When you start to think about a story, what you usually have are some episodic ideas. Despite their quality, those ideas are not a story, even less a novel. Those need a plot and a structure.
I’m not saying that your ideas are not necessary. Every time you have an idea, you should take note of it with all the details, situations, and pieces of dialogue. It might be useful when you have the actual story. Some of those ideas you’ll use, some you will not. You’ll never know which ones are good enough at the moment they occur to you, so write them all down.
Major steps of planning
Writing a good story or novel takes some planning. Planning a good story takes some hard work.
When preparing your story, make sure you have all the main points worked out before you start writing the first draft. For that, you can’t neglect four important steps.
1. Know the genre
First of all, you must know the genre you’re trying to write in. There is no other way of doing this than read a lot of books in that genre. Study them.
Observe their structure, realize what they have in common, the distribution of the scenes, the rhythm. Try to find out why is the book interesting (or not). The most you know about it, the better.
2. The conflict
No conflict, no story. The most critical part of your story is the conflict. It is what makes your audience interested and catch your readers.
There is no story without a conflict, which makes it a massive step towards your goal. Take all the time you need in it. Do some research on tips and good practices. The conflict is the center of everything, and you need to think carefully about it.
3. Organize your ideas
Remember those ideas you wrote before? The ones that came into your mind in the most unexpected places? That’s right. It’s time to get and organize them.
Reread what you wrote, improve the best ones and try to see where (if) they fit in. At this point, you are already working on the actual structure of your story. Start choosing what goes in each chapter.
4. Go deeper into each scene
Before you start writing the first draft, retake a look at your former ideas. At this point, the best ones should already be scenes for your chapters.
Observe what you have now very carefully, and go deeper into each scene. Add descriptions, dialogues, and other essential details. That will make your life easier when it comes to the time to start writing.
Outlining your story is, without a doubt, a great help. There are, nonetheless, authors that refuse to use an outline. Well, that’s okay, it’s not exactly mandatory, but it will definitely, make your work faster and easier.
With an outline, you can try ideas, explore them without making them permanent. It allows you to explore more without so much commitment.
The outline gives you the possibility of not being stuck at one point. You’ll always know what to write next, and as you’re writing, new ideas will keep coming to your mind. All of them help to turn the original plot even richer.
Inspiration is hard work
Many people think that a great writer has a stroke of inspiration, sits down at his desk and write the next Nobel Prize nominee. That’s far away from the truth!
Inspiration is the fruit of several months (sometimes years) of hard work. The good news is that, in the end, you might have that masterpiece after all.