I have a massive amount of scenes and plot lines covering several books… however the first novel always felt a little clunky.
After I went through the ringer a few times not that long ago, I found the need to make some changes.
In fact my protagonist became a whole lot darker and while most of the plots and scenes won’t need much changing to reflect this darkness… the first novel needed an overhaul.
So, I can confidently talk about starting… because I am…. again.
What to Write
Firstly, I’ve never come across someone who wanted to be a writer but didn’t have anything to write about. Maybe there are those people out there but as I said, I’ve never met them. Writers are like sponges, we soak up ideas like water. It might only be a tiny nugget of an idea but it will be there.
So when people say “I don’t know what to write” my guess is that they mean “I don’t know how to start.”
I can appreciate this. I often find the first sentence, the first page of a novel daunting. In fact they are so daunting I usually do them late on in the novel.
Best starting point is in the planning. You should know where you novel is going, what happens at the start, the middle and at the end… there can be some loose bits but the more you are aware the better.
Get this shit down – this is your outline (will do a more in-depth blog post on outlining next week). This is the map you will use to keep your novel on track. Creating an outline will identify weaknesses, plot holes and questions that need answering…this is where you should start.
Where to start writing
Now there are many writers who start their novels at the beginning. Some who have to write chronologically and this is great. I wish them all the best… this is not me. Even if I have a very detailed outline for my novel I rarely write the first page or even the first chapter first…
When I was a younger writer I found that I would spend waaayyy too much time staring at a blank page trying to get the first line, the first page, the first chapter written. It got so frustrating I would get nothing written for days.
So I changed my method and instead picked a scene I wanted to write, one that usually let me build on the character through the writing. Often I could then follow that scene with the next one in the order and get a nice big chunk done.
Other times I would bounce around like a rabbit on speed, writing different scenes throughout the novel. Once I had enough of them fleshed out I would go back and start writing up the connecting threads.
Method to the madness
While some writers will recoil in horror that I did and still kinda do this, it is what has worked for me the best. The older I got the more likely I was to write a middle scene and then work outwards (both forward and back) until the surrounding scenes and their tie-ins were written.
This then made writing the first chapter easier. It was like doing a jigsaw, starting it off can be difficult but when you only have a few pieces left, it’s easier to see where they go. That’s how my writing works.
I also found that when I was going through rough times and my writing suffering, this method of writing random scenes was what kept me writing. If I had needed to follow a strict outline chronologically, I would not have managed it.
Do what works best
If you are struggling to start your story, even if you know where it’s going, try and step ahead… not too far mind you. If your idea built from a single scene, then go for broke and write that scene first. Fill out your characters with it.
It might be that just starting to write your story, even in the middle (I prefer to aim for “second quarter” of my novel) can make you feel comfortable enough to go back to the beginning and write that.
Seems silly to me to ignore a strong scene that’s bouncing around in your head, just because it happens in chapter 4 and instead painfully squeeze out a bad scene just because it’s in chapter 1.
Get the strong scene out and it will leave room for the muse to let chapter 1 grow.
Don’t over edit
Make sure you enjoy the writing, this is especially good for new writers – don’t get caught up on editing yet. Don’t re-read and edit your work you’ve just done. Take this time to just get comfortable, to get your ideas down, your scenes built, your characters fleshed out. Editing can be done later.
If you nit-pick the editing too early on you can find yourself stumbling. Let the writing flow. Especially in the beginning.
I hope you found this useful. If you like my tutorials why not follow my blog, I upload new posts on Fridays at 18:30 BST (mostly) 🙂
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