Tag Archives: how to write

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips
Not sure how to start your novel? Perhaps you’re like my students, who procrastinate on their novels’ beginnings. I wrote this article for my students. If you feel that your novel’s beginning isn’t what it should be, I hope that these tips will help you too.

Your novel: who wants what, and why?

I’m a confirmed pantser; that is, someone who starts a novel as the mood takes them. I just start writing. However, I keep three things in mind:

  • Who is this person I’m writing about?
  • What does he or she WANT, and …
  • WHY does he or she want it?

Once you’ve settled on those three things you’re well underway, but you’ve still got a major nuisance… how will you begin your novel?

These tips will help.

1. Start after the beginning: start anywhere you like

Writing the first few pages of your novel is intimidating. I know that if I read page one of a novel while I’m browsing in a bookshop or on Amazon, and hate the first page, that’s all I’ll read.

You need to hook your reader on page one.

How do you do that?

Trust me, you’ll figure it out, but usually not until you’re well under way with your novel.

For years, I hated starting a new novel because of what I called the Page One Dilemma. Should I start right in the middle of the action (always a good thing) leaving explanations of who the characters were, and what they wanted until later, or should I:

  • Create atmosphere first;
  • Start with dialogue;
  • Make a foreshadowing statement…

I’d play around with beginnings day after day, until I got sick of myself and kept writing, figuring that I’d fix the beginning once I knew more about the novel I was writing.

Finally, I decided that any novel’s beginning was immaterial — all I had to do was BEGIN writing, and keep going. Sooner or later I’d figure out the best beginning.

And I always do. You will, too. 🙂

2. Frame your novel with a prologue

Prologues have gone out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid them.

I think of a prologue as splashing something vivid onto the page. I may discard the prologue completely later, or I may incorporate it into the body of the novel somewhere, but a prologue gets you started with a bang.

Consider how “prologues” are used when you’re watching a movie, or a TV episode. Law & Order for example always starts with someone’s murder, or serious injury. If you’re writing a mystery or thriller, you might begin with the murder too.

Think of your prologue as:

  • Setting the mood of your novel;
  • Foreshadowing a major event in the novel; and most importantly…
  • As something you write casually, which you may or may not use in the novel.

3. Writing the ending of your novel FIRST

I love writing endings first, because I know that the ending will change. So you can write the ending easily enough; there’s no pressure.

However, once you’ve written the ending, you’ll find that you’re on fire to start your novel. And you’ll get started, without thinking about it, because the ending is “done.”

Yes, this is a psychological trick you play on yourself, but it’s a good one, and it usually works.

Try this simple strategy if you’re finding that starting your novel is a huge challenge.

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Happy writing. 🙂

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
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3 Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Build Your Characters

3 Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Build Your Characters

In fiction writing, there’s an old argument among authors. Some authors believe that the plot is everything; while others believe that the plot is immaterial — fiction begins and ends with fictional characters.

If you’re unhappy with your fiction — your characters haven’t “come alive” — chances are that you’ve been pushing them around. You’re too focused on your plot.

Let’s look at some fiction writing tips which will help you to build great characters, and a wonderful plot.

Characters in fiction writing: two essentials for each character

New authors imagine that to create a character, you need to know everything about him: his shoe size, for example. Or whether or not he likes anchovies on his pizza.

To create a character who has the potential to be wonderful, you only need to know two things:

  • What he wants. What’s his heart’s desire — what will he sacrifice for?
  • What internal obstacle stops him getting what he wants?

Now let’s look at three tips to help you to build great characters who will grow your plot for you.

1. To create a character, start with an attribute to create an internal obstacle

In Craft Fictional Characters For NaNoWriMo: 3 Tips, we said:

I know some authors like to create page upon page of character bios, and that’s fine — although it’s never worked for me. I like to start with the basics, a fictional character’s name, his age, his profession, and his primary attribute.

Let’s say that we’re writing a cozy mystery, and we want to create a quirky sleuth. Without bending our brain, we decide on:

* Name: Mara Mason, age 26

* Profession: widow, who works from home, as a virtual assistant;

* Primary attribute: intense curiosity.

You can create a character within moments, as you can see. Mara’s primary attribute is curiosity, an essential for a sleuth. It’s also a double-edged sword, and this attribute helps you to create external obstacles for Mara.

Recall however that we also need Mara’s heart’s desire, and an internal obstacle which stops her getting what she wants.

Let’s say that Mara’s heart’s desire is a family of her own. Her parents died when she was young, and she lived in a long succession of foster homes. She wants what she never had. What’s the internal obstacle? It’s a lack of trust. Mara can’t trust anyone enough to reveal herself and build close relationships.

Vital: your character will usually be totally unaware that he has an internal obstacle which stops him getting what he wants. He may also be unaware of what he mostly deeply desires.

Although Mara may be unaware that she has problems with trust, and unaware that she longs for a family, you as the author are completely aware. You use this knowledge to build your plot.

Similarly with other major characters in your novel. You need to know what they most want, and what stops them getting that.

2. Once you know the internal obstacle, build your character’s backstory to explain it

Our backstory explanation of Mara’s trust issues is: orphan, foster homes.

However, if you want to write a novel which is a page-turner, keep 95% of the backstory out of your novel.

As we said in: Fiction Tips: Kill Your Backstory,

Your explanations are backstory. You need to know the backstory, but your reader doesn’t. You may have heard that you should start slotting backstory into your novel after the setup, somewhere after the first few chapters. This can work, but honestly? It still bogs down the story. You want readers to keep reading, so only tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Backstory is a killer, especially for new novelists. I’m currently reading The Night Manager, by John Le Carré. He’s amazing. I love the way he handles backstory, but he’s an expert. Until you have Le Carré’s skill, avoid dumping backstory into your novel.

Instead, hint at the backstory. For example, perhaps Mara has a garden rock on her desk. She took the rock from the garden of the one foster home in which she was completely happy.

You can keep readers wondering: why is that simple rock so important to Mara? Keep them wondering, until you reveal its importance to Mara.

When you limit your revelations of backstory like this, you’ll write a more exciting novel, because you’re involving readers.

3. Develop your plot: your plot is the resolution of your main characters’ internal and external obstacles, in SCENES

You need to know the heart’s desire of all your main characters, as well as their internal obstacles. You SHOW the desires, and the external and internal obstacles in scenes.

We covered how to set a scene in Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips:

Character goals lead to: action, conflict, suspense… DRAMA

It’s often easier to study scenes while watching a movie. There’s less chance you’ll get lost in the words. So watch a movie, with a pen and paper. Pause the action when a scene ends, and replay the scene. Analyze it.

When you focus on your characters’ internal and external obstacles, you’ll automatically build a good plot, scene by scene, because you’re focused on your characters.

More Heart To Heart: Write Hot-Selling Romance Fiction

More Heart To Heart: Write Hot-Selling Romance Fiction

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 2
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
I adore writing romance fiction, and now you can write romance too. More info →
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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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Resources to build your writing career

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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

How To Make Writing Easier: Free Writing Classes

How To Make Writing Easier: Free Writing Classes

Want to make writing easier? Even if you love writing, writing can be a challenge. On bad days, the temptation is to write “tomorrow”. Before you know it, a week’s passed, and you haven’t written a word.

We’re offering free writing classes to make writing easier.

By “writing” we mean anything and everything: fiction, nonfiction, social media content, advertising… For example, I know many writers suffer when they try to write marketing content to promote their books. As you’ll discover, with the right processes, it truly is easy.

In Write More: Free Writing Classes Coming Next Week we said:

Free writing classes, with free reference material, to make writing easier

We’ll work with the writing programs which we’re no longer selling. You’ll download them completely for free, and each week, in the ezine, and here, we’ll create some exercises to help you to get to grips with the material.

In essence: free writing classes, so you can build your skills, make more income, and be a much happier writer.

Consider this. If you learn and USE just one new strategy a week, for  three months, that would make 12 new strategies. Do you think that those 12 would increase your opportunities? I know that they would.

Our first strategy is discovering yourself — how to put yourself into your writing, and write more, more easily. We’ll do that using Authentic Writing: Develop Your Writer’s Voice, And Sell as our reference text.

Your writing will improve too

You don’t need to slave over your writing to write well — discover that you can increase your writing speed, and the quality of your writing too.

You’ll need to subscribe

The free writing classes are for members of our writing groups. You can join here if you’re not already subscribed.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing; you’ll learn processes and strategies which make writing much easier.

Join us — your receive your first lesson next Tuesday.

Wondering how much time to budget for the classes?

Your free writing class is simple, practical, and powerful. If you have 20 minutes a day over three days, you’re golden.

Eager to get started? Join here.