Wouldn't it be great if there was a formula for plotting your novel, and all you had to do was fill in the blanks with your wonderful prose? You can actually find this kind of formula - just Google "formula for plotting novel" and you'll come up with 8,350,000 results.
Which ones will work? Who knows? What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
Writers do it differently; some outline, some do storyboards, some do chapter synopses, some (like me) just write and let the story unfold. For me, characters appear and situations change as I write, and it's a fun surprise. There's no right way or wrong way. Whatever works for you is how you should do it. You may have to try different things but eventually you'll land on the process that works for you.
Once you've landed on the way to work you'll want to pay strict attention to those things that MUST be present in your novel if you're going to grab your reader: interesting and well-drawn characters, beginning-middle-end, conflict and resolution, prose that moves the story along. Click here to read Kurt Vonnegut's basics on creative writing.
Once you've written your first draft you can use a formula (see the post below) to see if your story will work. I checked my first book, What More Could You Wish For, using this formula and was surprised (and pleased) to see that my story met the requirements: a crossing over point at 25% point and a near death situation at the halfway point.
Check your work in progress...
I read post after post about how difficult writing is; how lonely, how stressful, how agonizing, how no one really likes doing it.
Here are just a couple:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
“If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” ~ William Zinsser
Oh, pish posh! Then quit it if you hate it so much.
Is writing a novel easy? Of course not. If it was everyone would be doing it. But what in life (that is worthwhile) is easy? Quit whining.
If you don't like how solitary writing is, find a critique group or a class or a writing partner. Not that they will sit with you while you're creating, but you have your characters for company when you're writing...be engaged with them; they're fabulous! If they're not, you can change them, find new ones, learn more about them, have a relationship with them.
And when you need real people around, it's simple...turn to your writing community. It is vast; it's real-life or virtual, it's one person or five or ten, it's in every bookstore and on every website. If you need people they are out there and the writing community is an amazingly supportive one. Just look around.
So now, it's time to get back to your writing, and enjoy it.
Critique groups are one of the best ways of improving your writing. As a novelist I can, and do, edit my own manuscript. Of course. That's part of the process. But that only works to a point. I've lived with this novel-in-progress and these words for a long time and even if I step away for a week or two I'm unable to distance myself in the same way that fresh eyes and a fresh perspective would. I assume things are on the page because they were in my head when I wrote those words, but not all of that makes its way into the story.
That's where your readers come in.
If you have friends who read your work in progress, know that they will tell you it's wonderful, even if they swear to be honest. And that's great to hear but it won't help your writing career.
Lesson one: friends will mostly NOT BE honest. They won't want to hurt your feelings and they won't want to presume to tell you how to write.
Honest, informed feedback is what you need and the best way to get that is through a critique group. They're not all that easy to find but when you find a good one DON'T LET IT GO!
Last year at the Chicago Writers Conference I was on a panel of authors talking about the writing process and the discussion came around to critique groups. I espoused the benefits of being in one, and bemoaned the fact that the group I'd been in had fallen apart, and that I'd been unable to find a new one. After the panel a man came up to me and invited me to join his group. And right behind him were two women who said they were both writing novels and wanted to start a group, and would I join them.
Well, I joined both! I've been with them for more than a year now and they are very different and both are fabulous! And my book is that much better because of their feedback.
How do you find a critique group? Network; ask your writer friends, post something on your Facebook or Twitter page, go to writing conferences and talk to people or look online - if you can't find an in-person group, find a virtual one.