Preparing to Write

How do you begin to write a novel? Do you rush straight in with a vague idea in your head, or do you spend days, weeks, months, or even years meticulously planning every moment before you ever set pen to paper (or, finger to keypad)?

There isn’t a “right” way to write. It depends on the individual. Some writers create all manner of things before they begin: detailed spreadsheets, family trees, character profiles, music playlists (to get into character) … the possibilities are endless. Of course, the research doesn’t end when the writing starts, but having all this information in place at the beginning must cut down on an awful lot of editing at the end.

Me? I’ve always been a dive-straight-in kind of writer. Research has always seemed like a way of stalling, delaying the process until all the enthusiasm disappears. What could be better than grasping at the silhouette of a character and working out the nuts and bolts as you go? It can be exciting when you don’t know where your characters are going – and, if the writer doesn’t know the story’s end, then the reader won’t either!

Recently, however, I’ve started to value the process of looking before I leap in. Sure, it might take away a little of the excitement, but there is nothing more frustrating than getting to the end of a draft and thinking, ‘I wonder if this story would have been better in 3rd person/past tense/set in another time zone/with a different protagonist.’ Knowing the skeleton of the story before you start also means that you’re in a far better place to drop in some clues and hints along the way.

Today, I’m planning. I’m getting to know my characters, researching a little about the sorts of things which make their worlds go round, so that when they come to make their big decisions then I (and the reader) will understand. Tomorrow, I write.

So, how do you begin a novel?

3 thoughts on “Preparing to Write

  1. Hi Kerrie, Great post! I don’t think there is a wrong way to begin as everyone’s process is different. Perhaps getting to know what works best for you, as a writer, is the most efficient way. For The Forest King’s Daughter I spent a lot of time planning and researching (partly because it was historical fiction so I felt I needed that research in place before I could begin). But that did add a lot of time to the writing. For the current novel I’m working on, I’ve just dived right in. But now I’m going back and doing some research, and writing at the same time. I do find that doing research enriches the story for me as I can use what I learn to deepen the story and the meanings within it. But I think it depends a lot on the writer, and the story! Whatever it is I’m doing, I try to spend some time thinking about and engaging with my novel every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Kendra,
    Yes, even on days when no writing takes place, it is good to keep up the rhythm by doing a bit of research or thinking out a bit more of the plot or characters. I find that once a story gets into my head, I am thinking about it all the time. Usually they swim around my head while I’m trying to sleep at night – that is when some of my best ideas appear!


  3. Pingback: Stuck in the Middle | Keep Writing

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