Imagine you have a story inside you, something you want to share with the world. You ask yourself “How do I even begin?”. Starting your own novel can be frightening, every writer knows this. There will be times where you feel yourself drowning in words. Here are a few guidelines that helped me, to strengthen your writing skills and to discover your own writing voice.
Plot: Some writers tend to outline their plot, I am one of them. I like to know my ending before I even start writing words down. Don’t panic if you don’t know the ending yet, sometimes you’ll just have to go with the flow, respect your characters’ choices. Each writer has his own way of working, it’s just about finding yours.
Research: It doesn’t matter what topic you’re writing about, everything needs research. Whether it’s about your character’s job, the city they live in, how they would react in certain situations, it helps to dig deep in those topics. For instance, my new novel ‘Pachinko’ is set in Tokyo. I experienced the charm of this vibrant city firsthand, but I still looked up every aspect of this city. How people live and work with their lifestyles. I explored their cuisine and their language to make it look more authentic. Make your novel as detailed as possible.
Characters: Before you start writing, you probably have a few characters in mind. Before starting your novel, I found it useful to write a character sheet. In this document, I wrote down their role in the story, their occupation, physical description, personality, habits and their background. Be as thorough as you can, but don’t worry if you can’t fill every detail just yet. Most of the details come while writing your story.
Scenes:Imagine your scenes before writing them down. Ask yourself what’s the purpose of this specific scene. What happens to who and what impact does it have on your story outline? Just as your story, every scene has a beginning and an end. Pay attention to your beginning, make sure you attract your reader, and write a powerful ending to capture them, making them want to read more.
Edit: Everything you write is a first draft. There’s no use in editing while you’re writing. Don’t mind the typo’s or the punctuation marks, just start writing whatever comes to mind. Give yourself the freedom of diving into your creative flow. Make sure the general idea is written down and start editing when you have finished your manuscript. However, if you feel you’re stuck in a writer’s block, it might help rereading your chapters and editing meanwhile to get you back in that creative flow.
Notes: I can’t stress this enough, use notes! It doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with, if inspiration strikes, write them down. The most romantic version is pen and paper, but this day and age, using your phone could prove time-saving. I carry around a notebook wherever I go. Writing with pen and paper has proven to bring out more inspiration while writing.
A good writing exercise, one I use while I’m on holiday, is writing down your environment. Write what you see and experience, going from the lighting, decoration, to what it smells like. Be as detailed as possible. The same goes for the people you encounter, write down what they look like, how they act in that certain place. The hardest part for me as a writer, and an introvert, is writing a solid dialogue. Therefore, listen to the people around you and write down their conversations (if it isn’t anything private of course). If you’re among friends, ask if they would mind if you record your conversations with them.
One last tip: read! As much as you can, wherever you can. Reading how other writers dealt with certain situations might help you get out of that writer’s block or give you that final piece of inspiration you needed to finish that chapter.
Excited with these guidelines? Go write that novel you’ve always had in you and who knows, you might have written that new bestseller.