You have the idea. You have the outline. You want to start writing.
Hold up for one more moment, check if you have all the tools that will help you along your journey.
Here are the 6 Essential Steps to Starting a Novel the Right Way.
1. Write a 1-5 sentence summary describing what your book is going to be about
If you read this, you should already have it. This is important to get down to the concept of your novel, and figure out the main drives to the action. Often times beginning writers do not do this and when it comes to pitching agents they don’t even know what their story is about. A good job here will save days of trouble.
2. Make Character Sheets
Definitely get the leading characters done, but if you have time hit the main supporting characters too. A character sheet details everything from hair-color and behaviorisms to the deepest driving desires. Filling these character sheets out gives you a great idea of who your characters really are, and it will make it much easier letting them shine on the pages. Extra tip: Finding people (friends, acquaintances, movie stars etc.) that look or act like your characters, will make this process much easier. Feel free to establish this connection in your mind. When you have personally experienced the little quirks in a character it lets you transcribe them more vividly onto the page.
3. Get an idea of what the world looks like
High school drama or Fantasy world, this is a no brainer to me. Find pictures of places that look a lot like your world, or if you are a good drawer make them. An author that is foggy on what the world looks like will confuse the heck out of his readers. Often times the most magical places are inspired by real locations, so keep your eyes open. My novel Dark Age takes place in an isolated valley, which is based on one I walked in myself. I know the smell, the temperature, the flora and fauna, and even the way the stars look at night. The city within the valley in Dark Age has many parallels to my childhood hometown. If you haven’t seen places similar to those in your novel, it’s never too late to travel.
4. Have a(t least) rough outline ready
Here again on outlining. I can’t preach enough how important this is. I see young writers start fantastic novels, and on page 100 they don’t know how to go on because they don’t know the end or the arch. Please for the love of God if you dedicate your time to writing, make it count. Know what story you want to tell. Know point A, B, and C. There is no need to micromanage your novel, but if you get the three key turning points down and know roughly what must happen for them to take place, you are set.
5. Establish the first Act
I bet you will write Chapter 1 in no time. Chapter 2 will be started with enthusiasm. By Chapter 3 confusion will kick in. At Chapter 4 many self-proclaimed writers quit. You outlined your novel, now try to outline the first Act (first third of your novel). In one paragraph describe what will happen. This does not need to be beautiful or eloquent. It simply needs to get down to the core. For example: In Act one we will see Adam Blacksmith grow up in his medieval home town. He has a good life, friends, family, and a girlfriend Katrina. But he finds out that he will be forced to leave it all behind to join the army. Throughout the Act he will try to find ways to escape the army, escalating in his attempt to kill the dictator. The next paragraph is about important events and characters. For example: We are introduced to Katrina, Adam’s girlfriend. He has known her for years as he works in her father’s carpentry. She is independent, good, and yet opposes Adam’s plans to overthrow the Inquisitor. We also meet the Inquisitor, the opposing character…. A key event is Adam’s celebration at which he realizes that his life is about to change. From here on out he tries to hold on to the past. A third paragraph should detail important changes. For Example: Adam and Katrina start out as close friends but get closer throughout the act. With every chapter Adam becomes more inquisitive, as he seeks to find the truth. Coming towards the end of the act, Adam is so desperate that he is willing to kill the dictator.
6. Set a Goal
Books have the tendency to fall into limbo. You hear people say, “I’m a writer”, and 2 years later the story is 10 pages further. Don’t be that guy, because I have been there. Set realistic goals that you can hit every week. Just 10 pages a week will allow you to be done in 6-12 months depending on novel size. If you think that’s long, ask some authors how long they “spent” on their first work. If you can do 10 a day, great! You will have your first manuscript ready in 2 months. Just consistently make goals, and you will see yourself move along and get better. That way writing will never be a chore, but something exciting you look forward to. Extra tip: Reward yourself every time you hit the goal. Find something that gives you joy. Training your mind like this goes a long way.
For more helpful free writing tips sign up for my newsletter.