When inspiration for writing a novel hits in a powerful way, the decision on whether or not to write your story is taken care of. Inspiration blows all concerns out the door, and you find yourself writing anyway, simply because you just have to get the story down. You find yourself immersed in the world of your characters and the story revealing itself as you type. It’s an exciting time.
Inspiration for writing a novel
After you’ve had a seed of an idea sitting at the back of your mind for a while, anything might set off the level of inspiration needed for you to start typing: music, a photo, someone walking down the street, a conversation you overhear, a sunset, a dream, a movie or TV show, or a book or short story. For me it was a book. I found a book with the dramatic atmosphere and writing style I wanted in my book. I hadn’t known that until I read it, and when I finished the book, it was as if a plug had been removed and the words began to flow.
Images of scenes from the story appeared in my mind at all sorts of strange times. I remember stopping the car and making notes because a scene from Lethal Inheritance was burning in my brain, demanding to be released into the world. I discovered that if I wrote when the scene first appeared, my writing was easier and more immediate, more atmospheric, so I tended to stop what I was doing and go and write. Three in the morning was often a time of inspiration and I’d write for a couple of hours then go back to bed for a couple more hours of sleep before I had to get up and go to work. I lost a lot of sleep, but the thrill of uncovering a story more than made up for it.
Before that I’d deliberated over whether to actually write the book or not, but once the inspiration started flowing, the power of it was so insistent, that I felt I had no choice but to write. It was as if the story existed somewhere and I just had to reveal it to the world.
What to write
At first write whatever comes to you. It might be little snippets—descriptions, conversations or scenes—or maybe you write the beginning of your story; it doesn’t matter what. At this stage just let the words flow.
Points you’ll need to consider
At some point you need to pause your writing and consider some important points, otherwise you might write a lot of words that you have to discard later because they’re going off on tangents all over the place or focusing on something that doesn’t really contribute to the story. That’s what I did. I discarded most of the first draft of my first book because I didn’t really know what kind of story I was writing. All I had was a vague idea, and once I’d refined the concept, I found that a lot of what I’d written simply didn’t fit. I’d written background more than story, but it’s the story that’s important. The time wasn’t entirely wasted; it was all good writing practice, but I would have saved myself time if I’d asked myself the following:
- Is the story clear?—Does your story have a clear protagonist with a clear aim and an antagonist who tries to prevent the protagonist from achieving their aim? If you’ve got that clear in your mind, you’re good to go.
- What genre is it?—Know what genre you’re writing in when you start and the book will tend to naturally reveal itself in a way that suits the conventions of the genre—especially if you do some study on the topic. Writing with a clear genre in mind doesn’t mean that you can’t have other genres thrown in or that you have to write to a formula, just that you have one clear description of the overall style of your book. This will make it easier to sell your book, whether to an agent, a publisher or a reader.
- How will I market it?—Remember the elevator pitch I mentioned in the last post? If you can work out now how to make your book sound exciting in no more than two sentences, you’ve answered this question. Also thinking about what will appeal to readers will help you put those things into your book—excitement, romance, mystery, surprise, humour, conflict, adventure, action, emotion, issues and so on. You needn’t think about these things as something you need to add in, rather as things you can draw out of your story.
- Who is my ideal reader?—Knowing this at the beginning will make marketing a whole lot easier later on, and there’s something special about writing for someone. Write down things like their sex, age, interests, life experiences and so on. The more definite you can be in knowing who your ideal reader is, the better you can write for them and the easier it will be to sell your book when you get to that point.
When none of that matters
Not knowing the answer to those 4 points doesn’t matter if you’re writing purely for the joy of self-expression and personal growth. If not having your book published or not selling many books doesn’t concern you, then just write whatever you feel regardless of where it goes or who may or may not read it. If you’re writing for yourself then you need not concern yourself with being able to describe it to others or with whether or not anyone else likes it or wants to read it. Self-expression has value whether we find an audience or not, and at the beginning stages of our novel, we need to be careful that we don’t squash our creativity by insisting on squeezing our book into a specific mould. It’s a matter of balance. Have these ideas in mind, but don’t let them restrict you.
And, of course, you can start writing for yourself and later decide to see if you can get it published—that’s what I did with my first novel. Just be prepared for some re-writing.
How to get inspiration for writing a novel
Looking for inspiration for a novel? Here’s an example of how to get some: Take a look at the photo at the top of this post. Get any ideas for a central character (protagonist)? What might they have as an aim that would make for a story? e.g.; a quest, a problem, a task, a mystery and so on. What about a bad guy (antagonist)? That’s how inspiration can start. Do an internet search for images on a theme that interests you and choose an image that appeals to work with, or check out my Pinterest Boards – Steampunk; Circus, Fantasy.
This is part of a series of blog posts on how to write a novel. It won’t just cover the technical details, but also the emotional journey we take and the personal challenges we meet on the road from potential author to author. Join the journey now, and don’t miss a post, click here to sign up to get my Novel Revision Checklist and links to the articles sent to your inbox
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