You have it! That killer, awesome, super cool, totally-going-to-get-you-a-literary-award-and-movie-deal idea for a novel. So what are you waiting for? Get those little fingers moving.
Okay, so maybe it’s not that easy. We all have some pretty good story ideas. But how do you take a big, fat, fabulous idea and streamline that baby into a can’t-put-it-down-or-I’ll-die kind of book. Well, I’ve got three solutions to help you get started. Of course, once you get rolling, the real work is ahead. Finishing a book and then taking the time to really rip it apart and put it back together (otherwise known as the revision process) is the super hard part of this. Then again, maybe getting started really is the biggest challenge. Because often, when you get something moving, it’s just a matter of keeping it going, am I right?
Step one: Figure out who your story is about. People don’t care about what is happening unless they care about the people it’s happening to. Who is your protagonist? Your antagonist? Who are the supporting characters–love interest (I’m sorry, but you’ve got to have one), friends, marginal enemies, etc.? Make up a cast list as though you’re casting a movie. Who would play your characters and why? What are their strengths and weaknesses (a hint here–usually what makes a character strong can also make him or her weak).
Step two: Know where you’re going. You wouldn’t take off on a road trip without an intended destination, right (unless you have tons of money and no one who depends on you, in which case, I really don’t know what to say to you)? Well, writing is the same way. You don’t need to know the tiny weeny details (such as, where are we stopping to stay/eat/gas up/etc.), but you do need to know where you want to end up and maybe have a rough map of how to get there. I’m not a big outliner myself, but I do plan out my book when I start and as I go along. Otherwise you may find yourself running in mental circles.
Step three: Word count. Oh yeah, this is important. You must set a weekly goal of how many words you want to write and have an idea of how many words the book will be. Note to prospective authors–writing novels over 100,000 words may give you some heartache when it comes to selling the thing. Also, many book genres have more specific word counts, so pay attention to those. When you become a super-duper big time writer, you can write how many ever words you want, but for the time being, get an idea of what is publishable. Next, decide how many weeks you want to take to write a first draft and what’s feasible for you to write on a weekly basis and set a word count goal. Then stick to it and reward yourself when you hit certain milestones.
And that, my friends, is a quickstart plan for you and that awesome book sitting in your head. Just remember, writing a novel is easier said than done. And read, read, read in the genre you want to write. There’s nothing wrong with studying success:)