Make it very simple. Make the base idea impregnable. Look at it as the capstone of a pyramid and writing the novel as descending the pyramid, building it in reverse so to speak; as you descend what is above becomes set in stone. You absolutely don't want to be making small changes that have huge effects on structure at a late stage: you want your structure nailed early on and set in stone. In every decision chose the simpler and stronger of each option. Keep making it simpler. Life complicates- it needs a simplifying shove at each stage. OK, so much for general comments, what follows is my method for novel writing, more or less. I have to say it works for me- maybe it will work for you too.
1. Get a good location that gives you a buzz. This is absolutely the single most important decision the novelist can make. NOT character, NOT story but LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION that’s what calls the shots and sets up the key parameters of story and character. Of course a character and a location may suggest themselves at the same time, but never lose sight of the need to nail down the location soundly. There’s a reason why Hardy country still exists.
The exception- there always is one at least- is when the location gives you a character who can travel. A series character perhaps.
2. Get a good story/situation that gives you a buzz. A story/situation is simply something interesting or potentially interesting in your chosen location. This is your PLATFORM. This Platform forms the storehouse for the novel- which serves to unpack what is implict in the platform. Example: location- Florida swamps, platform- a deserted house where a drug smuggler has told his straight brother to recover some hidden money. You can see the possibilities. Half or more of the battle is in having a good platform. Give up if yours isn't. start again.
3. Get good character names. With the right names the right characters will follow. Model characters that don’t ‘live’ on someone you know. Be shameless in copying. Use opposites to generate life: a bodybuilder who is studying Balzac, a policeman who loves bonsai trees. Exagerate their main characteristic. Easier to tone down exxageration than to 'tone up' a dull character.
4. Flesh out some dramatic scenes. Make sure you include a disgusting scene, a very funny scene and a scene that sends a chill down your spine- for whatever reason. Just thinking in this way should get you generating ideas.
Never explain why someone falls in love, or is obsessed by something- they just are. we always accept it when someone tells us they have fallen in love- with the most absurd things/people.
5. Make a list of scenes that broadly connect. Keep reusing stuff from the platform in an inventive way. WE love to see earlier material pop up again and affect the story. Toy Story is a great example of this. Don't worry too much about making it all watertight at this stage.
6. Refer to the card system outlined in my previous post on novel writing.
7. Start first draft
8. Finish and print first draft
9. Read first draft and make notes on it
10. make a list of bits that need doing
11. Do the easiest or the one that most attracts first. This is KEY. If you attack hardest first you’ll lose momentum and give up. The secret is to GAIN momentum by knocking off the easy stuff first.
12. Work through list gaining momentum
13. Write new list for the next day
14. When list is done print off whole book
15. Read and mark up print off
16. Make new list etc
17. Continue until satisfied
18. Send book to key readers
19. Read their notes
20. Make a new list etc
21. Continue until satisfied.