There are probably as many ways to write a novel as there are novelists. A fiction writer tries out other writer’s ideas for putting together a book, eventually learning what works best for her. Writing a novel should not be done using a formula because you risk your novels reading like those that came before. However, if you are a beginning novelist, a formula may be exactly what you need to get you started. Once you get through your first draft, you can keep what works and replace the rest with your own novel writing steps.
Start with a short synopsis. Write the essence of your novel in one paragraph. It should include your main character (protagonist) and why she is the star of your story. What is the huge climax (the main character’s darkest hour)? How will it be resolved? If you don’t have all of this information at first, don’t worry, it will come. Just write as much as you know.
Know your main character better than your best friend. Write down everything you know about her--physical, mental, emotional, attributes, her past, her hopes for the future and her failings. A main flaw is an important point in her characterization in order to make your novel successful. She will need to overcome this flaw or grow by the end of the story and this will most likely be how she resolves the climactic problem.
Give your main character a confidant. It could be a best friend, sibling, parent, grandparent or neighbor. She needs someone she can trust and with whom she can discuss events and thoughts. This character should be colorful, but not outshine the main character.
Plot your novel in three parts. The first part is known as the hook. It should “hook” the reader into your story and give some character background. The first third of the book should end with a trigger that turns the story in an unexpected direction.
Plot the second part of your novel. It should include the main character’s crisis over the trigger found in part one. She struggles with how to handle the crisis and comes to an epiphany of why she must be find a solution to the problem rather than running away.
Plot the third part of your novel. This will include the climax (darkest hour), even darker than the previous crisis. In a novel, events should go from bad to worse. This is the last part of the plot and will show how the main character resolves the climactic situation. Finally, the last chapter will tie up all the story's loose ends.
Go back to your synopsis in Step 1, and expand it into a page and then two pages, including the information you’ve put together in steps 2 through 6. After you have a few pages, figure out how you can segment your material into chapters.
Each chapter should read like a mini book in itself. The only difference is you should start with a hook and end with a hook, except for the last chapter. You want to have written a novel the reader can’t put down. Take a deep breath. This is only your first draft.