When you write your novel, do you spend any time brainstorming and outlining, or do you fly by the seat of your pants? I used to exclusively pants, but doing so resulting in uncompleted work. It wasn't until I took time to learn the art of outlining that I finally finished my first novel!
Now, whenever I write a new story, I do a lengthy brainstorm session even before I outline, and once my outline for my plot is figure out, I pants, so my creativity can shine through. Doing so allowed me to finish my first novel in under a year and significantly diminished writer's block.
So with that, I thought I'd share my top tips on how to brainstorm your novel effectively!
"Many psychology studies suggest that there are brain-friendly benefits of writing notes by hand that you can’t get from typing. Writing by hand activates more parts of the brain than typing, and can also jumpstart creativity." - Psychology Today
I highly recommend this. Whenever I had writer's block I would take our my trusty notebook and write freehand and the ideas poured in.
In my notebook, I write (in bullet form) plot points, setting, scene and character ideas, and this initial brainstorm helps me create a full outline.
I can't stress this point enough. If you plan to publish your book commercially, you need to know the ins and outs of the genre you're writing, as well as your target audience.
It will not only make a difference if you go the traditional publishing route, but also if you self publish. Categorizing your novel properly when selling your book through Amazon channels is vital. If you want your book to sell, you need to market it properly so your book reaches your target audience.
Here are some examples below based on romance genre:
Example one: if your story has romance elements but doesn't end in a happily ever after, it wouldn't be categorized as a romance novel. Mainstream romance novels have happy endings.
Example two: If your romance story focuses on the couple and less on the plot and has a lot of explicit sexy scenes, that would be categorized as erotica and not contemporary romance.
Example three: If your romance story has characters who are under 18 and there's a lot of explicit sex scenes, that may not fit the Young Adult (YA) genre because there's not often explicit sex if the couples are under 18.
There are differences between YA romance, New Adult romance and Adult romance, so make sure you research each one to understand where your story falls.
Another vital thing when researching your genre is to understand the standard word count for that genre because there are industry standards, especially if you plan to publish traditionally.
The average word count for a novel is between 60,000 and 110,000 words but there are industry standards for particular genres that you should aim for:
Adult Contemporary fiction : 60,000 - 90,000 words
Young Adult fiction: 60,000 - 90,000 words
Mystery: 40,000 - 80,000 words
Young Adult Fantasy - 90,000 words (300 pages)
Adult Fantasy - 90,000 - 200,000 words
Science Fiction - 50,000 - 150,000 words (170-500 pages_
It's perfectly fine if your novel doesn't hit the exact word count, but say you're writing a contemporary romance and you have 200,000 words -- you would definitely have to cut a lot.
Do yourself a favour and research this before you write! It will save your sanity in the editing stage.
The best inspiration comes from reading other books in the genre you want to write.
It also gives good examples of elements you should include in your own novel -- especially if the book you're reading is commercially published.
Pinterest is an amazing tool for brainstorming your novel, especially character, setting and world building. I have Pinterest boards for each character because it helps me visualize them better. It's also a great avenue for research if you need to learn more about a specific industry or city. Here's my Pinterest handle if you want to follow me!
Pinterest is also great for making aesthetics for your novel. Many authors on Wattpad and Instagram like to share novel aesthetics - a collection of photos that set the tone and theme of their novel.
Here is one I made recently for a novel I'm working on:
Many authors use photos like these when engaging on social platforms. Just make sure that you properly attribute or receive permission to distribute/share photos and other media so you don't face legal consequences.
I can't tell you how much music has shaped my story and scene ideas. I love making playlists that fit the mood, theme and tone of my story. I like to throw music on when brainstorming and let my mind wander. It's a great medium when you have writer's block.
Movies and television shows have inspired most of my stories so I highly recommend checking out media relevant to your genre!
My paranormal romance was inspired by the TV show Lucifer (although I don't have any elements of the devil in my story). I love how the show incorporated mythology and folklore into their plot, and it led me to adding elements of slavic folklore into my story.