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How to kick-start your novel-writing career

Are you an aspiring author? Do you have an idea for a novel but don’t know how to start? Read on for some essential tips to help you kick-start your writing journey.



Finding ideas


When starting 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. 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.



Brainstorming


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:



Plotting


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. You need 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.


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.



Planning


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!


Top tip: Always keep a notebook close to hand (or a phone will do!). You never know when an idea might strike you.



Drafting


At some point, you 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. 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. 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.



Scheduling


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.


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



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.


With thanks to the Untold Stories Academy for this guest post. A more detailed version can be read on their website.

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