Nathan Bransford is an author and former publishing professional. Today, he offers five tips to getting your novel started. (This post is adapted from How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever.)
Writing a novel is hard. So hard, in fact, that some people are intimidated by how large the task looms. But do not fear! You can do this. Here are 5 tips for getting started:
NUMBER ONE: Think of an idea you love enough to neglect everything else you enjoy in life.
When you’re choosing an idea for a novel, you’re choosing something you are going to be spending more time with than many of your best friends and your most demanding family members. You’re choosing an idea that will render your bathing habits irregular and your sanity patchy.
In other words, it can’t be an idea you merely like. Liking an idea will get you to page fifty. It will give you an initial burst of enthusiasm—a dawning feeling of “Hemingway’s daiquiri, I can do this!”—before you inevitably lose interest, your attention wanders, and you find yourself with an unfinished novel that you feel vaguely embarrassed about.
Open yourself up to the world so that the right plot hook or character will flow into you. Prime yourself for inspiration.
NUMBER TWO: Flesh out a vague idea.
As much as it may disappoint us, entire plots do not spring forth fully formed from our brains for us to breezily channel into words. You will not have a eureka moment where you suddenly have an entire idea for a novel, from start to finish, that you can transcribe in mere days, and even if this should miraculously happen to you once, you should not tell another writer because they will hate you forever.
More likely, you’ll have a vague idea that might be the merest embryo of a novel. A tiny shard. A little novel sapling that needs to be lovingly coaxed not just into a tree but into an entire forest.
Don’t just jump in. Take some time to figure out what matters to your characters and put some big obstacles in their way.
NUMBER THREE: Figure out how you’re going to back up your work.
Come up with a backup plan and stick to it. Email your manuscript to yourself all the time. Use a storage site like Dropbox. Sync everything to iCloud or write in Google Docs. Save to thumb drives and secretly bury them under rocks in local parks. I don’t care. Just make sure that if you lose your computer and your home backup drive, you won’t lose your novel.
NUMBER FOUR: Don’t chase trends.
If you try and write your book according to trends, you’re playing a very risky game. The industry and reading public will likely have moved on to the next thing by the time you’ve even completed your manuscript. Trends move fast.
Don’t worry about the fads and don’t follow the trends. Be original. Write what you love. It’s better to start a trend than to chase one.
NUMBER FIVE: Just do it.
When you’re just starting to write a novel, there are only two things you’re looking to find: voice and plot.
All the world building, all the ins and outs, and all the “how in the heck am I going to make this work?”—you can worry about that as you go along. Voice and plot are what you’re looking for when you start the actual writing.
Start writing. It’s time. You’re ready. You have nothing to lose and a whole new world waiting for you.
Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe and most recently Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp. He writes a blog on writing and publishing. He lives in Brooklyn and has just published a guide to writing a novel.
Top photo created from a photo taken by wwworks.