Over the years, I have been asked countless times: How do you do it? How do you sit down and write a novel? The answer is patiently.
There is no right or wrong way to begin writing a novel when it comes down to it. It's more about defining your process and figuring out what works for you. No two writers work the same way. We each have steps that our creative process dictates we follow. Today, I'm going to share with you a few of the things that work for me.
Where To Start
The first step in any writer's process is determining what to write. There are so many genres to choose from that it can be overwhelming. The key is to select a genre that you are passionate about. If sci-fi gets your mental creativity flowing, get to work on a stellar sci-fi novel. But remember to keep in mind that you're not limited to any specific genre. Write what calls to you. However, I would caution you to avoid genres you dislike because that will most likely come through in your writing.
Inspiration Comes In All Forms
Much like people, inspiration comes in all forms. Anything can be the spark you need to paint the perfect setting in your novel. I'm often asked where my inspiration comes from, and my answer is always the same.
For me, inspiration is random. Sometimes it comes in the form of a song lyric, while others, it's a conversation I've had. One entire storyline I created came about because of a game my son and I used to play in the car while we were traveling. Inspiration can strike at a moment's notice, so regardless of where it comes from, embrace it. It's a gift that should be celebrated, so when you find it, use it.
One of the main parts of my writing process is taking notes. I often find myself using anything I have available to take notes. There are times when I'm doing something, and a scene will come to me, and I have to write it down right that second. Seriously, I'm not kidding. I have to. It's almost like an itch that you have to scratch. It'll keep bothering you until you do. That's what it's like for me. I have notebooks stashed in my car, in my purse, all over my house. I even have a file on my phone for notes that I take. I know. You're thinking, why not just use your phone or computer. The short answer: I'm strange, and I really like fancy notebooks.
Most aspiring writers often inquire as to whether or not they should plot out their entire book. Unfortunately, I can't answer that because you have to decide what works for you.
I don't plot out the entire book but I do outline chapters. It sounds the same, but it's not. When I first begin a novel, I know exactly how the book starts and ends, so I briefly outline each chapter's direction. By briefly, I mean a few bullet points on things to include. Then, I let my characters dictate where the story will go. The outline is a guideline, not a contract. It is not set in stone, so go with the flow if your characters push it in another direction. If you remember anything from this post, remember not to force anything because it only leads to frustration.
Know Your Characters
Character sketches are a great way to learn about your characters. What your sketch contains is entirely up to you. Try to include things such as the character's name, age, location, and physical description. But feel free to go deeper with it. Detail out what the character's goal is and how they're going to attain it. This is the time to think outside of the box and get creative.
For example, what is their personality like? Be sure to include all of the little quirks that make your character tick. What about their occupation? Where do they work? Do they like their job? Another good set of traits to include are habits and mannerisms.
What are their internal/external conflicts? Finally, don't forget about the character's background. This information will be beneficial when you're building out the character in your story. Keep in mind that you can use sketches like this for locations/places too. You can also take it a step further and create a vision board. I use both character sketches and a vision board to help me get a well-rounded feeling for my characters.
Take Your Time
Writing is a novel is a process that does not happen overnight. Some authors can write a book in a month. Others cannot. The key is to take your time and go at your own pace. You cannot gauge your timeline based on other authors writing speed. You have to learn what does and doesn't work for you.
Set goals and strive to reach them. Your goal can be as simple as writing one thousand words a day or as complex as finishing a chapter daily. Remember to keep in mind that the goal you set should be attainable. Don't be afraid to re-assess either. If you select a goal and you don't believe you'll be able to reach it, change it. It's better to readjust your plan than to frustrate yourself and create unnecessary stress.
Find A Good Editor
Some authors will tell you that an editor is not necessary. I am not one of them. I'll be the first person to tell you that a good editor is crucial for several reasons. When you write a novel, you start by developing an idea. Then you plot it out and write. Most people tend to think that it ends there. When, in fact, that was only scratching the surface.
After an author writes a novel, they read it and revise it. Once that step is complete, they re-read it and make additional revisions. Then after that -you guessed it- they read the novel yet again. By the time an author has finished writing their book and making revisions, their eyes feel like they're crossed and they have a migraine. It may sound dramatic, but it's true.
Usually, when I've completed all of those steps, I've read my manuscript around six times. You read that right, six, which is where a great editor comes into play. As the creator of the story, we are too close to it. So it's often difficult for us to identify any gaps in our plot. Having an editor to work with and point out anything you might have missed will only make your novel that much better. I promise your editor is not there to pick on you. If you are successful, they are successful.
Enjoy The Process
Last but certainly not least. Enjoy the process. Don't forget to celebrate your milestones. Whether that be finishing your outline, making it to the halfway point, or writing the end. Celebrate each step of the way because you've taken the time to put your heart into crafting something remarkable. A good friend of mine once told me: It always seems impossible until it's done. She was right. While it may seem impossible now, I promise you it isn't. Just sit down and let your fingers fly over the keyboard. You may be surprised at what you create.