Writing a Book
So I've been mulling around this idea for a story in my head for awhile and I have finally decided to start writing a manuscript for it. I've done my research ahead of time, looked up articles, talked to friends, etc. Quite frankly, however, I have never written a full book in my life. I really enjoy using RPG's site and previous communities I have been a part of as my way to keep my interest in writing and storytelling fresh and maintained but it has finally come down to this. I need to get it started.
Essentially what I'm asking is if there are any other writers out there who have advice for starting up a novel. I'm up for discussion, too (for example, whether to write or type a manuscript).
I find I get more done with my novels if I start out writing them first, then type them up later meanwhile editing. Writing by hand allows me to write wherever I happen to be, whenever an idea comes to me. I don't always want to be writing stuck at a computer. I've been waiting for the weather to get nicer so I can go to the park. Walking around other parts of town always sparks some more ideas in my mind as I people-watch for character ideas and observe the scenery for my setting.
If you ever get stuck on writing a scene, I suggest you just take a break and look in various places for ideas. You never know what will trigger one. If you're trying to hurry up to get to another scene that happens later on in the book, go ahead and write that up and you can write whatever happens before it later.
Many people have to plan out what is going to happen first, so go ahead and make a list if that helps you. Personally, I make it up as I go along. I also like to add in twists to my stories, but you have to do it just right and not too many of them otherwise it's just annoying. Knowing each of your character's histories, no matter how small of a role they play, also helps me a lot. Then I can know what types of positive/negative emotions are lingering in the air and it sets the mood better. I can better predict what someone would say in such a situation if I know them better, and how they feel and what gestures they'd make.
I'm really into the psychological aspect of things and figuring out why people behave the way they do, so that type of knowledge really helps me with character development. You want the readers to be able to relate to your characters in some way, even if it's a villain, you should make them understandable.
That's just my two cents for the moment. ;)
Planning ahead is usally a good idea. There is a saying that a story is all about the Start, The middle and the end.
I write, and I'm working on a couple of novels at the moment.
One of which, I've decided to put on the back burner for now. I've got big ideas, but I just don't feel as though I have the skills for it yet, nor do I have it as solidly planned out as it would need to be for it to be what I want. (Ambiguity, ftw)
So instead I'm focusing on a different story that I feel will be somewhat simpler and better practice.
Though, I'm reluctant to take any courses or anything like that because then it becomes about rules and adhering to guidelines when I'm doing this because I have stories to tell and because I enjoy it. I love making characters and having them live out their lives.
Really, I'd much rather take heed of any discussion that may happen here.
First off, keep everything you write, whether you think it is trash or not. I often find that looking at what I've written in the past gives me new ideas, no matter how crappy I thought it was at the time. Reading, watching movies, and listening to music are also great ways of getting new ideas. And no, the music doesn't have to be classical.
And when you feel you are out of ideas, don't worry about it. Take a break from the writing for a while if you must. And don't force yourself to stay within a certain planned plot. If you think of something, write it down.
Write short stories.
Best advice I can give you. Write short stories before tackling something like a novel. A novel, you see, is a bitch. If you've never completed a story you will have no idea what you're really doing, what part of your story's structure you're actually on and likely your manuscript will fail you because while you know what you want to write, you have no idea how much attention to pay to what. You may think it's like roleplaying, but you'd be dead wrong. Writing a story with a beginning, middle and end is a completely different experience and skill.
Originally Posted by Kestrel
Really it's hard to give advice since everyone has their own ways with going about things. Some love to plan everything out beforehand while others just wing it as they go. For me I plan out the basics such as what my main conflict is and why my main character is involved in said conflict. Once I get that I develop a bit of the plot and characters. After the planning is done I just write, it let's me see the characters actually in action and gives me a better look at the plot. After the first draft I look at what worked, what didn't work and edit accordingly. The key to remember is that you are never going to write a masterpiece your first go around. As Terry Pratchett said once, "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story."
Starting with short stories is pretty sound advice as well. It helps get you used to that form of writing without overwhelming you.
Some of the best advice I've heard: write whether or not you "feel" like writing. Don't wait for your muse to go into overdrive, learn to put yourself into a mindset that's conducive to writing and then do it. Writer's block is something you have to work through, you can't use it as an excuse to not write. Even though writing is as much an art as anything else, you have to learn to do it even when you might not feel like it, just like a job. This will actually help with writer's block in some ways, because once you learn to work through it.. it really isn't such a big deal.
This is way easier to do if you have a decent outline of "how do we get from A to B? Is it just A to B, or is A to B to C to D--" and so on.
Even if you write garbage when you're not absolutely "in the mood" to write, that's what editing, rewriting, and multiple drafts are for. You're writing to get the story mapped out, once the story is actually told you can step in and refine, tweak, and streamline as you see fit, in order to get that rough draft to fit what you had in your headspace.
One way to get around the whole "only writing when you feel like writing" obstacle that trips up a lot of people is to set a minimum amount of writing every day or every other day, or every week. Say, 500 words a day. 1,000 words a day. 5,000 words a week. Whatever. Just find a way to make yourself do it consistently, because writing is like playing music, you learn by doing as much as anything else. I play the bass guitar (and was a fairly good sax player prior to picking up said bass), and there's honestly days I don't want to practice the bass.. at all. I don't even want to look at it. It hurts my fingers, or I've got a headache, or I just don't feel like it. But I pick up the instrument and I do it anyways, and it helps me improve. Same thing with my writing. Sometimes I don't wanna write anything.. but I will anyways. Same thing with going to the gym. Sometimes I'd like to be lazy.. but you don't often find success in laziness. Gotta work for it.
My advice would be to stop mulling over it and just do it. And once you've started, don't stop. Give yourself a word goal (500-1000 words a day?) and as Darth mentioned, write whether you want to or not.
I finished my novel in a month during NaNoWriMo. It is an incredibly rough draft, but it is there. It is done, and now I finally have something to work with. For years, I had just sat around thinking about writing. Now I have just a little over 50,000 words to tweak to my liking. All I had to do was buckle down and write.
My advice would be don't expect perfection in your first draft. Don't even strive for it! Write knowing that you will edit, but edit later. For now, just get your words on paper. Go back and fix it later.