Photo by Karrah Kobus
This is actually a very timely blog post for me, as I'm starting to write ROSEHEAD, my 2nd novel, on Monday. But it was one of my Twitter followers, Olly Cromack, who asked me to blog about this. Blog about how does one start writing a novel. And I, of course, oblige. I know you're probably expecting an extensive list of things and to-dos that will prepare you for such an arduous task as writing a novel. On the contrary. There is nothing simpler than starting to write a novel. In fact, it's so easy that anyone can do it. What, you don't believe me? Well, before you will turn your back and saunter off, all hurt, let me demonstrate to you how simple it is, if only one knows where to look.
Start from the deepest pain you harbor. That's it. This is the key to you starting, the key to selecting that 1 idea out of 20 whirling about in your head, that true inspiration that you've been searching for. It's there, in the darkest corner of your psyche, hidden and covered and tucked away, lest it tries to disturb your daily equilibrium. Because to write a novel, this is precisely what you need to do to yourself. To rock your boat. To dig deep where you didn't dare looking for years, maybe even decades, to find that one thing that maybe you haven't told anyone about, not even your best friend. That is the hard part. That is why, once you find it, it's easy. Once you puncture it, it will flow, no, it will gush out, it will spill so fast that you won't be able to type fast enough, because it's pain you always wanted to talk about and couldn't. Well, presto. Now you can! Because in your novel you can exaggerate it all you want, you can speak up through your characters, you can show what it's like, and it will be all disguised as fiction, but the source of your story will be a very real emotion, so it will ring true to you reader. The question you have to ask yourself is, are you willing to go there? Because, as easy as it will be writing it all down, it's extremely painful to cut a hole in your soul. It will hurt. This is the hardest part.
Write the first thing that comes to mind. Literally, once you decided that you want to talk about your pain, once you touched those forgotten feelings, you will feel a jolt, and an image or two will pop into your head, I can guarantee you this. Quickly, grab a pen or your laptop and start typing away, describing in detail what you see. Don't worry about grammar, or story structure, or plot, or characters, nothing of the sort. Just write what you see with your inner eye. Here the key is to never stop, until you're done with 1st draft. Not even pause. Of course, it's impossible, you have to sleep and eat and go to work (if you don't write full time). I mean, don't pause for longer than a day or two. Before you start writing your novel, make sure you have a place dedicated to your writing and time set aside, something that you can maintain for months, maybe even for a year, because this is how long it will take you. I personally rely on a very rigid schedule. I don't know how you decide to do it, but you simply can't be interrupted when you're writing down your 1st draft. You can't look back or rewrite what you've written the day before. Because as soon as you slow down, doubt will settle in. The longer you wait, the worse it gets, until your drive will be lost. It's very fragile. It took me 6 weeks to bang out 1st draft of Siren Suicides. if I can do it, you can do it.
Abandon everything you learned and go crazy. This is again one of those things that stops many beginning writers to write a novel. They want to learn how to do it, before attempting it. They study books, go to courses, dabble in short stories, to test the waters. Wrong. It's not how you learn. You learn by doing. And you learn by having fun. Meaning, you don't worry about what will come out in the end, you go crazy and write down things that make no sense but feel right. The worst thing you can do is think that your 1st draft will look like a finished book. Nope, it won't. It will look like shit, and it's okay. It should look like shit, it's the purpose of 1st drafts. So this is why you have to go crazy, because if you won't be afraid of how it will look in the end, you will be able to access those layers of your memory that you wouldn't be able to otherwise, without cutting loose. Pretend you're five and are learning how to bike. Pretend you have no idea how to do it, you take off, and for a few seconds of balance, you have this fool's bliss, unaware that soon you will fall, and cry, and your knees will be bloody. Starting on your novel is like that, like those first few seconds of complete exhilaration, without fear or doubt. It's the only way to sail through it without getting stuck in writers block. Don't worry, you will cut out the crazy parts in later drafts, but for now it's the liberty to be nuts that will keep you going.
Read your most favorite books. Many people told me in the past that they don't like reading while writing their novels, just so that they won't be influenced by another writer's style. This is a strange idea. Reading will fuel your writing. So I suggest you read books that leave you in awe. Read your absolute favorites, read your favorite authors. When you start writing your first novel, it's not the time to discover someone new, it's the time to rely on old and trusted fun. I will be doing it too, by the way. I'm starting to write ROSEHEAD on Monday, and on Monday I'm starting to reread the entire Harry Potter series. Because I loved the books when they came out, and I am dying to dive into potterland non-stop and see what it does to me. I know what. It will inspire me to keep moving forward. It will inspire you too. I bet you have a bunch of those books that made you catch your breath and exclaim, "I want to write a story like that!" Yeah, read those. You will see what I mean.
This is really all there is to it. Look for your deepest pain. Drag it out from your subconscious to your conscious. Quickly write down what you see. Don't stop writing until your entire 1st draft is done. Write the first things that come to mind, without any structure, simply because they come to you. Go crazy. Oh, and don't forget to create for yourself a writing cave, both place and time, where you can go into your inner world, where it can thrive. Don't start on your novel unless you have that established, because otherwise you will be at the risk of being interrupted and you'll will never finish. Now, why are you still reading this? Shoo! Go! Start! I know your novel is aching to get out. It told me.