Many writers, new and experienced, have trouble knowing where to start when writing a book. The process may be confusing, and there are so many different types of advice that it’s sometimes hard to know which one works best for an individual. Using the analogy of building construction is a way to remember the elements that make a novel work.

The Foundation Stones of a Building and the Elements of a Novel

The first step is to lay a good foundation for writing. There are four foundation corners to every novel, without which the story will crumble and fall in on itself. These four essential elements are:

  1. Idea
  2. Character
  3. Plot
  4. Setting

Every novel begins with an idea. It may be a seed of a dream, or it may be something overheard in passing. An idea may appear while reading another book or watching a movie. Astute writers know how fleeting these ideas may be, and many carry notebooks to record them before they are forgotten.

Once the idea has time to germinate, the author can decide on the characters, major and minor, and the setting. Sometimes an author may come up with a plot before deciding on the characters and setting. Whichever way the story develops, once these four elements are firmly in mind or on paper, writing can begin.

Frame the House with Character Development

Some of the most memorable novels are character driven, and some well-known authors aver that all novels are character driven. What is a plot without characters to act it out? Therefore, the walls and framed structure of the house is built on the bones of the characters.

Character development takes time, and there are many ways to do it. Consider the three step method of character development or read this article on using archetypes to create characters.

Build the Interior of the House as the Novel Plot

Although a house may look similar to other houses of the same style, for example Cape Cods, Tudors, or sprawling ranch homes, the interiors are all different. This is also true in novels. Romance novels typically have a couple meet, become involved romantically, overcome conflict, and end with a happily ever after. Yet the plots of each of these novels are different, even resulting in subgenres within the romance genre.

The plot is the interior workings of the novel which set it apart from all the others in that genre. Just as an interior decorator works to give a home a look unique to its occupants, a writer will give a voice to the plot that is unique to that story.

Add Decorative Touches during Novel Revising and Editing

The final touches are what make a home special. In a novel, these touches can be a turn of phrase, a descriptive passage, or highly polished prose. The decorative touches are what people remember when shopping for a home, which is why model homes are lavishly decorated. It takes time to accomplish these finishing touches in a home and in a novel. This four step plan for editing and revising a manuscript may be helpful.

Once all these pieces are in place, the story should be complete. A home builder may have an apprentice working to learn the trade, and writers also have to practice to learn how to write a novel. It may take many tries. But by having a blueprint to guide them through the process, they may get to the finished book sooner rather than later.