Let’s Write a Novel #3 — Help! I Have an Idea for a Book! Where Do I Start?

Image2I’m writing a new novel and blogging through the whole process so you can learn along with me.

For anybody who just wants to dive right in, you can head over to the Google drive folder and check out some of the planning documents and notes that I’ve uploaded.


New writers often ask me where to start when they have an idea for a book. Since I’m blogging through the process of writing a book and sharing what I learned with you along the way, I thought this would be a great place to address that question.


The answer to where to start with the book idea has as many varied answers as there are writers with ideas they’re struggling to get down. I can’t tell you exactly where to start, because my writing process may not work so well for you. What I can offer you are some tips and suggestions I’ve picked up over the course of writing my novels.


Get your ideas out of your head.


You can do this by opening a Word document or a notebook and freewriting about your story concept or character ideas for whatever it is that it’s pulling you to write this particular story.


If free writing doesn’t work for you, try index cards or Post-it notes. (Or, if you favor the computer over writing longhand, you can try a free-form free-form text editor called Scapple.)


If typing or writing longhand are both too slow for you, try a voice recorder or voice to text software on your computer.


Spend at least a few days getting your ideas down. Write or dictate everything you can think of, then put it aside and come back to it when you’ve had time to process the ideas some more.


Plan as much or as little as you need in order to feel confident and excited about beginning your story.


Some writers like to plan every detail an element of their story in advance. Others don’t plan at all and just sit down and start typing, then figure it out as they go. I happen to be somewhere in the middle, and how much  I plan a particular story can vary a lot depending on how solid my idea was to begin with.


Some things you might want to consider for planning your story include:

  • an outline or story map
  • a beat sheet
  • character profiles or character sketches
  • a timeline of the story and any additional events surrounding it
  • a cast list
  • world building or physical mapping and other types of research.


The order in which you do these things and the level of detail that you put in them during your pre-writing stage is entirely based on personal preference. Focus on how the planning makes you feel rather than on a list of things you are “supposed” to do.


If you feel excited and energized, you’re on the right track.

If you start to feel bored or overwhelmed by the level of detail and amount of work involved in your planning efforts, chances are that you’ve planned enough to get started.


It’s important to realize that writing a novel isn’t a linear process. You can always stop writing and plan out a little more or update your research as you go. More often than not, you’ll find that you need to stop and do that anyway as the story evolves.


Here’s how I got started with developing my current novel, Blood Union.


  1. I did a free write about my ideas for the series of this novel is part of. (Check that out here on Google drive.)
  2. I already have a cast of characters, so I decided which characters I wanted to focus on for the first entry in the series. Then I created character profiles for the two MCs. (My first versions of those files are here and here in the Google drive folder.)
  3. I started writing some preliminary scenes with the two main characters. I didn’t know where or if scenes would take place in the novel. They were mostly for me to get a feel for what was going on in the characters lives and reacquaint myself with them and their universe.)


That was enough for me to get started, and when I felt like I had enough scene snippets, I started to think about how I would structure a story and what the outline would look like. I’ll be getting into more of that next week, so if you’re interested, you can follow the blog the Facebook group for updates.

If you find Let’s Write a Novel helpful, please leave something in the virtual tip-jar

4 thoughts on “Let’s Write a Novel #3 — Help! I Have an Idea for a Book! Where Do I Start?

  1. I love the free-writing part of the process, but sometimes trying to find anything in my nites is hirribly daunting! I’ve gathering character, stroy and world-building notes for about four or five months now for the novel I’ll be working on thus November, and my notes file is about 25 pages long in Word! (It’s supposed to be the first in a series…)

    I need to figure out a good way to reorganize those notes before November starts…


    • I use Scapple for that. Load the word doc into Scapple and reorganize it visually in there. Another option is to make a list of the main concepts/categories and re-write the notes into separate sections.


      • I’m not really a visual thinker; looking at the screen shots for Scapple, I think it would leave me more bewildered than I was when I started. I might use giant columns/rows in Excel, so I could have different sheets for the types of information I need. A bit awkward, but I’ve already got it on my computer for work reasons. Er, wait, do I have it on my good computer? Dang, maybe it’s only on the machine at work. Maybe Powerpoint, then…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Let’s Write a Novel #4 — How to Write Your First Draft Without Going Insane | Rose B. Fischer

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