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Getting Ideas for a Novel That Will Sell | How to Get Ideas, Choose the Best, & Save Them for Later

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Getting Ideas for a Novel That Will Sell | How to Get Ideas, Choose the Best, & Save Them for Later

Ideas are the material that all stories are made of. They are the foundation; they inspire a person to turn them into something tangible for others to enjoy. Finding great ideas to use for a novel can be a really simple job, especially when you are in an inspired mood and ideas are literally jumping out at you begging to be used. Choosing the best ones to use and saving them for later is the bigger task. How do you know which ideas will be the best ideas? Which ones will make your novel not just good, or alright, but fantastic and unforgettable? Choosing great ideas and saving them for later is an important task that doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult at all. Read on to discover some useful tips to help you in your quest to find great ideas that you can turn into an even greater novel.

How Many Ideas Do Writers Really Need for a Novel?

There is no set number for the amount of ideas that a writer needs to write a great novel, but a writer will inevitably need tons of ideas for a single piece of work. While there is no specific number of ideas required, there are, however, a few categories that a writer can fill with ideas pertaining to the different aspects of a story.

Story, Plot, and Event Ideas | Which are Essential?

If you are not familiar with the terms, story, plot, and event, then here is a brief explanation.

  • Story: The term ‘story‘ refers to absolutely everything that takes place and happens to the characters within a novel. It’s the big picture. It’s the story!

Example: A boy dreams of getting a pet dog, but his parents can’t afford to buy him one. The boy decides to earn some money to buy the dog himself, so he does odd jobs for his neighbours. Eventually, he has earned enough money to buy the dog, so his parents take him to the pet shop and he picks out a puppy pal to take home with him.

  • Plot: The term ‘plot‘ refers to events that take place within a story put in a certain order.

Example: The boy dreams of getting a pet dog. He tells his parents about his dream, but they explain that they can’t afford to get him a dog. The boy, refusing to give up hope, offers to do odd jobs for his neighbour in exchange for a small fee. He gets hired by some of his neighbours and eventually earns enough money to get a dog. His parents take him to the pet shop where he buys the dog of his dreams and takes it home with him.

  • Event: The term ‘event‘ refers to a significant thing that happens in the plot, a significant change.

Example: The boy tells his parents that he wants a dog, but they tell him they can’t afford to get him one.

Example Two: The boy, refusing to give up hope, offers to do odd jobs for his neighbour in exchange for a small fee.

Story ideas are the big picture, the plot ideas are the smaller chunks of the big picture, and the events are the pieces that the plot is made out of.

Focus on Story Ideas First, Then Plot and Event

Most writers will focus on finding a story idea first. After that, they will move onto finding plot and event ideas to fill the gaps. Story ideas are the big picture, as mentioned earlier, so if you want a solid starting point for your novel, you can find the story idea first.

You may find that you can come up with plot ideas or even event ideas before you can come up with a story idea. In that case, you can create a story idea to work around the plot, and event ideas. Find what works best for you. You will eventually need ideas to fill each of the story, plot, and event categories anyway, so it doesn’t really matter which one you start with.

Character Ideas Are as Important As Story Ideas

While solid story, plot and event ideas are essential to writing a novel, equally essential ideas as those are character ideas. Characters are what make a story. They are the make-or-break element. You can have a fantastic plot and interesting scenes, but if the characters suck, the story will fall apart.

Great characters will take your story to the next level. The story is only as good as the characters are. If you think about some of your favourite books or films, what do you love about them? What do you remember the most about them? The tender moments? The romantic scenes? The witty exchanges? The action sequences? The crazy way the plot comes all together at the end?

All of those things would not be possible without characters. I mean, can you imagine a romantic scene without any characters? No. Just no.

The point is that characters matter a great deal when it comes to writing a novel. Therefore, coming up with character ideas is a very essential element in writing a great novel.

What Kind of Character Ideas Do Writers Need?

There are many different kinds of characters to find within stories. You have main characters and side characters, good characters, and bad characters. Part of finding character ideas is considering the different types of characters to include in your story. Some of the most common character types are:

  • a hero character
  • a protagonist character
  • an antagonist/villain character
  • a side-kick character
  • a mentor character
  • various other side-characters

Keeping in mind the different types of characters to potentially include in your novel, you will also want to come up ideas for certain idea types for each character. The main types of ideas that you will want to focus on for each character are:

  • Personality Ideas
  • Physical Appearance Ideas
  • Basic Back Story/ Personal Past Ideas
  • Character Motivation Ideas

Character Motivation Ideas | Why These Are So Important

Character motivation ideas are really important for developing great characters. Character motivation basically just refers to what drives a character. What do they want? What do they not want? What do they think should happen? What are they trying to achieve or attain? What do they want to change or not change?

Each of your main characters (hero, protagonist, villain, sidekick, etc.) need to have a clear motivation. Why will they do what they do? What do they want to achieve? What will they do to achieve it?

The character motivation will answer the question: why is this character in the story?

In Conclusion | The Main Ideas to Focus on Are Story and Characters

The two main idea types that you will want to focus on finding first, are story ideas (or plot and event ideas) and character ideas (including character motivation). All other types of ideas will come as they need to. Every story is made up of hundreds of ideas, even if they aren’t all in the finished product. Start where you can and try to find story and character ideas to get your novel started.

How to Find Ideas | Where to Look & How to See Them

The best advice that I can give a writer in search of ideas is to just keep your eyes open. Pay attention to the world. Be on the lookout for ideas. The beauty is in the details. If you are looking for them, the ideas will come.

Saving Ideas for Later | What to Keep & Where to Store Them

The rule of thumb when it comes knowing which ideas to save, is to ask yourself: am I going to use this idea for my next novel? Am I likely to use this idea in the future for a different project? Will I go back to it later? Will I regret not saving it? Do I have space to store it long-term?

If the answer to any or all of those is yes, then consider saving it!

You can always get rid of unused, unwanted, or old ideas you longer desire to store. Getting unsaved ideas back is typically not very easy. Saving ideas can be a simple task. I myself have used a variety of resources for saving ideas over the years, including a note app on my phone, a pocket-sized notebook, random scraps of papers, and voice memos. To organize and store those idea notes for long-term safekeeping, I transfer them to my writer’s notebook.

Writer’s Notebooks | A Wonderful Resources for Every Writer

I will always recommend that every writer has a writer’s notebook of their own. They are simple to set-up and so useful for storing and organizing a writer’s ideas, research and inspiration. If you want to learn more about writer’s notebooks and how you can make one of your own, then I encourage you to read more about it here: What is a Writers Notebook | How to Create Your Own & Why Every Writer Needs One

Choosing the Best Ideas to Use for Your Novel

Every great novel requires many, many, ideas. If you have an idea that might work for your current novel, save it. If you have an idea that you might use for a future project, save it. If you don’t need an old idea anymore, get rid of it. There is no rule for how many or how few ideas a writer should have for a single novel.

Find ideas by looking for inspiration and use the ideas that you think are the best ones. The ideas that fuel a vision that you know will be great. If you write your best work, then there will always be an audience out there for it, waiting to fall in love with it. Ideas are the material of which stories of made. You are the writer and I have the confidence that you will be able to determine which ideas are the best ones because they are the ones that you will use to write an amazing novel.

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