Novels start with an idea. You could be sitting in a classroom, out on a run, or at the grocery store. Often I’ll be in bed, attempting to sleep, when an idea pops into my head.
The question is, what to do once you get that idea.
Most writers have many more ideas than they do time to write novels. (I do.) But in order to get and keep readers, you have to create a world large enough to sustain an entire novel- often several novels. You need characters that are strong and full. Ones that readers can identify with. (This takes a lot of work.)
So, a good place to start is with the characters. Building strong, in-depth characters with backstory (even if you don’t include all the backstory in your novel) helps you to formulate a more detailed storyline.
The same concept applies for creating a world. If your novel takes place somewhere other than Earth, or in some secret place on Earth no one knows about, creating a history is very useful. For myself, I draw a detailed map of the land and write pages on the different towns and landscapes. Most of this never reaches my revised versions, but having the background allows me to create a more realistic feel.
Believability is key. Let the readers escape their reality and plunge into your world. Some of the best novels I’ve read have made me forget what time it is or where I am. I get so involved that the characters seem real to me. I can see them, feel them, and I feel for them.
Your world has to be consistent and well thought out. The storyline needs tension, depth, and conflict. There’s got to be a sense that at any moment everything can blow up in the protagonist’s face. That threat of catastrophe is very important. If the stakes aren’t high enough, readers lose interest.
Building up to the climax, giving readers that sense of anticipation, incorporating a climax that blows them away, and then having a satisfying release are essential.
And, if you are working on a series, make sure to leave some threads unanswered. It’s never too early to think about what’s going into a sequel or the third novel in a trilogy. That way you can set up future story lines and keep readers wanting more.
How do you bring your ideas to the page?