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Here's how to stop thinking about your book and start writing it

Here’s what no one tells you about writing your first book: the hard bit is having the idea.

Dog with face mask

Coming up with a narrative that is original, engaging and that you don’t hate after ten minutes is pretty much the whole ball game.

So if you already have your idea, pat yourself on the back and pour yourself a large glass of Chablis. Or forego the back-patting entirely.

From here, it’s a simple case of writing your book, although this too can seem daunting. All writers sometimes suffer from Blank Page Syndrome; I bet you never realised a Word doc could actively mock you until you started writing a book, did you?

The trick is to just start writing. This can take any form you want, from notes on a napkin to developing a 500-word-a-day habit, but if you’re still in need of a kick-start, here are some ideas to get you going.

Don’t write your book.

OK, no, wait – I know that's weird, hear me out.

Don’t sit down to write your book…first, write your ideas. Every time you have an idea – for a phrase, or a plot point, or a character trait, or a sequence of words you just like the sound of – write it down.

Some writers like to carry a notebook at all times for this purpose but these are people that clearly don’t have to swap between gym/work/smart-cas bags, or leave notebooks on the Tube. I jot stuff down in my iPhone Notes, or write it on my hand, or on bits of free newspaper (so it’s handy to at least carry a pen). The important thing is that you don’t forget your ideas.

Bite the bullet (points)

As writers we are conditioned to write in sentences. We adhere to a four words good, two words bad mentality, as long as those four words are well punctuated and progress the narrative.

Forget sentences (for now, I mean – I drank the Kool Aid just like the rest of you.). Right now you need to get your random phrases, jottings and ramblings onto the page in some sort of order, and a bullet-point list is a quick and clear way of doing this.

Your lists will be haphazard and will almost certainly change 20,729 times but order on the page means order in your head. Reward yourself with another glass of wine.

Do. Not. Delete.

You’ve had your great idea. You’ve got a semblance of structure. Now, with shaking fingers, you are ready to type some sentences, maybe a paragraph if you’re really fired up, or drunk.

This is what is going to happen: you will write a few sentences. You will hate every word. You will want to delete.

This is totally natural impulse; even the greatest ideas seem to suddenly become pompous, over-written drivel as soon as you make them coherent and add some commas. It is an impulse, however, that must be avoided at all costs.

Your early drafts may be good, they may be rubbish (mine were) but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you keep them, because they are what you will build on when you drag yourself back to your laptop tomorrow.

Find your writing rhythm.

Every time a writer tells me he/she gets up at 5am to write a page, I die a little inside. If I’m up at 5am it’s because I haven’t been to bed, or I’m ill, or because the clocks have gone back and I am confused.

Write at a time – or times – that suit you. This might be on the bus to work or during your lunch break, in the loo, or after dinner, or during dinner, or last thing before you go to sleep.

You might prefer to add bits as you go about your day. This is your book so you get to decide when you write it.

Write like nobody’s reading.

Me (writing my first book): Ha ha! This sentence is hilarious!

Or do I just think it is?

Wait – will people find this offensive?

Hang on – will they even understand this section?

(Lays head on table) I am terrible writer. I’m starting again.

Writing is a wonderful, beautiful and useful. Just the process of transmitting electrical impulses in your brain to your fingertips and watching them flow across the page is breath taking. The best book you will write will be the one that comes from your heart, freely, without worrying whether people think it’s funny or clever or cool. They people that you want to like it, will. The rest aren’t your audience, dude.

If you have a novel percolating inside you, don’t think about it. And don't just write it – enjoy it.

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