There is obviously not just one way to write.
The ideas I’ve posted below are individual ways to get you started developing your story’s plot. However, these ideas are also dependent on what exactly you would like to develop in your story–plot, characters, conflict, resolution, etc. So, try each one out and see which works best for your story!
Start to Finish
I crafted my most recent first draft of a novel this way, where instead of writing out-of-order scenes that may come to my imagination at different moments of inspiration, I first wrote the Prologue, followed by each chapter, and then the Epilogue all in order from start to finish (which was a bit hard since I had to incorporate flashbacks and other confusing elements).
Keep everything in chronological order for your first draft. Even if you decide to incorporate flashbacks or a backstory later in your book, be sure to have a good idea of your story’s timeline. This helps you stay on track with your ideas as well as character-development.
Don’t worry about describing everything in detail. Writing my story this way was very freeing, in that I could hash out the whole plot of the story without getting distracted by how to make perfect descriptions of the scenery. For example, unless I have the “perfect” description already in mind, I would just write simple sentences and sometimes even overall scene themes like, “Terri finds Nate in the corridor and they make a plan to introduce Jane to the King.”
Finish to Start
How many of you have read a book’s epilogue before even starting the book? This is usually for those of you who do not like to be surprised–that, or the beginning of a book is just so hard to get through, you would like to see if the book is even worth your time and effort to read.
The same works for writing: Where do you want this story to go? How do you want the conflict to be resolved? What moment do all of the characters’ decisions lead up to?
If these are some of the questions you ask yourself when working through your story, then try writing the ending first. Perhaps doing so will better help you to better organize and place each scene exactly where it needs to fall in your story.
One writer’s blog I found actually has what they call a Reverse Outline, which I think could be a very beneficial method for this strategy.
“Frankenstein” Your Story
This is a very common way that writers begin stories; they have a scene or a dialogue in their head and it becomes the inspiration for a whole story. Every now and then you may decide that you want to focus on a particular part of a story before you have hashed out the scenes leading up to it. This can be both beneficial as well as unpredictable: make sure that the scenes your include will make sense to the rest of the story, as well as contribute believably to character-development, once you put them all together.
Beware of creating pieces of your book in different mediums, such as a scene you write in the “Notes” app on your phone, one in Google Docs, one in Word, one in a notebook somewhere. No matter how many scenes you “Frankenstein”, be sure to keep every scene from the same story in one place; that way, you will be better apt to organize your scenes and provide transitions without repeating your ideas and wasting valuable writing time.
Create an Outline
This has one positive and one negative effect: creating an outline may help you organize your thought-process or it may cause you to focus so much on where each event falls that working on the outline may detract you from actually writing your story. However, if sone right, it can be a great help to organizing your story and specifying its details.
Some good story outline templates I have found created from another writing blogger can be found here. There are also good templates from Novel Software that focus on certain story genres, like Mystery, Romance, or Fantasy.
One way we created outlines in my undergrad screenwriting class was to write every main scene (or one sentence describing each scene) on a sticky-note and then create a rough storyboard about where we wanted those scenes to fall.
You may want to use a storyboarding platform like Studio Binder or Boords.com to get started or find a print-out template if you like doing things by hand.
This can be a good way to organize your story in a non-confusing way and can also provide an opportunity for you to flex your illustrating muscles if you want to get into more visual detail.