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How to Kick-Start Your Novel Writing Journey

Are you an aspiring author? Do you have an idea for a novel but don’t know how to start? For many first-time writers, the idea of sitting down and just starting to write a novel is overwhelming. While this is what eventually must be done, there are some techniques that may help the task seem less daunting. This blog shares a series of essential tips to help you kick-start your writing journey.

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Finding ideas

When starting to write a novel, it can be challenging to find the right ideas. Just because you haven’t got an idea doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write a book. With the right approach, the creative juices will start to flow. There are many ways to help stimulate the imagination: writing a diary or daily pages, reading books in a variety of genres, observing people and places, and trying new experiences.

Top tip: Start by writing what you know. What type of books do you read and love? What has happened in your life that could be mirrored in a fictional character? What wisdom can you impart about your experiences?

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Brainstorming is a great way to get ideas flowing. A blank page can be daunting but throwing ideas down without worrying about the details can be a helpful activity. Let’s say you want to write an epic fantasy. You know you want to set it in another world and aim it at adults. Your page might look something like this:

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While there are no hard and fast rules to follow when writing a book, understanding basic novel structure is helpful. At school, children learn to include the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW in their stories. For adult writers, it is no different. It is essential for you to be able to answer these questions:

· Who is your main character?

· What is going to happen in the story?

· Where is the book mainly set?

· Is there a specific timeframe?

· Why is your central character doing what they’re doing/feeling what they’re feeling?

· How do they tackle the situation? How do they resolve it?

Once you have answered these questions, you can start to build in detail. For example, what does your main character look like? What personality type do they have? The more questions you ask and answer, the stronger your story will be.

It is also important to consider plot structure, not just plot details. In schools, children are taught to consider the beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution of a story. This is not really any different from novel writing. While some writers stick to this five-point structure, others use a more detailed seven-point structure (look up Dan Wells).

Top tip: You may not use every idea from your plan in your book, but a detailed plan is a resilient plan and this will ultimately strengthen your story.

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Some authors don’t like to plan ahead and that’s fine. However, if you’re struggling to get started, a plan can help you stay on track. Once you have your idea, your brainstorming notes and your basic plot structure sorted, you can think about your plan. A plan usually outlines ideas in chronological order. You can do this with post-it notes on a wall, in a notebook or even just on your computer. There is no hard and fast rule!

Your plan can be as detailed or as basic as you like. It’s likely that your first ideas will change once you start writing but that’s fine. The plan is there to guide you, not to make your life more difficult. Once you have a first draft, you may like to go back and rewrite your plan with more detail but this will be up to you.

Top tip: Always keep a notebook close to hand (or a phone will do!). You never know when an idea might strike you. Write down observations, ideas, character quotes, descriptions; these are all things you can then add to your plan/manuscript as you go.

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At some point, you do just have to take a breath and start writing. The thing to remember is that while writing the very first word of your very first book is a significant moment, you are just starting out on your writing journey. Don’t be disheartened if you find it difficult to write thousands of words per day or if you become stuck on an idea. Most authors, whether first-time writers or more experienced, have ‘stuck’ moments.

It's also important to remember that most authors dislike their first drafts… and sometimes even their second third and fourth drafts. It’s perfectly natural to look down at a page you wrote yesterday and think, why on earth did I write this? Sometimes, you may feel like you’ve written your best work ever. Other times you may think it’s your worst. You are not alone. That is what being a writer is like. First drafts especially shouldn’t be judged harshly. They are simply the beginning of a new adventure.

Top tip: When writing a first draft, don’t keep looking back over previous work and criticising it. This will get you nowhere. Read a previous paragraph if you must; check facts if they’re important, but otherwise just get on with writing the story.

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It is no secret that writing a book requires motivation and discipline. Creating a schedule is essential for any writer. Setting down how many words you plan to write within a certain timeframe or how long you plan to sit and write for will help to create discipline. Simply saying, Oh, maybe I’ll write one thousand words today, will get you nowhere. Without a schedule, there are no clear targets and you will let yourself ‘get away’ with not doing what you promised.

When it comes to writer’s block, it’s also important to build discipline. All too often, writers will hit a wall and give up. While it’s important to walk away and take regular breaks, as this will help energise the mind, sometimes just powering on is the only solution. If you can’t think of a scene, leave a gap and move on to another. The same applies if you’re stuck on a sentence… leave it out and carry on.

Top tip: A paragraph, even a bad one, gives you something to work with. A blank page gives you nothing.

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Take a breath!

This might all sound like a lot to get to grips with but if you take it step by step, you’ll find the process easier and more enjoyable. The trick with writing a novel is to build it layer by layer. It’s all too easy to set your sights on the finished product and to belittle yourself when a first draft isn’t quite as good as you’d like it to be. Take a breath. Writing a book is a journey.

If you’d like 1-2-1 support kick-starting your first novel or would simply like some guidance along the way, you can book a FREE 15-MINUTE DISCOVERY CALL HERE. You may also like to register interest for our new NOVEL WRITING COURSE starting in next year.


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