Yesterday I wrote on what inspires me to write. Today, I want to share my thoughts about what happens after we have decided to write a book. What is the process? Where do we begin?

When I first began to write, I had no real plan in mind and would begin my writing with “Chapter 1” and go on from there. It’s a miracle I turned out anything at all. Some of it stayed on Chapter 1 and got filed under “incomplete”. It meant I had a vague idea that I wanted to write about something: ideas that bounced noisily around in my head like arcade machine pin balls, but with no clear trajectory or end in mind.

It felt like I was trying to build a house by putting the roof up first, instead of laying the foundations. After many false starts and failures, I realized I was coming at it from the wrong end–the beginning–instead of knowing where it was going. It doesn’t mean one can’t start a book this way; sometimes it might work and the plot or characters develop as we write, but if you don’t enjoy a hit and miss affair, then here are some ideas how to begin:

  • Make a list of characters you would like to see in the story. Put as much detail as you can down about them; how do they look? What is each one’s individual personality? You don’t need all the characters at this stage, but maybe a few main ones.
  • Build your world. What country is this? What time period? Make it as real as possible, even if it’s a made up country like mine (Ialana). If it’s a made up country or world, Who are the inhabitants of this place and what are their customs? Do they use money, and what is it? Draw a map, if possible, so you remember all the names of the different areas or towns. How is it divided politically? No detail is too small to include in your world building stage. If it’s a real country, decide where your character will live or where they will travel, before writing.
  • Do your research. If you are writing about a different time period, learn as much as you can about this time in history. How did the people dress? What weapons did they use? It is another world building as above, but only with a real period in history.
  • Now that you are familiar with your characters and setting, many more ideas about the plot may occur to you. Write them all down. Make a list of how you think the plot or story might progress. It doesn’t have to progress exactly as you wrote it in your list; these would only be suggestions. Things may change. I know my characters often have a mind of their own, and once I start writing, they suggest another plot line or thread and the whole thing veers off in a different direction. If the story is better with this direction, then go for it!
  • Now that you have a working outline, you can start filling in the detail. This is the fun part. The characters begin to take shape and come alive. They become real to you and you can hear them in your head as you write. You see their surroundings, because you’ve already created it. There is little hesitation as you write because the characters and their world are now as familiar to you as your own back yard. You are writing!

Once you have conquered the beginning stages of writing a book, you are well on your way and everything else is just plot tweaking and adding detail. You have built the foundations, and if your foundations are strong, your book will be strong too. Good luck, and contact me below if you have any questions!

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2 thoughts on “Young Writers: Where to Begin?

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