Someone posted they would like to know how to start out writing a novel. Another post asked : can you be taught to write a novel? Reaction to the above: Boy, what loaded questions. It is said that everyone has one good story in them. It’s just the getting it down on paper. The even stickier wicket is getting it finished. If you have a story that’s burning a hole in your head, then I suggest it has to be written. (I write to give the little devils dancing around in my head a chance to get out!) So, my thoughts were, though I am no expert, and I’m flattered someone is actually asking my opinion, that of course I’m happy to share my experiences. In this blog are a few step-by-step suggestions. Take from it what you will. If you have a plot, then you are already well on the way to starting your novel. As a writer you want the reader to turn the page. If you can do that then you have succeeded where others fail! There are key elements to writing a novel. Reading is essential. Read anything in the genre you want to write in. Learn from them. What works? What makes you stick with it? What bits do you like the best, and why? I believe Stephen King said something like: if you haven’t got time to read, then you haven’t got the tools to write. Of course, he’s spot on. Write about something you know. Knowledge is key. Experience is empowering. Research will become your resource. It all informs your writing. You could make it up, but it would be forced, or imagined. Of course, there are genres that buck the trend – like fantasy or sci-fi. However, a reader is cute, they want the truth of the story – personally, I think if you don’t know the subject it will stick out like a sore thumb. FINDING THE RIGHT SPACE TO WRITE Find the right time and place to write. I understand JK Rowling wrote in a little bedsit and in a coffee shop. I couldn’t write in a coffee shop, too much distraction. Some people like music, some type, some handwrite. (Remember a manuscript needs to be typewritten and can be emailed). I need peace and quiet. I usually get up about six – write for an hour while my brain is fresh, then get ready for the paid job. THE PLOT: Know what the story is about. Do you remember doing essays at school? Beginning. Middle and End. GEOGRAPHY – TIME AND PLACE Know the place – give enough detail to ground the reader so they can see it in their mind’s eye. You may be able to see it, you may think they can see it, but can they? Don’t over-do the descriptions though. Too much detail can be overwhelming. Make the detail dense enough in the first fifty pages then strip it back in a re-write to tighten it up. CHARACTERS Know your characters inside out. Example: what’s in their fridge. What they ate for breakfast, dinner and tea. You don’t need to write this. You need to understand your characters and what makes them tick. You can use this through dialogue – for example – “Jane, did you want jam or marmite on your toast?” She shrivelled at the thought of marmite. Characters need to be real, an imagined real of course, unless you are writing an autobiography. Make your world, their world. You don’t have to write too much detail, but something simple like, “I’ll get you a glass of water,” said Jane. She could see the poor woman was grey and shaken by the event and quickly ran over to the tap. Little things, and dialogue demonstrates a little of Jane’s persona. Remember, detail is important when it helps moves the plot forward. Think about what traits they have? Are they pleasant, evil, weak, strong, or driven? Do they pick their nose when no-one is looking? Your reader will want to know them as well as you do. Dialogue also moves the plot forward. After a discussion today, it was suggested 50/50 dialogue and prose is a good mix. Interesting. Check it out the next time you read a book. Decide whether you agree. If you do. Why? I think you will learn swiftly dialogue grounds you in the here and now. It SHOWS not TELLS the story, which is all important. ENDINGS Some writers have no idea where they are heading. It is important you do. It focuses the mind and the plot line. The end is as important as the arc of your story. As a teacher I learned a brilliant trick from a colleague that stuck – ‘write your last lesson first, the rest will fit in.’ What I am saying is write your last chapter first. It means you have something to work toward. Of course, you can change a happy ending to sad, or even murderous. It doesn’t matter. It can all change as you go along, after all you’re the author of your story. Find someone to read your work to. Someone you can trust. Someone who will tell the truth. Someone who doesn’t have a vested interest. Someone who won’t worry too much how you feel, but honest enough to feedback in a constructive way. This is the best way of knowing, learning, and what works to move your plot forward. Oh, and by the way, join a CREATIVE writing group. Don’t be put off if it doesn’t suit your style, try another one. Join WRITING group – again don’t be put off by some sniffy person sat next to you. Here comes a bit of psychology : Remember any new group you join they will be probably as scared as you – as sharing your writing can be a very scary process, it exposes you. So be kind. They will be kind to you. Okay – end of my blog for today. Next time I will outline beginnings.