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I have many abstract ideas for a novel, including characters, storyline etc.. I have found that writing my ideas down helps make them more real and concrete.The problem I am having is that I will write a scene for the story, then I will work on character development, then I will work on outlining the rest of the plot, and it all seems disorganized. Is there a sequence on how to truly begin to write a novel, or is this a pretty normal process?

  • Stephen King said that writing down ideas is the best way to get stuck with bad ideas. He said the right book to write is the one thats coming up again and again in your mind until you just want to sit down and write it. – SorryThatIamGuest Aug 9 '17 at 13:23

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Yes, it does sound like a pretty normal process. It sounds like you are doing some great exploratory writing right now. I'm in a writer's group, and we all have different processes. You sound like you are one who writes to figure out what they want to write. Others like to plan everything before writing a single word. I fall into the former category and it sounds like you do as well. The most important thing is to trust your process and let it get stronger as you do so. Keep writing. See it as something with its own life that you nurture and attend to regularly and it will grow. Its own organizing principals will emerge as you continue to discover what it is that you want to write about, too. This approach drives planners types nuts, but it is a legitimate one, just more organic. Keep all your notes in one place, and periodically review and reflect on the growth, and make decisions based on what you've discovered so far. Then you'll be able to always make decisions about what your next step forward needs to be. I wrote an entire first draft that way. Then, I took what had arisen and used it to make a formal plan for the second draft by utilizing a book on novel planning, called The Marshall Plan, by Evan Marshall. Good luck! Happy novel growing!

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At the heart of every novel (or almost every novel, at least) is someone who wants something and some form of opposition, internal or external, that stands in the way of their getting it. The novel is their quest to attain what they desire and how they either overcome or are overcome by the things that stand in their way, and the things that they either have to change or realize about themselves as they face the moment of crisis.

Your novel starts when you figure out who you character or characters are, what they want, what stands in the way of their getting it, and what moment of crisis they will be brought to -- usually a moment of moral crisis, a crisis of values -- before they get it or lose it.

Some writers seem to go on for a long time building worlds, imagining characters, and planning out plots without ever getting to these essential ingredients: desire, opposition, and crisis. Perhaps they will eventually find these things in all the rest of the planning, and perhaps they won't. But until they do, the novel has no heart, no spring, no motive force.

Find your desire, your opposition, and your crisis, and you have the indispensable ingredients you need to begin.

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I've been told I'm the local contrarian - a badge I shall wear with honour!

There is no writing process. There is only 'your' writing process, and only 'you' can discover what that is.

I do not outline. Outlining doesn't work for me. If I outline, I already know what happens. Like watching a film you've seen before, the writing becomes a chore rather than a joy.

Unless you're writing Y/A, character development isn't really a thing. People don't really change. What you are doing is character exposure or revelation. And it isn't something you should need to do consciously. Every time your character interacts with another character we learn more about him. Is he confident? Does he fight or flee? How is he with women? Does he like pets? What makes him the way he is?

I've just written the first chapter (1200 words) of my latest novel. All that has happened is that the character has walked from the metro station to her office cubicle. We know she has a good life. She is 29, single, and a financial analyst. I know that I am about to destroy her perfect life, and I know that technology will be the root cause. I also know she's going to need help to get her life back - Who? How? I've no idea. I'm not certain she will get her life back. Maybe she'll like her new one better?

There are many ways to get started. Put two characters into a scene (Char 1 & Char 2), let them interact. Do they fight, flirt, fall in love, rob a bank?

Set that scene aside. (Situation A).

Tell us, detail the journey, how Char 1 arrived at Situation A.

Explain how Char 2 arrived at Situation A.

Now tell us what happened next.

You're off and running . . .

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    I have to disagree with your statement that character development isn't really a thing outside of YA novels. Fiction draws from life, and in life we don't stop developing because we're suddenly 18 or 25 or 50 years old. Everyone always has the opportunity to change for better or worse in both small and large ways. – William - Rem Aug 9 '17 at 17:48
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    I actually think YA has the least character development of most writing I read... – enderland Aug 9 '17 at 18:49
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There's no correct, official sequence to begin a novel, but I've found that first writing a very minimal outline or plot arc (I usually draw and annotate this on a whiteboard) for any length story helps me get an idea of where I'm going, just to start bridging the gap between initial concept idea and finished draft. Some light research helps too.

Once I've got the important plot points down, I focus on figuring out who my characters are. I find it easier to begin writing about characters who already feel "real" to me, so before I begin drafting I complete profiles for each character, draw doodles of them, tell my family about what they're like as if they're someone I met, etc. Write a few short scenes for each character that have nothing to do with the novel, just to learn who these people are.

When I have a rough idea of who the characters will be, I refer back to my plot arc/outline and begin writing the scenes I can see most clearly. Sometimes that's beginning-to-end, sometimes it's not. It's pretty common for people to write novels out-of-order and I don't think there's anything wrong with doing that at all. It may seem a little disorganized, but it's a long process and some find it helpful to fill in a few scattered scenes first and then connect the chronological dots.

Of course, plot changes and new characters and research will interrupt this process, but you're going to edit and redraft it anyway so don't let things like that bog you down. And this is just the way I like to start writing projects - what feels natural to you may be very different. It's not exactly the same every time, and you'll settle into a method that works for you. Good luck with your writing! Hope this helps

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I think for some it is. As you write more, you'll find out what works best for you and your process. Personally before I start writing I like to plot a super rough outline and maybe make some character sheets for my major characters (e.g. protagonist, sidekick, antagonist, etc...) after that I write the whole first draft out by hand without editing. Its not until after I have a rough draft I go back to work on character development and other story elements.

At the end of the day, do what works best for you and your writing.

Hope this helps and happy writing :)

-- Trynda E. Adair

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I wrote the above answer and logged in wrong (it was my first answer). I want to add to it. I often find if I am writing something short, I start with answering a question. if I am writing something long, like a novel. I start with introducing the main character and describing where he is. For instances I might say. Dale was bored. There are few tings in the world more dangerous than a bored cop on a deserted street. Now I have introduced myself and described where I am. From there I can create all sorts of mischief.

This sounds kind of basic. But I start at the beginning. Think of how the story needs to start. DO you need a certain amount of character development to tell the story? Where do the characters come from. I teach a class in report writing for law enforcement officers and one of the things I teach them is; start with why you were there. So if you character is going to steal a space ship and fly off to another galaxy, start with how he got to the place he stole the ship. Did he hitch hike? Parachute in? Maybe he stowed away in a service truck.

I also find it helps me get to the end if I already know how the story ends. My mind tends to ramble off in strange directions when I write fiction, so having a destination helps me stay focused.

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    You should note that "above answer" is not a reliable way of referring to another answers are answers are ordered based on the number of votes they get. – user16226 Aug 9 '17 at 16:51
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One great piece of advice that helped me kickstart my writing is, 'write the gist of your entire novel in just one sentence'. Once I had this ready, working on plot points, character development, and writing the scenes was pretty much easier.

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So, I do not have a lot of experience writing novels (I have a little, I have been working on one a little at a time for ~5-6 years now, though I do it for fun with no end goal), I do however have a good bit experience writing D&D campaigns, short stories, and a some small novellas.

As some have already said, there is not a really a "standard writing process". We all go about it differently. There are some things you can do to help yourself feel more organized if you are feeling cluttered or disorganized.

The first thing I like to do is a super abstract high level story board kind of thing. This would list some of the major plot points I want and already have envisioned. This document will have very little detail, things like "dragon take treasure. x fights dragon, x gets treasure". When I start I generally want 2 or 3 of these kinds of mini plots.

Then I will make a map of the world they are in and mark on my story board where the location is on the map. The map I like to be fairly detailed, things like rivers, forests, mountains, major cities (though names are not needed at this point), and other things to make it feel more real are included. This way when I go to write a scene, I can better visualize the locations since I have already created a rough outline of the area in which a scene will take place.

Next, I like to write character descriptions and backstory. I don't mean like a complete story like something for your readers to read, I am still talking in a more "notes to yourself" kind of way. I usually tend to focus on personality, character traits, and backstory as those tend to be the most important parts in my opinion. I like to do this so that when I am writing down the road, if I ever have to ask myself "what would character x do at this point in the story?". I can just look at my character sheet and see the character as I want them to be and remind myself that my character and myself do not need to act the same. It helps me get into a characters mindset basically.

Once I have my storyboard, map, and character sheets (yes sometimes I use modified d&d style character sheets for simplicity), I then will start at the beginning of the story board and try to fill in minor plot points in between the major ones, adding more detail as I go. Then I will do another pass and try to add transitions from one plot point to another. These are things like, a journey from a city to a dungeon (basically the minor elements that are not super important, but are necessary for the story to make sense). While I do this I make sure to mark locations on my map, and update or create new character sheets as characters are added and the current events of the story get added to their backstory as they move through the story.

Once I get my story board to a point where it feels like it has a material in it to be a story, I start from the top of the board and start writing... Actually that's a lie. I like to think I work top down, all neat and tidy like, but in reality, I just write whatever scene catches my fancy at the moment. But because I have most of the story already planned out, I am able to do this and not have to worry about messing up the beginning because I started in the middle or something like that.

But again, this is MY process, not a standard procedure. You can use parts of it if you like them, or not. You should do what feels right and works for you.

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This sounds kind of basic. But I start at the beginning. Think of how the story needs to start. DO you need a certain amount of character development to tell the story? Where do the characters come from. I teach a class in report writing for law enforcement officers and one of the things I teach them is; start with why you were there. So if you character is going to steal a space ship and fly off to another galaxy, start with how he got to the place he stole the ship. Did he hitch hike? Parachute in? Maybe he stowed away in a service truck.

I also find it helps me get to the end if I already know how the story ends. My mind tends to ramble off in strange directions when I write fiction, so having a destination helps me stay focused.

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There is only one correct way to learn how to write and that is by trying out what works best for you.

The mistake most aspiring authors make is to think that there is some kind of standard procedure and that they need to learn it, but that is not true. People are vastly different, and no two authors work exactly alike.

So really, what you need at this point in your development as a writer is the courage to invest some time into trying out different ways to write. Plot one novel and then write it. Do not plot another novel and simply begin somewhere and keep writing until you reach the end.

Writing is like any other skill. You wouldn't expect to know how to swim the first time you got in the water. You wouldn't expect to be a perfect guitarist the first time you hold an instrument in your hand. You wouldn't expect to become the CEO or the US president right after finishing high school. You will have to allow yourself a period of learning, and in writing, as anywhere else, learning involves experimenting and discarding approaches that didn't work.

Expect to write a lot of failed novels, before you find out what works and finally accomplish a successful novel.

Writing is an endurance sport.

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