I’ve found for me that I have to let a novel grow in my head before I start putting it down on paper. The basic idea hits me from out of the blue. I could be watching my son play basketball or sitting in a local coffee shop. The idea slams into me. I want to get it out, but I know it is only a small idea right now. It is just an embryo that has to grow into something much bigger before I can start handling it. It’s got to grow in my head.
Rarely, at least for me, does a story come fully born like Athena from Zeus’ head. It has to start small and then grow into something so much bigger and powerful. You have to allow it to grow. When you do, you’ll find that it might become something you never dreamed of.
Everyone’s methods are different. I like to play the storyline out in my head like a movie. I start at the beginning and work through the whole plot. This part might last weeks or months. It never ends up exactly as it starts. The develops to such degrees that in the beginning I never would have thought of.
During this mental development, issues are worked out. The plot is fixed and smoothed out to flow evenly. I rethink scenes and ‘rewrite’ them. Over and over they go through my mind. When I do start to write it, the story has changed dramatically. Scenes have developed into much deeper ones than I originally thought of. Even as I write they change, but at least I’m starting with something more developed than it was say a couple of months earlier.
Think about one scene at a time. Just play that scene over and over in your head. Work out its kinks. You’ll save a lot of time and frustration by doing this.