At long last I am ready to begin my series on novel writing. I am hoping this series will help to inspire all of you aspiring novel writers to get out those manuscripts and finish writing your novels. I will be working on mine also as I write this series. I may be slightly ahead of you (I'm on chapter 14) or slightly behind you, but wherever you are in the process, it's time to complete those novels. Please feel free to make comments, suggestions or to share your experiences as you finish you novel with us. I'd love to hear from anyone who is following along.
Here we go...
Every novel begins with an idea. Whenever I tell people that I am a writer, one of the first things they say is, "I have a great idea for a novel." Don't we all. There are an abundance of ideas out there that sound wonderful, however the idea has to be more than just that. The idea has to be able to be fleshed out with a full story line, believable characters, believable settings and realistic dialogue. Ideas are easy, it's writing the full novel that can be hard.
Where do ideas for novels come from? Every writer is inspired by different things. You may be watching a movie and one particular scene may inspire you to write an entire novel. Or perhaps you are on vacation and a beautiful location inspires you. Maybe, and I am not insinuating that you are crazy, you always have little voices in your head acting out scenarios that would make a good story. Ideas can come from family situations, tragedies, something you've read or just a picture that infatuates you. Writer William Styron who wrote "Sophie's Choice" says he came up with the idea for the book when the memory of a girl he once met, a Polish refugee named Sophie who had survived a concentration camp during WWII, flashed back to him. That very day he completed the first pages of his book. Stephen King was inspired by a little window in his laundry room that looked out into the garden and wrote the short story "Secret Window, Secret Garden" which was eventually made into a movie staring Johnny Depp. J.K. Rowling was inspired by a train ride to write the entire series of "Harry Potter" books. Small ideas can turn into spectacular novels.
When I wrote my young-adult adventure novel, "Outlaw Heroes", I was inspired by two things; one was my love for the old west and the fascinating characters of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Etta Place, all of whom I'd researched extensively, and the other was my children playing cowboys in the yard with their friends. This made me wonder what it would be like to add a twist to the real life of Butch, Sundance and Etta by having a 12-year old boy join them in their adventures. As I formed the idea, I extended it to where the boy is from the future and goes back into time to join the outlaws. The story ended up with a surprising twist that even surprised me as I was writing it.
Once you have been hit with an idea, sit down and begin to flesh it out. This means making notes on who the characters are in detail, where the setting is, and a brief run-down of where the story will go. Some writers like to have a full-fledged outline before beginning their book. I don't go that far, as I find the story begins to change and weave itself as I start writing, but I do have several pages of notes when I begin to write. I like to know everything about my characters, such as age, date of birth, hair color, eye color, likes and dislikes, etc. The more detailed, the better. If I plan on using a location that really exists (some writers like to make up a town) then I do extensive research on the area so I don't make mistakes I will hear about later. While you are fleshing out your characters and location, you will be able to get a feel for whether or not you have enough story for an entire novel.
Research is the key to a successful novel, even if the story is completely made up. There will still be details that you will need to know to make the novel believable. Don't be afraid to spend time researching every detail, it will pay off in the end. I even find that I do a lot of research as the novel progresses because new details will arise that I need to find out information about. While you don't want to bog your readers down with details, knowledge of the details will help you write a better story.
In the next installment of my Novel Series, I will be talking about what drives your story line and how to flesh out your characters. Please feel free to add comments, advice, questions, and anything else that you think might help your fellow novel writers.
Okay everyone, let's write those novels!