It’s difficult to stay on track and motivated. Whether you’re struggling to get through a lecture, sticking to your workout routine, maintaining your diet— I understand that. I have always had difficulty completing projects that I think of, or start on a whim. It’s easy to get excited about new ideas or prompts that pop up in your head. But how does one execute that? How can you go through this process of creation to make it easier but still enjoyable for yourself?
Throughout my years of writing for leisure, I have learned what has worked best for me, and what doesn’t. I’ll be sharing my personal advice on how to get started, if not finish.
Create An Outline:
Consider your novel as a whole, what is the tone of the story and what direction do you want it to go in. For example, you don’t want to start off your story with a brutal fight scene when the cover and description you have for the book is a light-hearted romance. Make sure nothing is out of place!
I personally, used to start writing my book as the story progressed and just decided on what direction I wanted the story to go in on the spot. Essentially, I would write as I go. Though this may work for some people, unfortunately, not for me. Every time this happened, I would get lost and confused as to what was going on in the story because of how underdeveloped my world was, or how underdeveloped my characters were.
Now, before I start my story I consider 3 things:
- The genre
- The worldbuilding
- Character backstories
There are many aspects in starting a book and these are what I have narrowed it down to. In order for me to create a book with realistic characters, I must understand why they are the way they are. I need to understand their motivations, their relationships, all the way to the way they walk and their food preferences. Once I know my characters inside-out, then, and only then do I start my world. But in reality, it doesn’t really matter if you do this vice versa.
As for worldbuilding, I figure out the names of: cities, towns, countries, villages, restaurants, pubs, banks, rivers, churches etc. Most importantly, I want to create the world’s history. Assuming that this is a fictional story, it would also include a fictional world. I like to use notion for my novel planning as it allows me to get a clear view on everything I have worked on all in one place. When I write, I typically don’t think about the history of the location my characters reside in and I realize now how bad that is. I’m not telling you to have every part of your book planned out, or know every single plot point, or to maintain consistency. However, think of yourself as a painter choosing the palette for your next canvas. You may not have the whole composition in your head just yet, but you know whether to reach for yellow pigment, or blue.
Decide On Your Point of View:
The point of view of your book is more important than you think. Some novels have multiple points of view in first person, or multiple points of views in third person. It all depends on the mood and tone your story is set in. At the end of the day, it needs to fit into place. It has to feel right, right at the beginning of your novel.
Once the outline is finished, introduce your characters, and go light on the backstory:
I like establishing all the important characters sometime in the first 3-5 chapters, never all at once, but that’s just me. It depends on the story that I’m writing, but regardless, I tend to do that. Once my killer opening line is set, I’m ready to begin my story with it’s first human (or non-human) elements. Allow the characters to bring the story to life, and let them fill the stage with their words, thoughts and feelings.
Final Thoughts and Advice
Establish the stakes of your story. Nobody wants to read a novel without conflict in it, when you’re writing your characters make people want to be on their side. There will always be something at stake, or something to fight for. Give that to your readers without giving away too much. When you have a sense of tension in your story that’s what keeps readers interested, invested and engaged.
Lastly, I have heard this tip from many of my friends, peers, and professors. Many writers, me included, have the terrible habit of going back as we write. However, it is more effective to keep writing whatever comes at the top of your head ALONG with the outline you wrote to guide you. It doesn’t matter if in the moment it seems bad, because if you spend all your time worrying about rewriting and editing, it will be difficult to finish your novel.