The Startup kit for New Writers

Posted on Posted in Writing advice

Things I wish I knew before I started writing my First Novel.

We have all been there, a moment that defines us. A point in our lives filled with a singular desire. A fateful call to action. A childhood dream. That incredible moment when you decide to finally do something about the voices in your head that won’t go away. That might sound like the definition of crazy, but there is another term to describe such a quack- a writer.

Yes, it’s the moment when you decide you want to finally get on to compiling those snippets of scenes into one complete novel and sweep the readers off their feet.

So here are a few tips or as I like to call it- ‘A start-up kit’ you should have before beginning your novel-

  1. Know your ending- In a marathon the runners cover 42,195 meters. They know their end goal before beginning and so should you. Writing is a marathon of emotions and mental energy. It doesn’t matter how good your climax is. It doesn’t matter how good your characters are. If your novel doesn’t have a clear ending, it will suck. The ending is paramount. So, before you start, have clarity on how you are going to tie up loose ends and give the readers a sense of satisfaction when they put your book down.
  2. Create a character sheet– This one is simple. But simple doesn’t always mean easy. Take some time to know your characters, forming their psyche and conducting imaginary interviews. There are a lot of resources that say that there are two types of stories- plot driven and character driven. But in my opinion, it depends on the choices by a group of characters that define where the plot would head. Their motives, fears, insecurities, ambitions, needs- that is the meat of the story. It is through the eyes of your characters that readers will connect and come to love your book. You should know everything about your characters before you start writing the first sentence of your novel.
  3. Write an outline- An outline is a scene by scene layout of your novel. Sure, it is difficult. Sure, it needs you to sit on your desk and bang your head for hours to complete it but it is worth it. Trust me. If you are a newbie writer, you need to discover a method that suits you. There are two kinds of writers- Perceivers and Plotters. The perceivers are writers who like their story to evolve when they are writing it. To let it flow in any direction that it wishes to. These kinds of writers tend to surprise themselves when they are writing. Most of their stories are character driven, rather than plot driven. So, there is a lot of charm in their characterisation, more imagination and contemplation. Some famous examples include- George R R Martin and Stephan King. Plotters; as the name suggests are writers that have a detailed plan of the scene structure and the plot. They plan everything before even writing the first line. They know where the plot is heading and are able to accurately assess the time it would take to finish a writing project. Their stories have a well-defined structure, flow and most importantly control over the pace of their stories. Realistically, every writer is somewhere in between these two extremes. But I highly recommend that if you are a beginner, then be a plotter. Learn to outline. It is a tremendous tool that you should keep with you and master over time. It saves time, helps you avoid writer’s block because you would know what comes next and allows you to avoid unnecessary plot holes. Over time you will know yourself how detailed you need your outline to be. You will be your own teacher. That is the beauty of storytelling, it’s inbuilt. You just need to know what method works for you. What you can provide that no one else in this world can. Be yourself. Be unique. Be confident. BUT FIRST- OUTLINE!
  4. A writer’s notebook– Or a simple notes app on your smartphone. If you are anything like me then most of your ideas are going to come when you are travelling or daydreaming in awkward places where accessing your laptop is not possible. Imagine losing out on an epic quote by your main character just because you didn’t have someplace to write it down. It would be a huge loss not just for you but for all of us. So, keep a handy notebook or a notes application on your smartphone around so that you can later sync and keep a track of your ideas. Another benefit is that it keeps your ideas in a place and you will be surprised when a few lines written by you a year back would inspire a great scene or an entire novel.
  5. A research folder- Similar to a character sheet, learn to categorise and compile your research in one place for ease of access later on. It helps when you are describing the architecture of a built-form and the scenery of a beautiful landscape together. You won’t have to go back and forth and it will save a ton of your time which is always good during long projects. Seriously, do everything you can to save time.
  6. Set a schedule with realistic, achievable goals- Writing a 70k+ words novel is a hard and perilous journey. It’s full of self-doubts and self-loathing. It is draining but the most important thing for budding writers is to finish your first draft. Don’t look back and edit before finishing. Just don’t. Finish first, edit later. Stick to this mantra and you will be well off. Because you can always go back and change written words. Thus, you need to get organised. Make a list of priorities and word count goals or chapter goals in a stipulated time frame and achieve it. Be realistic and make a schedule. Not only will it help you finish your manuscript but also give you a sense of achievement when you accomplish the set goals and force you to get out of writer’s block.

So, there you have it. Every writer has their own set of methods that work for them and in time you would discover yours too. But the seven points that I stated above will be a good starting point for someone who is new to the craft.

In the end, it is all about planning beforehand to save as much time as possible.

If you have any questions please feel free to comment.

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