So, you want to write a book, but are unsure how to go about starting. The good news is: you aren’t alone. Writing is a process, and the hardest part is sitting down and putting in the graft. Below are ten easy steps to help guide you through the initial writing process, so that when you sit down to write, hopefully you won’t be left staring at a blank screen. (We’ve all been there, and we know how frustrating it can be!).
This sounds obvious, but is an important place to start. Make sure that you’re passionate about the story you’re telling, that you feel it’s something that hasn’t been told yet and is missing from the current book market. There’s nothing worse than losing motivation because you just aren’t that interested in what you’re saying. If you’re invested in the novel you’re writing, you’ll have a much easier job of staying focused.
It’s very easy to get excited about the plot that’s formulating in your head and to sit down and start writing too soon. Writing a proper plan is integral to the success of your writing. Make sure you have a beginning, middle and end in sight (even if they’re vague ideas that can be adapted along the way), or you’ll end up losing momentum a few chapters in, or realise that your story isn’t going anywhere.
Are you writing a romance novel? A fantasy? Is the drive of your novel in its action and adventure, or its quiet moments, its characters? Make sure you clearly identify what genre your novel will fall under, and what sort of audience your story will appeal too. A confused novel will not sell well.
Keeping your characters consistent is vital to a good plot; nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and suddenly finding characters acting in ways that contradict earlier personality traits for no good reason. Create character outlines for each of your key characters, detailing descriptions, personality, and backstory. Even if it doesn’t all make it into the plot, it will certainly help you further along the writing process.
It’s important to set yourself short term goals. Making yourself write something every day, and aiming for a set word count, will help you stay motivated when you’re tired after a long day of work. It doesn’t have to be the same amount every day, but it will help you stay driven when your motivation begins to flag.
The environment in which you write will greatly affect your productivity levels. Try and find a quiet, calming and preferably solitary space to help you focus. It can help to have a dedicated writing space to return to every day – eventually, your mind will associate it with the writing process and hopefully will bolster your creative output.
In a similar vein to the last point, routine is important when it comes to the writing process. Are you most productive early in the morning, before the disorder of the day begins? Do you work best in the evenings, after a busy day of work? At weekends, in a bustling café? Or are you a night owl, whacking out words in the quiet and darkness? It doesn’t matter which, but try and write consistently. Setting aside a dedicated writing time will help the writing process become part of your daily routine, and, as with the consistent environment, will help your brain to focus purely on writing.
Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and work with your friends or family before you finish. Good advice early on can help save rewrites later. Talking through your ideas out loud can help identify plot holes or inconsistencies that you may not have spotted on your own. Plus, positive feedback raises motivation levels like a charm!
The fact of the matter is that the book industry is competitive, and ultimately you may not end up with the result you desire. The important thing is to identify where you went wrong and learn from this next time, ask for feedback, and embrace failure as a necessary obstacle on the path to success.
The most important piece of advice anyone can give you. There will be times when you want to rip up your book and throw it out (or delete the file!), there will be times when life gets in the way and your work goes untouched for months, and there will be times when you realise that you’ve reached a dead end and need to make some serious edits and re-writes. Throughout all of this, don’t lose faith. Keep at it, put in the effort, and ultimately your hard work will pay off.
We hope these tips have been helpful to anyone thinking of entering the writing process. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to discover more top tips and writing gems from our frontline authors themselves.