This week, I’ve been doing one of my absolute favourite things – starting to write a new book!
The beginning of a new story is always exciting. Even if I’ve got it all mapped out in my head, or on paper, there’s still that huge sense of possibility. Anything could happen, once the words start appearing on the page! It’s like going on a road trip with new friends, and getting to know them as you journey along.
This is the notebook I’m using to keep track of my ideas, thoughts and research. It seemed perfect for my main character – and she’s so much fun to write already!
I didn’t always enjoy this part of writing, though. Once upon a time, the idea of starting afresh, of staring at a blank screen or notebook and trying to think of words to put down on it was kind of terrifying.
So, just in case you’re struggling with starting your story, here are my top five tips to make it fun.
1: Talk to your characters
Yes, you’re going to be spending a whole story with these guys, and there’s plenty of time to figure out what makes them tick – but I find it really helpful to know some basics beyond their name before I start. Here’s what I need to know:
– What they want or need most in the world
– Why they want or need it
– What or, even better, who is stopping them having it
If you know these three things, you’re halfway there. Your whole story is going to be about your main character trying to get what they need, and other characters either helping or thwarting them.
2: Know where you are when you start
This one is really two points. Firstly, it’s about your setting. You don’t need to know every detail of the world you’re writing about before you begin, but deciding if your story is set in a jungle or a high school is the sort of thing that makes starting to write easier! If it helps you to visualise the story, map out a really simple plan of the main places your characters are likely to go. Just knowing that you have these different sets available in their world might make it easier to think of what happens next.
Secondly, it’s about your starting point. Your story starts when something happens to make your main character chase their dreams. What makes it vital they take action right now? Whatever that thing is, that scene is your starting point.
3: Know where you’re going
Sometimes this one works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. But in general, having an idea of what will happen at the end of your story gives you something to write towards. It might be as simple as knowing if your story will have a happy ending, a tragic one or an ambiguous one. Or, you might be able to see the whole final scene in your head – in which case, write it down now! Then it’s just a case of figuring out how to get there from your starting point.
4: Get excited to write
One of the best ways I know to get excited about my story is to think about the scenes I’m desperate to write – the ones that fly into my mind whenever I think about the story or the characters. It might be the revelation of a huge secret, or a first kiss, or a fight scene. Whatever it is, jot down all the scenes between your starting point and your last scene that make you itch to write them already. Juggle them around into a logical order and suddenly you have a series of checkpoints. Then, as you write, you’re just thinking about what would need to happen to get your characters from one checkpoint to the next.
5: Don’t overthink it
The thing about writing is that no-one ever has to see your first drafts! Don’t worry about whether a scene is perfect, or what a reader might think about such and such yet. When you’re starting a story, all you need to think about is relaxing and enjoying the ride. Tell your tale, find out what your characters were really saying all along, and get it all down on paper.
After that you can think about making it your best work. That’s a job for revisions, not first drafts.