Many people aspire to write a book, and most have no idea where to start. There are many ways to become a writer, but they all come down to one important activity…
Tip 1: Write stuff…
I am a great believer in not trying to eat the whole elephant. If you want to be a writer, and to write a book, you have to start by writing stuff. Unconstrained, nonsense, and whatever pops into your head. Try different genres and styles. Try for something short, and then try for something long.
After about 20 years of doing this…just kidding! After doing this for a while, which will be different for every writer, you start to get the hang of writing, and something interesting starts to unfold…which is usually a story idea.
Tip 2: When you get a story idea…
Maybe you have spent a bit of time at Tip 1, playing about with ideas before you find something that might work out into an actual story.
Or maybe you are the sort of person who wants to jump straight in at Tip 2 because you already know a story and you are chomping-at-the-bit to get it down. Let’s PAUSE. If this is your first ever story idea treat it as a bit of fun, and don’t be too disheartened if it becomes nothing more than ‘Tip 1 -stuff’ that ultimately you discard.
However you find yourself at Tip 2, there is no point in holding back. Write it, or plan it then write it, whatever works for you. One of two things will happen at this point:
- You realise this is a GREAT story idea and that it will pan out into an awesome book
- You get bored and realise it was FUN but it’s not worth pursuing, or not at this time, because you have just had another story idea that might be better still.
Tip 3: When you get an awesome story idea…
Usually you know when an idea for a story is something worthy of pursuit. Now you have to decide whether you need to plan or not. Planning is a matter of personal taste, some people swear by planning, some people loath it with the enthusiasm of a dental appointment.
For planning: People who get the most out of planning are the people who suffer from writers block. If you are the kind of person who finds themselves hemmed in when writing, or not sure what should happen next, planning is GOOD for you. It lets you nut out all the problems upfront so you don’t waste time on something that will go nowhere. Better to tackle all the blocks now than write 30k of words and discover you just don’t have a solution to a key plot point.
Against planning: People who never run out of ideas, who are always chasing the next shiny notion…and could simply write forever! If this is you STOP, and go back to the planning. This may sound harsh, but people with too many ideas suffer from a completely different problem to those who suffer from writers block, and that is what I refer to as ‘Infinite Story Syndrome’ also known as the ’10 book saga’. There is nothing wrong with ten book sagas I love ’em myself. But each book needs a level of conclusion and a little bit of planning, even for the idea masters, goes a long way to getting a good first book.
PS. There is a happy medium..and yes planning will help them too.
Tip 4: Get feedback sooner rather than later…
A trusted friend or confidant is what every writer needs. Someone to sanity check your idea to make sure it’s not a complete dud. Once it is drafted look for beta readers. They will be delighted to pick holes in your plot and make it stronger in doing so.
Tip 5: There is nothing wrong with trying…
I must have a couple of hundred story ideas floating about in bits, scribbled dialog, plot points, and random chapters. All of which were great for my ‘Tip 1-Write Stuff’. I only finished 3 books completely to the draft stage. It was the 3rd one I decided I liked enough to edit, and I am now about to publish. The first 2 drafts—I am going to abandon—and I feel no guilt in that.
I have subsequently finished writing the next 3 books in the series. I spent a lot of time ‘writing stuff’, playing about with ‘story ideas’ and I even drafted a couple of ‘awesome story ideas’ into a full novel, before I found a book I felt worthy of publishing, and I don’t regret any of this time. It helped me to find my writers voice. I had fun. It gave me confidence.
Tip 6: Quality is never a waste of time…
I learnt a massive amount about quality by having my book professionally edited…grammar is definitely not my strong point! A writing course if you can afford it is worth while, but otherwise there is a ton of fantastic free information on the internet, and plenty of great books you can buy to improve your skills that way. No time spent on improving your writing quality is ever wasted time.
Tip 7: Simply read…
The last tip goes without saying…but just in case…when you settle on a genre, read it—a lot.
More more posts on writing…
A simple guide to planning a novel – Part 1
Six secrets to drafting a novel – fast!
How to generate new story ideas
Love Sci-fi and fantasy fiction?
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