If you’re looking to write a novel but don’t even know how to start, this is the writing process I followed to write my first novel and refined while writing my second.
What is the over-arching concept of your story? Is it a coming of age story or battle of dark vs. light? Often a story can have multiple themes. Along with your theme are the basics. Where and when does it take place? What genre are you focusing on? In essence, what type of story will you write?
Who will your story be about? Who will drive the plot forward? Start by understanding who your few (2-5) main characters will be. Build a character profile to help you connect to your characters.
Summarize your story into a single paragraph. Who is involved, what’s the journey, and why does it matter.
Decide how you want the story to end. Focus on the climax and refine the scene. How would your characters act or behave? How will they solve the major obstacle of the story? Once done and understood, all you need to do is get your characters there.
Where will the characters go, and who will they meet? Draw a map if helpful. This isn't a chapter outline, it's at a higher level. Enough to understand the full journey that will transpire and the significant locations the characters will visit.
What needs to happen in each act to get the characters from point A to point D. These will be your chapters.
Develop the chapter by adding the 3-5 major milestones that will happen in each chapter. These milestones will be the plot points needed to get the characters from the start of the chapter to the end.
Pick a goal. Whether it’s a page a day, a thousand words a day, or a chapter a week. Just start writing. If you get writer’s block, just write. It may end up being crap or the best things you have ever written. It doesn’t matter. It can always be changed later. Just write!