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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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...


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