Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, once worked on a psychiatric ward, and David Lodge wrote his novel Deaf Sentence, about a man losing his hearing, when the same thing happened to him. This real-life experience brings an authentic background to the fictional stories these authors create. How do you find out if your idea for a novel has ‘legs’?
You start by taking that idea and seeing if you can turn it into a plot. Telling yourself the story of your novel is an effective way of understanding what you want to say and how you want to say it. Many writers treat this exercise as if they were a parent telling a child a bedtime story. They go to bed at night repeating their ideas in an almost once-upon-a-time format. This has the advantage of giving their subconscious a chance to work on the story as well.
Think about the details of your plot. It is all very well knowing that you want to drive from Exeter to Carlisle, but if you have never done it before and you don’t have a map or a satnav you are likely to get lost. So, you may know who your heroine and your hero are and that they are going to end up together, but what is going to happen to them along the way?