Many readers have asked me how I get started on writing a novel, so I thought I would share my process with you. Each author has their own method on what works for them, so there is no right or wrong way. But if you’re struggling, maybe these tips will be helpful.
There are “outliners” vs. “pantsers” in the writing world. A “pantser” is a writer who writes “by the seat of their pants” or goes with the flow. They enjoy the freedom of seeing what happens as they go along. An “outliner” is someone who outlines their book knowing the flow ahead of time. “Outliners” feel this gives them a structure for their muse and keeps them on track.
I am a little of both. I build a brief outline, and then as I’m writing if the characters hijack the bus and take the journey in a different direction, then so be it. At least I have a way of getting back on track if I find myself in the flabby middle of my book with nowhere to go.
Here are the steps I take when I begin a new book:
- Write the blurb for the back of the book – this gives me the full vision of what I want the entire story to be in a brief synopsis
- Do a character sketch for each character, spending more time on the protagonist and antagonist – this allows me to build my character’s personality in my mind. Every detail is important to a reader in how a character behaves, reacts, looks, etc. It also gives me something to refer back to when I get halfway through and can’t remember my hero’s eye color. See this posts for suggestions: Character Sketches
- Build a brief chapter outline – one or two sentences per chapter all the way to the end. This helps me know the path I want to travel. I don’t always stick to it, and that’s the beauty of creativity, but it gives me something to refer back to in case I wander too far off the path.
- Make sure the first page has a hook. I make sure my hook happens within the first paragraph if I can, but at a minimum the first page. I pride myself on writing page-turners and an immediate hook is a must.
Pretty simple, huh? This is not a full proof process, but hopefully it can help you get started. I’d be delighted to answer any questions if you have them.