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As you ponder how to develop a plot for your story, you can start by developing productive work strategies to guide your creative process.



James Patterson Teaches WritingJames Patterson Teaches Writing

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If you’ve spent any time writing you know how hard it can be to organize all your ideas in one place. Whether you spend most of your time blogging or writing short fiction, story development is one of the most important parts of being a successful writer. Below are some tips for organizing ideas for the purposes of writing a novel.

6 Steps for Developing Ideas for Your Novel

Learning how to organize your ideas and streamline your thoughts can help turn a strong premise into a bestselling book. Whether you’re a bestselling author trying to organize your writing projects as you plan your next bestseller, a nonfiction author working on the first draft of your first novel, or a first-time novice hoping to learn the ropes of book writing and self-publishing, here are the steps for developing a streamlined writing process:

  1. Commit to a routine. One of the most important parts of the story development process is establishing a writing routine. Having a designated writing time in a specific writing space (whether in the home or outside at a library or coffee shop) can help you have a more consistent creative output. It’s important to figure out a consistent routine before you start the writing process. Many professional writers find that having a daily word count or set daily writing session helps them break through writer’s block and start new projects. You don’t need a lot of time to start a novel, but you need to be diligent with how you use your time.
  2. Freewrite. There’s nothing better for generating your next book idea than a good brainstorm session. Freewriting or working with writing prompts can help you generate new story ideas and rework existing ones. Using a mind map is a great way to organize your thoughts and connecting ideas that may work as part of a larger story. Mind-mapping is an important part of the creative process for many fiction writers and is one of the many writing tools you might consider adding to your process.
  3. Organize your story ideas. One of the earliest things you learn as a writer is how to clearly organize your thoughts. Teachers impress upon middle school and high school students the need to develop a clear and concise thesis statement for the purposes of writing a coherent and logical persuasive essay. While creative writing is a bit different, the need to organize your thoughts is no less important. Have a central location that you keep your story ideas. This can be a journal or a Word document. The most important thing is you have a central database with short synopses and keywords for story ideas that you’ve come up with. You never know when an idea will come in handy. Sometimes you can be stuck on a premise that later develops into a short story or novella.
  4. Flesh out a basic plot. Once you have an idea that you want to develop further, it’s time to flesh out a good plot and focus on story structure and plot development. Whether you use, sticky notes, note cards, or index cards doesn’t matter, so long as you have an ever-growing timeline on which to build your plot structure. You can always use a computer document to chart plot points and backstory, but many writers find that having a large physical space like a whiteboard or corkboard helps them visualize the plot better.
  5. Develop characters. Once you have a fairly good sense of how your plot will unfold, it’s time to consider the character arc of your main character. Different writers work through character development and plot in different orders, so once you have some experience, you’ll be able to determine what works best for you. Sometimes your way into a story will be through character, other times a plot might develop in your brain before you can develop the characters fully. The important thing is to keep detailed notes for your character's motivations. This will allow you to organize your thoughts and build strong and compelling characters.
  6. Create subplots and bridge gaps. Once you have a detailed plot outline and well-defined characters, it’s time to develop subplots, fill in the blanks, and tie up loose ends, starting with the big picture and then working your way down to the details.
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