– Come up with the concept first and foremost.
– Under story concept: characters, then story and setting.
– Best way is to write it as soon as the inspiration strikes, because then I can just plow straight into character trajectories and plot resolutions. Otherwise, an outline will do in a pinch… and even then, it’s still an outline, because the novel does end up writing itself anyway!
– I never write things in order. Sometimes I’ll have a scene ready that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story’s timeline, so I’ll write that before I go into everything else, and pick it up when it’s ready. (Exhibit A: most of the sex scenes in my current WiP, which I wrote in advance of the previous events!)
– Sometimes, when I’m really stuck, I’ll start researching the setting – like which neighborhood are they most likely to live in, or which Mexican restaurant would be the best place for them to stage their big confrontation scene, or which school district are they most likely to send their kids. I’ve gone so far as to look up actual real-estate listings for a house that looks like something my MMC would own – yikes!
– Sometimes, when I’m really really stuck, I would look up graphic pegs for my characters. It could be as simple as shoes and outfits for my MCs, or it could be as complicated as combing IMDb for actors and actresses most likely to play them in the movie version. (Yes, I’m that crazy :D)
– And in any case, if I’m stuck AND tired, I just turn off the laptop, go to sleep, and pick it up again when I’m ready. 🙂