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Beginner here. So, I have tons of ideas for a novel, and in fact I want to write one (even a series), but I'm struggling a lot in actually starting writing the story. I have ideas for characters and their personalities, conflicts, etc.

But I don't feel very motivated or secure in putting my ideas into the paper and start writing the novel. Do guys have tips to help me about this?

  • try youtube.com/watch?v=KcmiqQ9NpPE (and rest of the video parts) – sesquipedalias Aug 20 at 5:43
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    This question is likely a duplicate. Please check it out and see if there is a followup question you'd like to ask instead. writing.stackexchange.com/questions/4705/… – Cyn says make Monica whole Aug 20 at 5:52
  • And welcome to Writing.SE KLTKGK, glad you found us. Please check out our tour and help center. It's okay if your question gets closed due to being a duplicate. It means it was a good question, just one already asked. Please stick around, read, answer, and feel free to ask more questions. – Cyn says make Monica whole Aug 20 at 5:54
  • MORE OF A SIDENOTE: I personally would take the most isolated idea and practice with a short story (10-20 Pages), then maybe the length of what Goethe used to write (I dont know what they're called in English, but if you know any of his "long" works you know the "clearly not a short story but not a novella yet" length. That way you get experience (and with the second already the practice of patience, which is key for a real novel. Once you have that gather your other ideas to combine them in a novel – Hobbamok Aug 20 at 12:30
  • I found this website and followed the ideas put forth by the author: Advanced Fiction Writing And then break down the ideas into page-turning scenes: Writing the Perfect Scene Not sure if you're writing fiction or not, but this helped me immensely. Finishing my third book now. One book is currently on Amazon. – Peppi Vecchio Aug 20 at 17:15
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To quote Margaret Atwood - "You become a writer by writing, there is no other way."

Starting a project is hard, no matter what, and accepting that it's going to be challenging - but ultimately worthwhile is how I always try to frame it for myself.

I would say to begin with some general brain dump writing. It doesn't have to be good; it's better if it's terrible - the point it to get what's in your head out. Get it written onto a page, or post-it notes, or typed into a document. Then you will have a sense of what you have and don't have.

It's tough to organize the information required for composing a novel-length book in your head. So having notes, outlines, and even summaries of characters and settings are useful.

That can all be a basic outline for your story, and from there you will be able to start working out details, and writing the exciting stuff, like what happens, how and why.

  • Welcome to Writing.SE ShinyPanda88! Nice answer. If you have any questions about how the site works please take the tour, check out the help center and visit Writing Meta, the part of the site where you can ask how something works. Have fun! – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 20 at 7:17
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Something that has helped me is to have a list of the chapters of the novel with a short summary of each one. Don't worry if there are gray spots on it, in fact that is good as it allows the story to develop itself while writing.

Also, don't worry if you need to change it, the important thing is that at any moment, you have a map to know where you come from and where are you heading to in the story.

  • Yes, try to make "way points" in the progression of the tale, but don't be afraid to change them. Said another way: Don't make your story fit your first thoughts on how it should go, otherwise you can end up with super long or super short chapters. – computercarguy Aug 20 at 23:20
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You start by starting. There is no other way.

As to how to organize it, I like JK Rowling's approach.

  1. She broke her series down into 7 books (1 for each year at the magic school).

  2. She mapped out general story arcs for her characters.

  3. She then wrote a lot of scenes as they came to her

  4. Finally she stitched them together to form chapters.

(I read this process from an interview with her)..

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My answer to The Psychology of Starting a Piece of Writing is a guide to getting started. Other answers there are good as well. This will explain how to get going on the first line, first scene, first chapter.

Organizing Your Ideas.

I suggest creating four piles, for what I consider the four parts of the story (each about 25% of the book).

Part 1: Ideas about introducing the characters, the setting, and the "Normal World", before the main problem shows up. We need to know them before the main action begins, or we don't care about them. So we introduce them, and probably who or what they love, why they will take risks and suffer hardships. Halfway through this part, you introduce the "inciting incident", and any ideas about dealing with that begin here. Obviously, the inciting incident is the first signs of the main problem driving the story, and in many cases the MC doesn't recognize it as a BIG problem, and fails to address it (or makes matters worse) by trying to deal with the inciting incident as a little problem.

Part 2: New Complications, ideas about how the characters encounter or create new difficulties. The story gets more complex here, perhaps due to failures in their initial attempts to deal with the inciting incident. Or they find out it is worse; the cancer has spread, the corruption is deeper than they thought, the mentor they trusted is a mole, their name and signature has been forged on all the damning contracts, the person they just had a shouting match with, in a public restaurant, has been killed.

Part 3: Unwinding Complications. Your ideas about resolving the problems. Small problems get resolved, then larger ones, and we start finding ways to uncomplicate the story. By reconciliation, negotiation, or violence. The heroes can still make mistakes, but the complications and their resolutions are teaching them about dealing with the problems. By analogy, imagine you are plucked from your normal life and dropped in a jungle. Part 2 is about you frantically trying to survive. People around you die, attacked by wild animals, drinking bad water, eating bad food. But if you don't get killed, these incidents have taught you something, and you move into a new phase (Part 3) of understanding this dangerous new world, and navigating it more safely and expertly. The jungle is becoming more predictable.

Part 4: The "big problem" still exists, but here we have learned enough, we finally discover the key to the resolution. But it will require a big risk, and we have one chance at this. We take it, for the sake of what we loved in Part 1. In my books this is a success, and then the heroes (those still alive) return to their New Normal world, changed for the better. More mature, or in love, or less selfish, more responsible, etc.

Take your ideas and put them in order, how they might contribute to the story. sections that are light need work, and more ideas. To me, the most important section is the beginning, I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and trying to make them real people in my mind. I also think about the big problem, and how it might be resolved, so I have a "destination" for the story in mind, but it isn't ironclad, as long as I always have some possible ending in mind.

I think if you imagine real people and put them together, and start throwing problems at them, they will react and you will get a story out of it. If you throw something that blows up the story, sends them off on a tangent you don't like, then just undo it, and try something else.

Get your ideas organized by what part of the story they would probably appear in. Keep those ideas as notes, things you could fit into the story, or want to find a place for in the story. You may not use all of them, characters moving through their life may give you new ideas, you should keep them too, as potential scenes.

But that said, I write the book from the beginning and go to the end, I don't skip around. Every chapter depends on the characters up to that point, and they are changing (at least in what they know, perhaps in personal ways as well), so (for me) I can't really write Chapter 10 until I have written Chapters 1-9. My characters are not robots.

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Starting from a blank page is always hard, so don’t beat yourself up. But there are tools that will help you get started:

The first I would recommend is Scapple by Literature and Latte.

Scapple is a virtual corkboard where you can store ideas before you start writing. I start with photographs of my characters and settings. I drop in pieces of dialogue, ideas for scenes, character outlines. Anything that comes to mind goes on my corkboard.

The next tool I use is The Story Grid. Not only has Shawn Coyne written this great book but he also has free outlining tools on his website and does a great podcast with Tim Grahl where he teaches him how to write a novel from beginning to end.

Once I’ve outlined, I use Scrivener. Unlike Word, Scrivener allows you to easily write out of order, which I love to do. I start with the easiest scenes, those I'm inspired to write, and get those down first. I often write the first few chapters, then the last few. Because, once I know the beginning and end, as if they're two places on opposite sides of the map, I only have to figure out how to get from A to B, and which stops I need to make en-route. That helps me figure out the middle.

Read Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. It's an excellent book to inspire you to write. She recommends going to the stationery store and buying a crappy, cheap notebook. Crappy notebooks, as opposed to beautiful hardback tomes, free you up to write absolute crap. But out of that dung heap, you can dig for gems. It composts over time (as Natalie puts it) and ideas become rich and refined. Buy a fast pen that moves across the page as quickly as your thoughts, and just write. Write at the bus stop. Write on the train. Write in cafes. Let the words pour out without checking yourself or editing any of them.

Because, if you stare at the blank page waiting for diamonds to spring from your fingertips, you'll never write anything.

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.” -- Anne Lamott.

How to start? Just write! Let yourself go. Have fun. Spill your soul on the page.

Good luck!

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