Finding an Idea for Your First Novel

writing your first novel

Maybe you love writing short stories, but your dream has always been to write a full novel. You love to read them, you understand basic story structure, but how do you find an idea to carry you through 200+ pages of text? Finding an idea for your first novel doesn’t have to be complicated.

Where to Find Ideas

New writers often ask me how I come up with ideas for my books. It’s a little hard to explain until you get in the writer mindset. Ideas come from almost anywhere. You just have to be open to them.

I used to recommend new writers keep a notepad and pen with them at all times. While this is still a decent idea, most people have smartphones and you can use those to record your ideas. Either say, “Hey, Siri, take dictation” or open your notes. The great thing about speech software is you can take a note when you’re driving or doing other tasks and the great idea strikes.

There is an amazing book called THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron that helped me tap into my creative side. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve found inspiration for my books:

  • A song on the radio
  • Conversations with friends
  • Eavesdropping on dramatic moments
  • Looking at a photo and wondering the story behind it
  • Dreams
  • What if scenarios

Open yourself up to new ideas. You’ll be surprised how many are out there.

Is Your Idea Deep Enough?

You may have an idea of what you want to write but you aren’t sure if it’s enough for a full novel. It’s hard to tell when you first start writing, but some ideas are better suited to a short story.

Ask yourself how complex the problem is. Can the character solve the situation in a few scenes? If so, then you likely have a short story idea. That said, I’ve expanded short stories into novels by upping the conflict and adding to the dramatic effects.

One problem many new writers have is getting all those words down and knowing when to end chapters, etc. I’ll be videoing some lessons and sharing them that goes through all these concepts, but for now, just know that your idea needs to be something that seems almost impossible to solve.

Examples of Novel-Length Ideas

One of the best ways to learn is by studying what others have done. Here are some ideas that were full-length novel worthy. You’ll likely recognize the plots as they come from popular fiction.

  • A young woman tries to avoid getting married off to someone undesirable. A rich neighbor moves in, but is interested in her beloved sister. His friend is unbearable and she keeps getting thrown into situations where she must deal with him. She eventually comes to see his kind qualities (Pride and Prejudice).
  • A young pig is about to be slaughtered and Fern can’t stand the thought. She demands her father let her raise the pig. She soon learns he and the other animals can talk and they all hatch a plot to keep her pet from being slaughtered (Charlotte’s Web).
  • A woman is confused. She thinks she saw a missing woman while on the train. She’s so confused, though. Did she kill the girl? She can’t remember a lot due to her personal demons, which she explores as the book goes on (The Girl on the Train).
  • A couple meet and fall madly in love. Like Romeo and Juliette, they are from two worlds and the girl’s parents don’t want them together. They are ripped apart, find each other again and later ripped apart by health issues (The Notebook).

As you can see, these are all big concepts. There are many layers and issues to resolve. Just as things seem about to get better, they actually grow even worse.

Create a Storyboard

Are you still unsure if you have enough content to write your first novel? Get out a big piece of poster board and divide it into three lines with five sections across each line. That gives you around 15 chapters. Figure for around 10-20 pages per chapter.

Write the main conflict for each chapter and three to four points you’ll cover to move the reader along.

A storyboard works to help you visualize the tale. You’ll be able to spot holes in your plot. You’ll also see the highs and lows of the story. Ideally, you’ll have times when the character is happy and feels as though the solution is near. Then, you knock them back down, harder each time until the climax and resolution.

If you can only fill a few boxes, you likely have a short rather than a novel.

Read Widely in Your Genre and Out

Still unsure what you should write about? Read books in your genre of choice. Pay attention to the types of plots but also what you haven’t read about. You don’t want to just regurgitate another Hallmark channel movie where the heroine visits a Christmas tree farm and falls in love. Make it unique.

Also read outside of your genre. You can learn from any type of writing. You may even pick up ideas and bring them into another genre, creating a unique niche for your books.

Look at the World Like a Writer

I often tell my students to look at their world like a writer. Be open to inspiration from strange places. You never know when the next great idea might strike. My book HOUSEBREAKING A HUSBAND was born from a conversation with a friend where we jokingly said puppies were easier to housebreak than husbands.

My idea for my historical romance DEAR VIKING came from a dream I had of a Viking standing on the crest of a hill and looking down at a village. That book was fully born in that dream, which is quite unusual for me but may not be for you.

Be open to inspiration from unlikely sources. You can easily learn the mechanics of writing, but the creative side is a gift from God and much harder to explain. If you have a dream to write your first novel, never give up. Keep pushing forward. You can do it!

Faith Without Trust? by Ginger Solomon

Photo of author Ginger Solomon. Photo is of woman with brown hair, beautiful eyes, a blue sweater and cute dangling earrings. She is posing in an outdoor setting, but the background is blurred.
Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer—in that order (mostly). She writes or reads inspirational romance of any genre, and if she’s busy homeschooling, doing laundry, or fixing dinner, books are on her mind. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and blogs regularly for InspyRomance.com and at GingerSolomon.com.

Faith Without Trust?

Dictionary.com defines faith as “confidence or trust in a person or thing.” But how can you have faith without trust?

I think we’ve all had trust issues at one time or another. At least I have. I’ve doubted people—their motives or their words. And I’ve doubted God. I’ve questioned His love for me. I’ve asked why so many times I can’t even count them.

One thing I have come to understand is that God has always been with me. Even in the darkest moments of my life, and there have been a few, He has been by my side. When I’ve turned away, He has been faithful and remained steadfast in His love for me. No matter how I “feel” or how things seem to be falling apart, God is there.

But even with that knowledge doubts arise when I’m in the midst of a new trial. I try to place God in a box. The size of which is conceived from what I’ve been taught and the experiences I’ve had, but as Isaiah 55:8 reminds us, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.”

We are finite and He is infinite. He won’t fit in my box. Or your box. Ever. He will always be bigger and better than we can imagine.

Cahri, my heroine in One Choice, struggles with trusting God. In the beginning of the book, she wants nothing to do with God, though she continues to attend church so she can keep her job. She is angry and has lost her faith in Him. In her opinion, God no longer deserves her trust. BUT God (don’t you just love that phrase?), in His infinite grace, calls to Cahri even as she’s going through one of the hardest trials of her life. He speaks to her through art, creation, and through her memories. He won’t leave her alone. Toward the end of the book, Cahri finds herself in a situation that forces her to trust God. She has nothing left, but the small grain of faith that her parents planted in her as a child. A grain of faith that has grown because God is THERE. He is everywhere she looks, and she must acknowledge Him.

In the end, she must trust God because she, by herself, is helpless. She must trust Him with her very life.

But then, don’t we all do that every day? On some level, we trust God will continue to provide the air we need to breathe. We trust that the muscles and bones He created will provide movement and support. We trust that the cup we pour our drink of choice in will hold said liquid. We trust that the laws of physics will remain in place, that the chair we sit in will hold us, that our cars will transport us to our destination.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6 NKJV)

I think many times we believe that God is, but we fail to believe that He rewards those that diligently seek Him. Okay, maybe you don’t, but I do. I know how bad I am, and how much I mess up (aka sin) daily. BUT God (there it is again) is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all of the bad stuff (1 John 1:9)

In my novel, God protects Cahri from herself and from others. He is there for her, even when she doesn’t feel his presence. And, as in any novel I write, she has a happily-ever-after.

He’s there for you, too. Every day. And if you believe in Him, trust in Him, have faith in Him, you will have a happily-ever-after too.

If you have a need that you are comfortable sharing, or even if you don’t share, but just need some prayer, leave a comment and I will pray for you.

More About One Choice

Cover for One Choice by Ginger Solomon.
Order Your Copy of One Choice

Cahri Michaels is American by birth, but Belikarian by choice. Being selected to participate in the Bridal March forces her to give up the independent life she’s created for herself. She’s not ready to be anyone’s wife, much less to a man she doesn’t know.

Prince Josiah Vallis despises the centuries old tradition—the Bridal March—that is forcing him to choose a wife from fifty women. Why does it matter that he’s twenty-five and still single?

When Cahri and Josiah meet, passion ignites. Will it spark a godly love that can see them through or will they be burned, never to be the same?

 

 

Why Success Shouldn’t Matter to Writers

 

cupidscrossing
Cupid’s Quest is on sale for only 99 CENTS! Get your copy today  View a trailer of the book at the bottom of this post.

It is easy when you are writing book to get focused on the bottom line. How many books am I selling? I’ll admit it – There have been times when I’ve clicked on my own book’s link multiple times in a day to watch the ranking and see if there are any new reviews.

When you hear success stories about someone you know hitting that # 1 spot on Amazon’s bestseller lists, or hitting the New York Times, it is easy to compare yourself to those writers. I’ve done it. I suspect anyone published has done it.

I’ve thrown money at advertising, tried book tours, and offered contests and giveaways in the pursuit of gaining new readers. And while these things are not bad in and of themselves, when you are spending as much on promotion as you are making then you might want to reconsider your focus.

That’s why I recently did a lot of soul searching about my fiction writing. I am lucky. I have a husband with amazing benefits through his job. This allows me to work for myself. I am also lucky in that I make an income from my nonfiction writing, editing, and web design business that I’ve built over the years. I spend about 2/3rds of my time ont hat and 1/3 on my fiction.

Still, fiction always has been and always will be my first love. My dream is to one day just write fiction. But, that dream seems pretty far off and it is easy to get discouraged that I might never reach that goal. I have a dual-sided perspective. I’ve been published with a bigger publisher (Thorndike), I have been with a small press (Amber Quill), and I am now indie publishing my books. I’ve sold foreign rights (Japanese so far). You see, I’ve gotten the advances, earned out on them, gotten smaller checks here and there and still not made enough to write fiction full time. I suspect I am in a big group of published writers. Part of the reason I decided to take control of my own books was because there were sales that never showed up that I know for a fact were made because I bought them myself to “gift” to readers during a book tour and to see if they would show up.

One thing with that complete control, though is that I can also track sales daily. This can really put one’s focus on sales. Sales are not why I started writing. At first, I was writing for myself. I was writing because I loved it. It was so much fun.

During my soul searching, I realized that writing is still fun but that I need to get back to the reason I sent that first book to a publisher so many years ago (it was rejected, by the way). My goal is to write a story, to have fun doing it, and to hopefully touch just one person’s heart or make them look at things in a different way. If I accomplish that, what an amazing thing. How many chances in life do we get to impact another person in that way?

So, if you are writing to get rich or focused on how “successful” you are, it is time for you to do some soul searching as well. There’s nothing wrong with making money off your books, but what is the core reason you are writing? What drew you to writing in the first place? If you can recapture that, you can recapture your passion. Isn’t living a life doing something you are passionate about the true definition of success?