Everyone’s path is different. Starting your first novel is a gray area and the more people I asked advice from the more answers I received. I quickly learned that a right or wrong way doesn’t exist. Your way is the best way, as long as you are making progress towards your goal. If you are looking for some ideas on how to get started, here are a few of the steps I took:
- Set a goal, any goal. Maybe to finish your novel in a year, or to write an hour a day? Maybe even have your first draft completed by the end of summer, etc. For me, realistic goals are important.
- Determine the type of story you want to write and the genre. Visit the bookstore and find books that you like and identify books that are similar to what you are writing. For instance, are you writing in 1st person or 3rd? Single or multiple points of view? Identify others like yours.
- Purchase software to write. I prefer Microsoft Word, Scrivener and Microsoft One Note. Yes, they all have a different purpose and provide me comfort that I won’t lose my ideas. I use OneNote on my phone for everything, so a small notebook is not necessary.
- Draft your story outline. Yes, this is difficult, but it forces you to think through the different parts of your book. I enjoyed the book Outlining Your Novel by KM Weiland; she also has a workbook available.
- Write character sketches and convert your outline into scenes in Scrivener. This is much more fun. You can search for Scrivener Character Sketch Template online and see many options to use. Endless YouTube videos exist for how to use Scrivener, and you can be up and running in less than 30 minutes. I like the videos by Vivien Reis. If you prefer the old school method of paper and pencil, buy some different colored post-it notes and a large bi-fold presentation board. Create your scene’s with the post-it notes and put in order on the board. You can also use different color sharpies to show point of view (POV) or characters.
- Draft your Synopsis, yep the hardest part. Now that you have the outline, character sketches and scene’s which represent the foundation of your story. The synopsis will provide a summary of what happens in your book from start to finish including the major plot points and gives away the ending. In about two pages or around 500 words. I find myself constantly going back and revising this, but I am glad that I went through the exercise.
- Start writing your novel. My kind friend suggested reading The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke. Very helpful. The fun part now begins.