Questions to ask before writing a novel

So you’ve had an idea, you developed your synopsis and chapter summaries as well as your character– and location sheets.

But how can you check that you’ve covered the main bases rather than got lost in extraneous details?

Below I have outlined nine crucial questions you need to check off before actually starting to write your novel.

  1. What does the Protagonist want?

This is the deepest desire of your main character. Make it a good one. How good? So good that someone would want to read 200 to 400 pages about it.


2. What is holding them back from getting it?

This should include inner and outer obstacles. If you have only inner obstacles, you automatically decrease the tension building in your novel. If you only have outer obstacles, your novel won’t have much depth.


3. What are they willing to sacrifice to get it?

Again this should be a good one. Not just money and time. Perhaps they’re willing to sacrifice their safety, their loved ones or their sanity. Really think about this one.


4. How far can we push them?

This has to feel realistic based on the psychological and physical attributes of your protagonist.


5. How do the protagonist’s problems relate to the problems of your target reader audience?

Readers like to recognize themselves in books. If you are writing for teenagers, it is crucial to discuss issues pertaining to them, such as bullying, sexual awakening, legal & illegal drugs.

If you’re writing for twenty and thirty-something’s issues related to career, finding a long-term partner and work-life balance are inevitable.


6. What is the outer problem?

The outer issue must put more than just the protagonist at risk. It needs to endanger people they care about, to make the protagonist move mountains in order to overcome it.

Ask what the worst outcome would be, if the outer problem is resolved, and what the worst outcome would be if it is not resolved.


7. What is the inner problem of the protagonist?

Show, don’t tell and don’t do it too early. If it is trust issues, don’t tell the reader that the protagonist has a hard time trusting people, instead show it by depicting his/her relationships. The inner problem should also be buried within your story, so that the reader has to work to figure it out.

Consider what the protagonist has to do to overcome the inner problem and what is currently stopping him/her from doing so.


8. Connection between inner & outer problem

Establish the connection between the two plot lines. All of your plot lines should be interwoven into one story.


9. How will you increase the problems throughout story?

Always remember that the tension increases throughout your novel until the climax. If you are not able to make the obstacles more difficult and the stakes higher with each chapter, you are likely to bore and thus loose your reader.


If this is your first novel, asking and answering the above questions might be a daunting task. But it is necessarily to do so to write a good story. Investing time up front, can save you weeks and months of writing that is going nowhere.

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