Getting Started Writing a Novel - inspiration and first draft

Getting Started Writing a Novel

Our completely unscientific poll suggests that getting started is one of the biggest obstacles for novel writers (of course, there’s a bias towards procrastinators who are reading blogs about writing and completing polls rather than getting on with it, but we’ll gloss over that for now).

Now, ‘getting started’ could mean one of two things (or possibly others we haven’t thought of). It could be about getting the idea in the first place, it could be about getting a first draft out once you know what you want to write about.

Our experience is that most writers are bubbling over with ideas that are just dying to get out, so coming up with an idea in the first place is not usually a problem. However, if it is, then there are a few methods you can use to come up with your kernel, which can be expended into a premise and eventually  a first draft.

Ways to find inspiration for your novel:

One is to ‘fill out the boxes’ in our premise, including the major story elements of: character, situation, objective, opponent and disaster. If you think this might be for you, read the full article here.

Another is to look for inspiration in the world around you. This could be anything from reading the newspapers (and not just doing the Sudoku), people watching, reading movie synopses or watching real life documentaries. You can read more about these methods here.

Ways to get the first draft out

We’re kind of big on planning and using techniques to make something really difficult (writing a novel) a bit less difficult. To this end, we think the best way to get to a first draft is to work up to it bit by bit, starting with a premise, expanding that into an outline, threading in some  detail and ending up with quite a clear structure. Once you’ve got this structure, the first draft just flies out as all you have to worry about is prose.

However, if you don’t like to plan everything through first, that’s fine too. In that case there are a few things you can do to get started, from starting a few chapters in (often the pressure of writing the first line can be paralysing), visualising the scene in your mind and then describing it or thinking about to simply refusing to allow yourself to get up until you’ve written the first five hundred words. If you're really having trouble with your first draft, perhaps you should consider going the planning route...

In either case, the most important advice in our opinion is to make sure you don't get hung up on
details in the first draft - just thrash it out, however awful you think it is at the time. It’s never going to be perfect first time, it’s going to be rough and ready and it’s going to need a great deal of polishing, so don’t get hung up on this adjective or that order. Just get it out!