I’ve only written one novel, Secret Visions, but I can tell you what resources finally got me on the right track after a few failed attempts. My first inspiration came from the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Yearbook in the Summer 2014 issue. If you can still get this as an online download, do it. The issue has book excerpts and articles from various authors, and it includes an article that gives the optimal word count for different genres that was a tremendous help.
The very first article in the magazine is an excerpt from K. M. Weiland’s book, Outlining Your Novel. This was an eye opener for me, and I bought the book. While that book was useful, her Structuring Your Novel is indispensable. It allowed me to map out a plan to keep the action flowing. Her discussion of plot points and pinch points became my bible and stayed on my nightstand for the five months it took me to write the first draft of Secret Visions (after thinking about it for four years.)
Two free software tools that I find useful are yWriter5 for outlining and FreeMind that allows the writer to map out the story using a flexible tree-like logical structure that enables the user to add branches to the trunk. For example, for Secret Visions I had one branch for major plot points, and another branch for conflicts. These two main branches were then subdivided and the details were outlined. With these two tools, I could keep everything online and organized. Even my characters’ bios were stored in yWriter.
Finally, when I was finished with the first draft, I used Microsoft’s PowerPoint to create a timeline of major events to make sure that the timeframes made sense. Once I did this, I discovered one whole month where nothing happened, so I added a couple of murders.
I hope these tips encourage someone else to take the plunge and start writing.