Have you got a novel in you that you've always wanted to write? Perhaps you haven't had the time? Or you get started, but can never finish it?
Well, as someone who spent most of his life trying to get one of my ideas into a finalised manuscript, and now being someone who has done it, I've found a few secrets of the trade to make inspiration easier, improve your story, and importantly, get it done. This isn't an exhaustive list, but very powerful all the same - I may write a follow up article later with more tips.
1.) Write about what you love.
Writing a book takes a long time (although perhaps shorter with the tips below :P), so you need to be passionate about the subject to keep going: researching, idea generating, editing, etc. This might be the most obvious of these tips, but it is one of the most important, and overlooked, pieces of advice since the people of Troy were told that curiosity kills the cat.
2.) If you're bored or aren't inspired with a section, scrap it and get more creative.
If you're bored with your story, so will your readers be. You may have planned for 'A' to happen, but if it is a task writing it, think about other possible outcomes - and go wild. If any bit of your book didn't fully engage every cell of your body, it needs to go!
3.) Daydream about your characters and story for the pleasure of it.
This is when you get your best ideas. It also allows you to get better acquainted with your characters. It gives you out-of-the-box ideas. It gets you in the flow. I don't know how - but it does - so try it.
4.) Jot every idea down.
Good, bad or ugly, write them down, or you'll forget them. I wrote enough alternate story directions for The Last King of Shambhala to complete at least ten completely different books, allowing me to choose the best and build on them. Sometimes an idea will seemingly be useless, but it will later spark a better idea, or will fit perfectly somewhere else later on.
5.) Create impossible problems for your characters, plan them out, and then look for creative ways to solve them.
The bigger the problem, the more tension and excitement. These can be physical disasters, or emotional tangles ... But a combination is even more powerful.
Further to this, in those "will he make it or won't he", there is nothing like (even if it is a BIG cliche) a character seemingly dead, but then to emerge out of the smoke alive to the relief of their companions.
6.) Want to write quicker, plan out every chapter.
I wrote The Last King of Shambhala in five or more years. There were a few reasons it took half a ten year old's life, but one big one was I planned it out as I went.
This meant it was more creative than it may have otherwise been, but if you have a more simple storyline, and want to write it quicker, plan it out chapter by chapter. It doesn't need to fit the chapters, you can be open to new directions, but it will save so much time.
I wrote the novella Don't Shoot the Messenger in three weeks. Why? I planned out every chapter (and it was about 35,000 words rather than over 100,000, I guess).
7.) Show not tell. Adam is NOT "angry".
Everybody makes assumptions of others by how they perceive them, therefore readers will get to know your characters better when you 'show' not 'tell'.
For example, don't say "Adam isn't happy and wanted his boyfriend James to know, no matter how childish he seemed", instead say "Adam crossed his arms and glared out the window, periodically glancing back at James and huffing until his lover diverted his eyes from the Playstation and onto him."
Yes, I made that example on the run, so it isn't Dickens. Or even Meyer. But you get the point.
8.) Research - the key to opening creative doors
Research, research, research. If you have followed step one, this will be fun. If not, read step one again.
Knowing more about the subject allows for accuracy, but more importantly, it expands your mind, dude, and allows for more creative direction and solution.
9.) Quick 'cheat' way to bulk up the persona of your characters - write in another's voice
A quick way to create better characters is to play about with the voice or mannerisms or persona or beliefs of a famous movie or book character, or famous person, or of someone you know.
Your character shouldn't be a rehash of some other character however, by doing this, you might be able to develop your character in another direction by mixing elements and mannerisms of this character with your current character.
I'd suggest even mixing multiple characters with your original character, but still keeping the essence of him or her.
Extra tip: Try using a character that is completely out of place. Like Fran Fine as the voice of an evil warlock, or the Terminator as a flight attendant, or Goofy as a werewolf.
10.) If uninspired, watch inspiring videos on YouTube before getting into writing
Some times you just aren't in the zone. If you have a chapter about a romantic date, go onto YouTube and watch a montage of BBC adaptions of Jane Austin movies for five minutes. If it is a boxing scene, watch a Muhammad Ali fight montage. This isn't for copying, it just gets the juices flowing.
If you'd like to see the result of putting these tips into practice, you can now buy The Last King of Shambhala at any good online book store.