Posts Tagged ‘developing a novel idea’

How To Write a Good Novel: The Crisis Is the Key

The CrisisIf you really want to learn how to write a good novel, there’s one essential element that you must consider as you begin developing your story idea.  If you do this right, it will drive your novel forward with power and make your novel come alive in your imagination.  The key element that can make or break your novel is this: it must include a compelling crisis that sparks the action of your novel and forces your main character to take decisive action to solve the problem the crisis creates.  It needs to be a novel-sized problem; that is, it needs to be difficult enough that your readers feel it will take the whole novel to overcome.

The Three Keys to a Great Crisis

Novelist and literary agent Evan Marshall has defined three key criteria that you should follow to set up a truly compelling crisis that will move your novel forward and give it the juice to be a powerful page-turner.  Here they are:

1.  First, the crisis should be genre-appropriate.  For this, you need to know what genre you want to write in and make the crisis appropriate to that genre.  For example, in a romance novel, you probably don’t want the initial crisis to be a bomb discovered on a bus.  Instead, perhaps your lead would receive a letter that indicates that she has to find a husband in two weeks or she will have to leave the country.

2.  Next, the crisis has to really turn the main character’s life upside-down.  It can’t be just a mild annoyance, it has to be something that your lead can’t ignore and has to do something about right away.  This is what hooks your readers in and makes them want to keep reading.  Can you see why it’s so important to get your readers interested by giving your lead a big crisis to deal with?

3.  Third, the crisis must capture your imagination as the novelist.  It has to be a situation that you want to explore, something that you care about and are interested in.  You want it to be riveting to you personally.  It has to be compelling to you or you’ll have a hard time engaging your readers.  This is the situation that will propel your novel forward and give you the inspiration and energy to finish your novel and see it through to the end, helping your character to come through on the other side.

What’s Your Lead Going To Do About It?

In response to this crisis, your Lead character will decide to solve this problem no matter what it takes.  This decision creates your Lead’s story goal that will guide him through your novel.  Evan Marshall also defines four key elements that must be part of this story goal:

1.  The goal either involves wanting to gain possession of something or seeking relief from something.

2.  There will be terrible consequences for failure.

3.  The main character has a positive, worthy motivation that makes him or her appealing to readers.  The goal reveals your lead as heroic in his own way, worthy of admiration, and essentially honorable at his core.

4.  He must face tremendous odds… it must feel almost impossible for him to succeed.  Raise the stakes until you get there.  When you do, you’ll feel the increased energy and power it gives your novel concept.

Evan Marshall’s system for novel writing guides you to create a powerful page-turner and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for some clear direction to help you write your novel.  If you would like to learn more about his step-by-step system that shows you how to write a good novel with best-seller potential, check out my blog post here:  Marshall lays it all out for you and makes the process of writing a novel feel much more understandable and doable.

Laura M. McKenna loves to write about fiction and novel writing and has contributed frequently to various websites including She is currently blogging about her experiences using the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing software to develop her novel idea at

Fiction Novel Writing: How to Get Started Right Now

Writing a novelFiction, and novel writing in particular, can seem like a daunting task unless you have a clear plan to follow.  There are so many pieces to keep track of: characterization, dialog, plots and subplots, multiple points of view, and more.  It’s important to start things off in the right way because everything else you do will flow from that.

How to Get Started Right

In this post, I’m going to give you what you need to get started on writing your novel today.  From my experience, it’s the first step that’s the hardest.  Once you’ve got the first step down, you get excited about writing your novel and you have a better feeling for where you are headed so each step after that will be easier.

Step 1:  What Do You Want To Write?

The first step in the process is to decide what you want to write.  There are so many possibilities, so how do you decide?  The answer is simple: write what you love to read.  What kind of books do you love?  That’s what you should write.  Here’s why:

1.  Since you’ve read a lot of novels in this genre, you are already very familiar with the way these books are written.  As you’ve been reading, you’ve been automatically absorbing the structure of the stories, the kinds of conflicts and crises that come up in this type of fiction, and you know for sure what works and what doesn’t in this genre.

2.  Since you love reading this kind of novel, you will love writing this kind of novel as well.  And the enthusiasm and enjoyment you feel as you write will translate into your writing, making it fresh, vibrant, and real. characters

Step 2:  Who’s the Lead of Your Novel?

Next, you decide on the main character for your novel.  Just the basics to begin with: decide on the gender, age, and name of your Lead to help make them real to you.  Follow the expectations of the genre you chose in step one as you decide.  For example, if you’re writing a romance novel, you’ll generally have a women as the Lead.

Step 3:  What’s the Crisis?

Every novel has a major crisis that the Lead has to face early on in the story.  Evan Marshall, the literary agent and author, points out some key characteristics that your crisis should have to ensure that you come up with a great basic premise for your novel:

1.  It should be appropriate to your genre

2.  It should turn your Lead’s life upside down

3.  It should capture your imagination and make you want to know more

Step 4: What’s Your Lead Going To Do About It?

In response to this crisis, your Lead has to decide how they will solve this problem.  They set an overarching story goal that they will pursue throughout your novel, but not achieve until the very end.

I like the following four criteria for this goal that Marshall suggests.  Working within the expectations of your genre, he recommends that your goal should be about:happy writer outside

1.  Trying to get something that your Lead really wants or getting relief from something they really don’t want.

2.  High stakes: there should be terrible consequences if they fail.

3.  Your Lead’s motivation must be worthy and admirable so your readers like them and are rooting for them to succeed.

4.  Impossible odds: the problems should be so difficult that it should seem almost impossible for your Lead to succeed.

If you develop your novel idea using these guidelines, you are sure to come up with an idea that inspires and engages you.  That’s the most important step.  This basic story idea will carry you through plotting and writing the rest of your novel.  If you take the time to come up with an idea that you love, it will be the seed from which your wonderful novel will grow.

More Tips For Novel Writing

Evan Marshall has developed a great system for fiction novel writing that guides you step-by-step through the whole process of writing your novel from start to finish.  If you’re interested in writing a compelling, powerful page-turner with the potential to become a best-seller, I highly recommend that you check it out.  You can learn more about his system through this link: Marshall Plan novel writing.  His system will really help you enjoy the process of writing your novel.

I think you might also be interested in my blog about how I’ve been using the Marshall Plan Novel Writing software to develop my novel idea.

Getting Started With the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Software

getting started with the Marshall PlanSo, I’ve started using the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing software and I’m really having fun with it so far.

Getting It All Set Up

After downloading the software, I went through the quick process of installing it.  It was really easy, quick, and self-explanatory so I won’t go into how to do it here.  Then, I clicked on the desktop icon for the program, entered my name as the author, and found myself on the main template page of the program.

 Getting Oriented

I clicked on the How To Use This Program button at the top and read through the instructions.  It’s nice because the program gives you a quick overview of the Marshall Plan system and how things work, but it only takes a few minutes to read through.  This is one of those learn-by-doing programs (with lots of help along the way, of course) and I like that.  It would also be a good quick refresher for people who are familiar with the Marshall Plan from the books.  So, I’m ready to jump in and get started.  Fun!

Do What You Want To Do

The instructions let you know that you can jump in where ever you want to in the creative process according to your own inspiration for that writing session.  However,  they also give you suggestions for walking through the process step-by-step if you prefer that.  Since I’m new to the program and this system of writing, I’m going to go through each step as Marshall recommends.  To do this, I just click on each of the tabs positioned across the top of the page.

 Defining the Initial Crisis

Tab 1:  First, you click on the Story Idea tab.  Here, you read a bit about the importance of the initial crisis and how it lays the foundation for your whole novel.  You then define the gender and age of your lead character.   Then, you click the next subtab…

Deciding On the Story GoalCB030341

As a result of the crisis, your Lead character decides on their story goal.  This is what she will be working to achieve throughout the novel although she won’t succeed until the end.

The Suppose

Next, based on the initial crisis and the goal the Lead sets in response, you devise what Marshall calls “the Suppose.”  It’s phrased in this way: “Suppose this big crisis happened to my Lead and in response, she decides that she must achieve this goal.”  The Suppose  defines this crisis that will drive your story forward and the software goes over the key criteria it must meet to make your story truly compelling.  There are lots of good tips here.  For example, Marshall emphasizes how important it is that this Suppose actually intrigues you as the writer so you want to write about it and so your writing will reflect that enthusiasm.

So, I defined the sex and age of my lead and I’ve got an intriguing crisis, goal, and Suppose drafted.  I’m ready to move on to the next Tab: Working with Sections and Genre/Length.

But First… Give My Novel a Title

To save my novel file, the program requires me to enter a working title in the Title tab section, so that’s what I did.  I tested it out and I can change the title later if I like by just entering another title in this tab.

Next up is learning about the building block of my novel: what Marshall calls sections and deciding on my genre and target word length.  I’ll do that in my next post.  See you then!

(Click to learn more about the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing software)

Trying Out the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing Software Myself

I had a really fun and exciting idea recently.  I decided that I would write aMarshall Plan for Novel Writing Software series of blog posts about using the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing software to develop an intriguing new novel idea that’s been simmering at the back of my consciousness for a while now.

I’ve always loved writing.  I wrote a novel through the second draft a number of years ago, but over time I could tell that the basic premise didn’t feel right to me so I put it away in my file drawer until I could figure out what it needed.  I loved the characters and much of the story, but there was definitely something else that needed to happen to make it really work.

Meanwhile, my life went on in the usual way.

Then A New Idea Hit Me

One afternoon a few weeks ago, as I was washing dishes and daydreaming, I suddenly had an idThe Lightbulb Went Onea for a very interesting spiritual adventure novel come to mind.  I get these fun ideas periodically, and usually I just jot them down on a piece of paper, set them aside in a pile, and go on with my life.  However, this one sort of lingered at the back of my mind and began to work its way into my imagination.

I had been wanting to try out the Marshall Plan software for this blog and this seemed like the perfect idea to use for my test-drive of the software.  So, that’s what I’m planning to do over the next few weeks.

If you’re interested in finding out how it goes, please subscribe to my blog (click the little orange box at the bottom of the blog) so you’ll know when I post each update.  This should be a lot of fun… I hope you’ll join me!

P.S.  If you’re not familiar with the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, please check out my next post where I’ll give an overview of how it works.  I’d love to hear your ideas and comments as I go along, too.  See you soon!