How do you get started writing a novel?

The first time I sat down to write my novel, I was so intimidated that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to start the first chapter. So I didn’t. I wrote Chapter 6 instead. Then, because I still couldn’t figure out how to write Chapter 1, I wrote chapter 4. Then chapter 13. By that time, it didn’t seem like as big a deal, especially since I kept reminding myself that it didn’t matter if it was crap – I could fix it later. It was just important to start. Period.

Another thing – about that infernal editor. If you have problems turning it off, you can try any number of things to force it to be silent. You can give it a name – and a whole other personality – and tell it that it’ll get its say soon. Or, if you have decent typing skills, put on a blindfold and type away – can’t edit if you can’t see, right? Or write by hand – there seems to be more of an emotional connection as opposed to typing (or so I’ve heard). And keep reminding yourself that the first draft is just that – a first draft. There’s plenty of time to chop, change, add later. Just get the flow down and worry about the rest later. You can start in the middle of some action or conversation – that way you have something to propel you forward.

That’s my $0.02 (that’s $5 Canadian).

Placidia the novel – First Draft is DONE!!!!!

I have a novel I’ve been working on and off for the last three or three and a half years, and this morning, I finished my first draft. (Laurie does the snoopy dance.) It was hard work. It was frustrating. I gave up on it three times for six months to a year or so at a time. I was blocked and felt like my story was going no where. Well, I finally became unblocked again last week and finished the damn thing.

For me, this first novel (there will be others following it) was a learning process – the time for me to learn what works for me in writing a novel and what doesn’t. I learned that I was blocked because where I thought the novel was going next didn’t make sense for the characters and culture in my novel. Once I figured out a plot line that was logical for these people, it started to flow again. So that’s a lesson for me. When I’m blocked, I need to rethink the plot. Other times that I’ve been blocked, it’s been because I needed to do more research, or get my characters settled in my head, or . . . Well, you get the idea.

I could also tell you that my novel at present only has about 1/3 to 1/2 the content it will have when it’s done because it’s missing sub plots and a lot of detail & description. That’s okay, too. That can go in on second draft. First draft for me is about getting the damn story down. Fill in the blanks later. My sister insisted on reading my first draft, what I had, last week, and didn’t much like it – missing too many holes, didn’t make sense, she said. Well, of course not. It’s only first draft. It doesn’t matter right now. It has inconsistencies until I figure out exactly where it’s going in the end. Which I’ve just done. So, you see, it doesn’t matter that it sorta sucks now. Of course it does. Who cares? I can fix it later.

And maybe the story really isn’t salvageable. Well, I can always take out a couple of chapters or whatever and fill them in with something better later. Or rethink the direction I want it to go in, or rethink the characters. The important thing right now is to keep writing and learn about my writing process and what works for me and what doesn’t. Don’t worry about the polished piece until much later.

Laurie (who has also never finished anything ever before in her life and is so stinkin’ proud of herself)