on your own, then try self publishing.

If you believe in a book and you feel like the traditional route will allow more people to see it, and you're very, very patient, then go traditional. Ultimately, only you are going to know which path to pursue. Way out the pros and cons and go for it! And even though YOU may be ready for your book to be published, make sure your BOOK is ready too.

Which path are YOU pursuing? Share in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...



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