I recently read a new writer asking, “How do you get started writing your book?” Many answers were of the “just start” to “write every day” variety. But I don’t think those answers went deep enough. Or maybe far enough back.
The writer knew the theme of what she wanted to write, but seemingly not much more. Here’s what I think is important:
LEARN THE BASICS OF THE CRAFT
Plot, characterization, dialogue, scenes, setting, narration, pacing, transitions, action, backstory, flashbacks, theme, main character’s goal(s), secondary characters, conflict, tension, cliffhanger chapter endings, varied sentence structure, etc. Do you understand these concepts/ideas at some level? Do you know that stories have a beginning, middle, and end? Do you know what a story arc is? Do you know the audience and genre where your book idea would fit? Do you know the average word count for those types of books?
Most of us don’t know these things naturally, although some of it is absorbed by enthusiastic reading. But there are lots of resources out there to learn the basic craft of writing: books, articles, blog posts, online classes, face-to-face classes, conferences, workshops, and writing groups.
I think the best of these include writing exercises. It may not feel like making progress writing your book, but practicing writing a conversation, an event, a scene, a beginning, etc. can teach so much. And if you have an instructor or mentor who tells you what you (and others) are doing right and wrong, even better.
“You write a book by deciding first what you’re going to write and how you’re going to write it.” – Jeff Goins
Here are what I think are important steps to planning (not in any particular order as it can change for each book project):
Some people outline at this stage. I am not an outliner. You can see my process here. And here’s a good article on outlining: “7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story” by K.M. Weiland
Pick a circumstance that your character is involved in—often the moment where everything changes—and start writing. Will this be the first chapter of your story? Possibly, possibly not. But it is a way to get your first draft going. When you’re ready to start your story, read this blog post that has lots of resources. And check out “Novel writing basics: 10 steps to an unputdownable book.”
Some do so by setting goals. Will you write five days a week? On the weekends? Will you have word count or page count goals? Or perhaps you’ll have a time related goal—e.g. I’ll write for an hour a day. There’s no right or wrong answer, but scheduling a time and place you’ll write is important.
Don’t worry about the progress someone else is making, just keeping moving forward. Write, write, write, and write until you reach the end.
Then celebrate your accomplishment!
For more advice on my site for new writers, go here.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.