First and foremost, congratulations! You’re embarking on an exciting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding journey. There are going to be many successes and just as many failures — there will be days where the words are just flowing from you, and days you have to threaten them under pain of death. But, let me tell you, there is nothing more gratifying than holding your book in your hands for the first time.
Regardless of where you’re starting, writing a book is incredibly daunting.
I remember my first novel was a trial by fire. My apartment looked like a crime map in one of those made-for-television cop dramas. Red string, printed out pictures of physical representations of my characters, locations, etc. The sea of post-it notes I kept for myself was bordering on problematic.
In the future, I intend to write about publication methods and the aftermath of writing a book. This is purely for those who are thinking about starting their first ever novel!
First things first, what are the basics?
What is the story you want to tell? Is it about life or death battles to save the world? Do you want to write about a wholesome romance? Or maybe you’re feeling more inclined to write about a feisty detective whose co-investigator is a talking rabbit? Actually, seriously, if that’s what you’re writing about, send it immediately to my email. I want it.
It would be nice if just having the story was all you needed, but… unfortunately not, my friend.
Now you know the story you want to tell. It’s time to flesh out the world and the characters in it! I already wrote a blog on both world building and character creation, so I won’t go into too much detail about the specifics. Here’s just a basic breakdown of things to consider:
- Where is you novel set?
- During what time period is it set?
- What are the major world conflicts at the moment (if any)?
- The social groups (lawmakers/upperclass/impoverished, etc.)
- How do all of the groups interact?
- Pertinent History?
- What is the geography of your world?
- Fantastical Creatures (if applicable)?
- Folklore (if applicable)?
- What are some unique creatures (if applicable)?
- Name, Nicknames
- Physical Appearance
- Unique, identifying marks
- Voice (how they talk/interact with other people)
- Skills/Powers (if applicable)
Are you taking notes? Good!
Make sure that you’re documenting as you go. You can keep everything in a journal, a binder, or in tidy folders on your computer. There are various writing tools that can help you keep everything tidily put together. I personally prefer working with Evernote and notion.so.
Whatever you do, please make sure that you have a key on hand to help you find all of your important information. It doesn’t really seem like a lot as you’re compiling everything, but maintaining meticulous notes can get out of hand. Real fast. Trust me.
Okay, so you have your basics figured out. What about the story itself?
I wrote before in my storyboarding blog that there are a handful of different ways to plan a story. You can read everything I had to say by reading this blog.
The tl;dr is this:
- To reference Nano, you could be a planner, a pantster or a planster.
- Planners: Plan their story from start to finish.
- Pantsters: They fly by the seat of their pants, allowing the story to tell itself.
- Plansters: They are a combination of both, planning just enough to leave room for surprises!
First, figure out what you prefer. Your writing process might be to simply wing-it. It may be to meticulously plan! Or, it could be a combination of both.
No one can tell you how to plan your story. It’s just a matter of you figuring out what works best for you. If something stops working, don’t be discouraged! Just try something new. With every failure, we learn something new about ourselves. What we need — even crave — for success.
Excellent! Let’s move onto the writing… How do I start?
I’m glad you asked. And I wish I had an answer for you. Unfortunately, I do not. Before you click out of this blog, allow me to explain.
You’re the only person who knows your schedule, your current writing habits, the best conditions for you to write. So long as you show up, create a schedule, and allow yourself kindness, you’ve got this. Just remember that it’s going to take a bit of trial and error before you find something that works for you. Just trust the process and you’ll get there. I promise.
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