I recently had a young writer ask me for ideas on how to create a plot.
Generating a plot is often much harder than you might expect, however much you may love to write. Especially if your hope is to sit down and write a complete novel. Novels are enormous efforts with all sorts of complexities. Really, what's the point of even tackling such a project if you don't even know if the story slowly forming in your mind is worth telling?
Here's a trick I have used in the past which has always helped me. In fact, I believe I have done this in one form or another for all of my most recent novels. Rather than opening a document, typing "Once upon a time," and hoping good things start to happen, I pull out a notebook and pen, and I write myself a "what if?" scenario.
For instance: What if a princess fell in love with a prince who claimed to love her back and then betrayed her? And what if there was a dragon who . . .
I elaborate from there, having fun developing plot ideas and story threads but without the pressure of trying to write a whole novel. Taking the pressure off of yourself often helps the creativity to spring to life! You can make these scenarios as long or as short as you want. When I find one I really like, I flesh it out still more, sometimes into a short story, sometimes into a novella, or even just a detailed outline . . .
And from there--when I know I love the characters and the plot, and ideas are truly raging in my head for the telling--springs the novel!
So, yes, if you're struggling with ideas, I highly recommend giving this trick a try. You can do it on a computer document too, of course . . . but I suggest the classic pad-and-pen approach. Again, there's no pressure that way!
P.S. Please do notice in the left side-bar of this blog the new button to lead you to my Freelance Editing website! After ten years of consideration, my mother, Jill Stengl (who has edited for a number of big names in the CBA market) has finally decided to join forces with me and launch Stengl Fiction Editing services. Have a look around and tell your friends! We are taking clients as of now.