I’ve read many articles online about how to write a novel. All of them talk about where to write and what to prepare. Not the plan itself. To me, as someone who has experienced the hell of writing, it’s not enough to tell you this and that. I’ll show you how to do it.
In this post, I will tackle an in-depth discussion about the preparations you’re going to do prior to the writing process per se. Writing is writing. It’s your pace and the methodology you’re going to apply is under your jurisdiction. It’s totally your decision.
What I can do is to give you a clear picture of the planning process involved in writing a novel. From creating your strong premise to knowing your characters until the novel outline, we’ll discuss all of those in one post.
This is a long post. So, bear with me by applying what I’ll teach you now in your own novels (if you already have a book idea) or in your future novels (if you haven’t had one). *winks*
Further, I’ll use some of the most popular Korean drama series as analogies or examples to make everything as clear as possible. Especially when creating a premise, it’s important to use the famous Kdrama series (aside from I love them) but to give a clear picture of what I’m talking about.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
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How To Write A Novel Step #1: Write A Strong & Clear Premise.
A premise is basically the foundation of your novel. It’s composed of 1 to 2 sentences giving you, as the writer, the clear picture of what you’re novel is all about. It’s a single core statement wherein it tells you, the author, the outcomes of your characters in the story from the actions made.
Most of the time, the premise follows the vital question, “How can you know if a [book] idea that excites you today will have long legs over the long course of developing a book or series of books?” Basically, it means will your book concept thrive in the long run as your writing phase goes smoothly or not.
I’ve experienced that a lot. I have a quite list of book concepts, which I think is great to write a lengthy novel about it. However, the more I immerse with that concept, I imagined if it’s good enough. Of course, there’s no right and wrong when it comes to choosing your novel concepts. What I’m trying to say here is whether or not you can make a good story from that concept.
Let’s say, you want to write about Romeo and Juliet facing an apocalypse. It’s a great idea. But do you think you can make a good story from it? How do you think these characters will do it? Will you stick to the classic or you take a bold decision to tweak William Shakespeare’s greatest work for the sake of your favorite apocalypse theme? It’s up to you.
The game is yours, baby.
The important thing is, if you want to take my Romeo and Juliet concept, you need to write a strong, clear and concise premise.
When identifying a good premise, you need to have the following secret sauces to write a strong and clear premise (not just a book idea or concept or a situation). I’ll tell you the differences later. For now, focus on the important things your premise should have:
- A clear protagonist. Who’s the main character of the story?
- A clear resistance. What’s blocking your main character from achieving what he wants? Who or what stops him from doing what he wants to do with his life or in his journey?
- A clear problem. What is the main conflict that exists in the story? What is the core problem your protagonist has to solve?
- A clear end goal. What drives your protagonist to go through the hurdles of his journey? What does he want to achieve?
You see, the main character wants to achieve the end goal, however, the resistance keeps him from achieving it. In the long run, he gradually changes himself either for the worst or the best compared to how he was from the very beginning.
You’ll notice when you watch the popular Korean drama series What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, for example, the main character Lee Young Joon is an arrogant, narcissistic, and cold boss to his secretary Kim Mi So. However, with his quest to convince her not to resign from her secretarial job, he didn’t notice the changes he’s making for himself. The changes that made his family happier than before.
These factors need its presence in your premise. How can you do that? I’ve compiled strategies, which is basically the anatomy of the strong premise, to make it easier for you.
Step #1: Determine your “when” clause to give a vivid picture of your main character.
If we use the same Korean drama series What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim written by Jung Eun-young (based on the popular Korean novel of the same title), we’ll have it this way.
When a narcissistic boss feels strange as his workaholic secretary for 9 years suddenly asks for resignation…
Step #2: Make sure your character joins one to two more supporting characters with purposeful intention.
The narcissistic boss teams up with his best friend, who’s been divorced, to learn her reasons behind her resignation and convince her to stop her from leaving the company and continue to work for him as her secretary instead…
Step #3: Use an “until” clause to let an external force generate the disorder or the chaos affecting your protagonist’s decisions towards his end goal.
Until the kidnapping incident taunts him and his secretary, provoking intimacy in their professional relationship to a more romantic one…
Step #4: Use the “leading to” clause to show an end goal your protagonist wants from the beginning.
Leading to the confrontation of the kidnapping incident making the narcissistic boss and the workaholic secretary comfort each other towards healing without knowing the building up the romance between them.
Step#5: Combine the 4 clauses to make a clear premise.
When a narcissistic boss feels strange as his workaholic secretary for 9 years suddenly asks for resignation, he teams up with his best friend, who’s been divorced, to learn her reasons behind her resignation and convince her to stop from leaving the company and continue to work for him as a secretary instead. Until the kidnapping incident taunts the two of them, provoking intimacy in their professional relationship to a more romantic one, leading to the confrontation making the narcissistic boss and the workaholic secretary comfort each other towards healing without knowing the building up the romance between them.
Now, it’s your turn.
Exercise #1: Based on your book idea or concept you have in mind, do the same process I did to create your own strong and clear premise. Share them in the comments below.
How To Write A Novel Step #2: Create scene sketch ideas. Interview. Research.
My favorite method is using the index cards when writing specific scenes I want to include in the novel. I call this the “Index Card Technique.” If you’re on the techie side, Scrivener and Dabble Writer have these features you can utilize.
I also have the traditional index cards for one of my novels, too. You can see some of them below.
In this phase, it’s important to conduct research before writing your story, especially if you’re story involves crime, murder, business like those of Billionaire or CEO genre. Recently, Wattpad implements a separate category for Billionaire stories.
Anyway, since my upcoming books involve CEO to CEO plot, I interviewed my cousin who’s working as an account officer of one of the biggest in the country. I wanted her input on the acquisition process and what steps are involved or outcomes, alongside the research I’ve been doing and studying the CEO terms to make sure I write the book well.
With my book Accidental Quest, I interviewed my neighbor who’s working in a Provincial Court and a Law School graduate of one of the prestigious universities in the country. Like my cousin, I wanted his input about the crimes and murder, specifically the authorities’ judgment based on the existing laws of the country. I wanted to make sure my plot is as realistic as possible. Because of that, I changed my plot many times in accord with his answers.
This is why I want you to make an in-depth research and interview experts involved in your book if you can. It’s part of your task as an aspiring author. You don’t want to present yourself a sloppy writer, right? Just a pro tip, make sure your facts are right before you start writing your book. This part of the planning itself. Sign up to receive more writing tips right in your inbox. Click here.
How To Write A Novel Step #3: Interview Your Characters.
One author I know, Neilani Alejandrino, the author of The Girl He Never Noticed, shares her method how she develops her characters as specific as she can. She used the same technique to her books that made her a Wattpad star. In fact, one of her books has been adapted as a television series.
The thing that stuns me most is how she makes a resume or more like a biodata of each character. From the eye color, hair color, height, weight, mannerisms, beliefs, motto, the list goes on. If you can do the same thing as her, great for you. I don’t use the same technique though.
I do it in a paragraph form and instead of using specifics, I use the characters’ background stories how he or she becomes the person I see or the readers see today. I need them (or even myself) to reveal their selves to me. There are times, believe it or not, I ask them what happened.
- What happened to you why you become like this?
- Why do you react this way? Is there something you want to tell me? you’ve been hiding from me all this time?
- Did something happen in the past that caused this chaos?
- What are the unresolved issues from the past can further complicate the plot’s spiral of events?
Series of questions.
Do the same. And you’ll discover a great gem. As you go deeper to your characters, you notice that gradually they become close to your heart. And that’s the secret sauce of a great novel. It needs to be personal to every author, including you.
How To Write A Novel Step #4: Identify your settings (where your plot takes place).
It’s very important you know the place where you got the inspiration for your book. If not, the very place where the story takes place. Perhaps, it’s your local burger stand or a park. Maybe the nearby spooky woods or the old house in the next block.
One of my upcoming books Bound For Revenge (it’s my first time to reveal the title though) takes its form from a local carnival. While walking down the main highway to the nearby mall, my sister and I see the construction of the old-looking carnival. Because of that, my sister suggests the book idea. Through the same technique I taught you earlier, I developed her concept to a premise making the story stronger and clearer.
My gay romance novel The Rival is from my university where I graduated from college. And so my teen fiction in the Filipino language 30 Days With Mr. Weirdo. The locations I used in these novels are from my alma mater.
When writing your premise today, what is that place you think it’s best as a reference for your book? If you’re writing horror, like an author I know, Jakayla Toney on Wattpad, she refers to the abandoned houses and buildings as inspiration for her horrifying books. I’ve read her books and it’s effectively used to create an eerie feeling in her works.
Exercise #2: Go out and explore the settings (you think is apt or perfect) for your book concept or idea. Share them in the comment section below. It’d be fun. 🙂
How To Write A Novel Tip #5: Combine everything from Tip #1 to #4 to create a novel outline.
When you apply the first step to the fourth, it’d be easier for you to create a novel outline rather than playing games and wasting your precious time searching for how to start writing your novel. It’d be frustrating. I’ve been there and I deffo know how it feels. This is why I write this post with a specific goal: To teach you how to write a novel. Period.
Using the elements you learned from the first step, you’ll have the following in your outline:
- A strong and clear premise
- A clear description of your characters (everyone including the protagonist/s, antagonist/s, and the supporting characters)
- An organized sketch of the scenes you want to include in your novel
- A definite setting/s you want to use as a reference for your book concept
Pro tip: To make everything as organized as you can, you can take advantage of bullets to shorten the time you review your outline whenever you start writing. You don’t want to spend skimming paragraphs again, right? It’d be better if you use bullets to condense your novel outline. Here’s mine: