How To Start Writing a Book

Around four months ago, I wrote a post called How Not To Write a Book. This came after years of trying and failing to get started writing. Since then, I have made a solid start on a contemporary novel. I still have a long way to go but I have most of it planned out now and have been making good progress. Here are some tips I have learnt during the process on how to get started on writing a book. These tips will be useful no matter what genre you hope to write and will hopefully get you going too.

The first step of writing a book is undoubtedly having an idea of the basic plot. Once I stumbled across a tip to start with just one sentence that details the outline of your story. For example: A woman has a dream about a perfect stranger, who then turns up in real-life. (Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher) Then gradually expand from there. Write one sentence, a paragraph and eventually a page. If you’re writing non-fiction, your plot will be your purpose for writing. Then expand to why it’s important or what you want people to take from it, so you can build on what you need to include. After you have your synopsis down, it’s like colouring in the lines. Only a lot harder.

I’m a visual person so my next step was making a mood board. As a Pinterest lover, I used that and began saving photos that captured the location and setting of my story, as well as people who resembled what I imagined the characters to look like. I even saved photos that just fit the overall vibe of the story and these later inspired interactions I would not have otherwise included. One photo was of the aftermath of a house party, with gold streamers all over the furniture. Later I wrote almost an entire chapter around that picture. Making a mood board or finding reference photos is especially helpful if you’re writing about something you haven’t actually experienced. My novel takes place half in London, where I have lived, and the other half in Cornwall – which I have only visited once. So I have relied heavily on photos and videos, as well as googling random things about the area to be able to write convincing descriptions. If you don’t need to rely on the visuals like me, you can skip that step and get straight into building a little portfolio about your characters. For every character you already know you want to include, write their name, age, how they relate to other characters and their relevance in the story.

At this point, where I had a vague plot and some of the characters I begun trying to outline some chapters. It started with me just splitting the plot up and placing things in chronological order. I knew where I wanted the book to start so put the setting and events that would take place in chapter one under that heading. Then I had a few different ideas for the ending so just stuck those at the end of the word document. Doing this gave me a sort of final destination to work towards. Finally, I was ready to begin properly writing.

A universal tip, that applies to achieving any goal, is to be consistent. Get into a writing routine, even if this is literally fifteen minutes a day. During your designated writing time you don’t want to waste any of it on re-reading yesterday’s work. The aim is to just get more words down. Don’t edit as you go if you can help it, because all of that comes after. When I get stuck and am not sure where I am going with a conversation or description, I sometimes just skip ahead to a later chapter and write a couple hundred words there. Then the next day I go back and try again.

Starting is the hardest part. I once gave some advice about just sticking your foot in the door with something. Because even if you just give that task five minutes, when you come back to it, finishing it will be so much easier having taken that time to start understanding what you have to do. So the next time an idea for a book comes to you, literally just dump it down and go from there.

I hope you enjoyed this update on my journey to writing a book and I hope to do another part once I finish the first draft, with more in-depth tips on completing a book. Let me know if you have any writing tips or if you found this helpful at all.

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