How to write your novel: brainstorming
Have you always dreamed of writing a novel? Well, if you’ve mastered the art of the short story, then writing a novel is within your reach. While a short story is a sprint and a novel is a marathon, it doesn’t mean that the latter is more difficult. It just takes a bit more persistence and a sense of perspective.
The problem is, when we leave school, we forget how to dream big. We’re bold in our workplaces and in the way we participate in Social Media, but we forget how to write intriguing and thought-provoking stories. We have our neighbours in hysterics at the Christmas street party, but we clam up when it comes to putting it on paper.
In this series, I’ll outline strategies you can take to write your first novel, even if the process seems intimidating and unfamiliar. I’ve spent three and a half years writing mine and the joy, excitement and satisfaction it has given me are beyond words (pardon the pun).
Buy a journal (or a laptop/iPad/tablet) and start scribbling. Draw scenes, write bits of dialogue that come into your head and describe your characters’ personalities. If you like colour, use different texters or pens to stimulate your creativity. Take a small notepad with you and as ideas come, write them down or you’ll forget these snippets of inspiration. Post-it notes are great too, or you can use your mobile phone.
- Who are your characters?
- Is your story told from one character’s perspective or is it Multiple Point of View (MPOV)?
- What are their hobbies, secret fears and issues?
- What are their hopes/dreams/goals?
- What challenges does your character face and what stands in the way of them achieving their goals?
- What is your protagonist’s relationship to other sub-characters?
- Do your characters always tell the truth?
- Is there an antagonist? Are they ‘all bad’ or do they change over time?
- Does your character have a secret?
- What do they learn and how do they grow?
- What happens over the course of your book?
- Is there any conflict (there should be) and how can you raise the stakes?
- Are there any key events that stand out in your mind?
- Do these events have a helpful or harmful effect on your protagonist?
- Is your story set in the past, present or future?
- Is your story linear or does it jump around?
- What is your climax and what is your resolution?
- Is there a mystery and how will you drip-feed clues to your reader?
- Who or what are your red herrings?
- What do you know that your character doesn’t?
- What does one character know that another character doesn’t?
- Where does your story take place?
- Does your character travel from one place to another?
- Is your setting real or imagined?
- What issues would you like to discuss?
- Would you like to talk about bullying or mental health or rare diseases?
- How will you do this (dialogue/backstory/thoughts/rhetorical questions)?
If you start with these parameters, your mind will begin to fill in the gaps. In other words, these ideas will form a scaffold which you can build upon with confidence. Having a scaffold prevents working memory overload and helps you focus on growing your literary garden.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks!
Here is a video which summarises the key points from this blog post:
Extra tip: Write your chapters as separate Word docs and you’ll be able to keep track of word count, continuity and style. You will also have a sense of accomplishment and be able to share your writing with family and friends in a chunked, less intimidating way. You may also wish to upload your chapters to Wattpad where other people can read and critique your story as you are writing it (great for motivation)!