How to start writing a Novel


Want to Write a Book?

The blank page is a terrifying sight, especially at the start of a new writing project. I don’t mean when you’ve plotted, pantster-absolutely-not-plotted, or carried out whatever new manuscript ritual you perform, and just need to get the first sentence down.

What I’m talking about is when an embryonic idea starts to sprout teeny-tiny shoots wrapped around a vague thought, scene, character plot-point or theme. Some writers just dive on in and start typing or scribbling, away. They’re at the tip of the non-plotting, go for it and let that consciousness stream flow. And some fantastic books have come from that place. Across the spectrum, the real plotter will perhaps start with notes, jottings, character descriptions, arcs, themes, and so on, turning them into a polished outline. The right way is whatever works for you.

How do I start writing a novel?

Me? I draw a picture. Yes, an actual diagram. For a murder mystery, my initial thought is who dies first, at whose hands, and why. Then I jot down their names in little boxes and draw a connecting line.

Next, I think about the victim and murderer. Who was in their life? Who else is in the story? More connecting lines. Then I think about the consequences of that first death. Does anyone else now stand in the culprit’s way? More connecting lines, perhaps another victim, plus several scribbled comments. I may even colour in some of the boxes. If you’re red, you’re dead!

By the end of my musings, there is a piece of A4 paper that contains the pictorial representation of a novel. Now I can write that first sentence on the blank page. Writers, where do you start? Remember, there is no right way.