Budding Author's Playbook vol.2: How do I Start Writing a Fiction Book?
Last week I started this Budding Author's Playbook, consisting of just a few articles on how a budding author could start with the writing process. And, as promised in the previous article, I'm back for the second part.
So, last week we spoke a little about the "right" or "wrong" mindset behind the decision you make before starting writing. This week, we're going to discuss the beginning of writing a book. And before I start, let me clarify once again that anything you read in this playbook has to do with fiction writing. I would love to be of any help to non-fiction authors as well. But as I've not dealt with non-fiction writing, I thought it wouldn't be honest of me to provide any advice on something I don't know, or suggest something I don't know from any personal experience that would work.
Now you've made your decision, you wonder: how do I proceed?
There's one part neither me nor anyone else (probably) can help with. This is the part of conceptualization. I guess you've heard a lot about "inspiration". Inspiration isn't the element that will provide you with a whole book, ready before your eyes. I can tell it's a little overrated sometimes. But, no doubt, you need to start from something. A core idea for your book, the main story. As I hate making false promises, I can't tell you "do this and you'll find your inspiration". This is a stage in your writing process you're on your own. However, I can suggest this: be open to new things and discuss with a lot of different people around you (the latter will help in various ways). If you keep open to various ideas and influences, the inspiration will come.
To be honest, if you've decided you want to become an author, you already have something in mind. So, the inspiration might not be an obstace in the first place. This probably makes you happy, as you feel ready to finally start writing.
Well, you might have to postpone writing down "chapter 1" or that sort of things for a while. And there's a good reason for this.
Your first inspiration is kind of a vague, generic idea. You still have no details. So, now's the time to start enriching your initial thought. Imagine the whole project like a house. Your inspiration is the foundations of the house. But you need much more to complete it. You need to build so much on the foundations. But don't let this discourage you.
Take a pen, or open a writing program on your computer (a pen and paper usually work better for me on this stage). You're not starting your manuscript yet. Now's the stage you enrich your original idea, the inspiration. So, put on characters. Walk yourself through the plot in details. What's happening in the entire book? When and where?
Let me explain to you exactly what I mean:
Imagine your leading character is a late-19th century poor young girl who ends up controling her entire country by the outbreak of World War I, for example. Quite crazy, hah? So, how did she make this happen? It probably was a long and hard journey. The idea of this huge transformation is the one that triggered your creative thinking, so it gave you the inspiration for a book. What will give you an entire - and good - book however, is the complete account of your heroine's efforts to reach this position of power. In other words, write down a "detailed synopsis" of the entire story on this stage. You may find yourself in front of obstacles, when you don't know how to smoothly move from one point to the next. And that's the reason inspiration isn't the only thing you need. It takes imagination for the inspiration, but rational thinking for the entire plot to be built, so you have a believable story.
Here's the point you might think: "I don't need to do this all from the beginning! I'll start writing my story and it will all occur while writing." If you write this down, note next to it a big, red "ERROR". Let me make myself clear. Later in your writing career, maybe you will be able to do it. But now's the beginning. So, let's just say you start writing your book without any planning in advance. And then you don't know how to move on; how to smoothly move from one stage of your plot to the next, in order to have a believable story. As a budding author, you might get anxious. Then you will feel frustrated. And you may even believe you're not capable of writing. So, why not save yourself this suffering?
Another key advice in writing a book is the following: don't rush! Some write a book in two months, while others write one in two years - or longer! Your main concern should be to take the time to write carefully a good book, not write quickly just a book. What I mean, is take all the time needed to plan a detailed plot that serves your story the best way. If you spend the necessary time on this, writing your manuscript will become easier than you can imagine - and faster than without planning!
Apart from your story, take detailed account of the characters in your plot. Who are they? What are their backgrounds? How old are they and where are they located at every part of the plot? Writing down these things, will help in many ways. If you happen to find yourself before a dead end in your story, you might just need to take a look at your characters. Their nature might give a solution to your problem. As for time and place, paying attention to them will eliminate gaps and inaccuracies in your plot.
Consider all of this before starting your manuscript, just to make your writing life easier.
Now you've spent all the time needed to carefully plan your work, you're ready to write "chapter 1" - or whatever you will start your book by.
Stay tuned for the next part of the Budding Authors' Playbook, coming soon!