How to Start Your Novel?

OK. So you have this great story buzzing in your mind and you are itching to make it in to a novel. You think “How hard can it be? I can see the whole thing in front of me like a movie! I can write it down right away!” Congratulations! This is what I would file in to my “Writer’s sunshine moments” and trust me, there are very few of them. Nevertheless the best part of those moments is they compel you to go beyond your boundaries, switch on your laptop and pour your heart out which is a brave thing to do. If you have had this sunshine moment and wondering how can you start your novel (if it’s your first novel, my heartiest congratulations!), then read on. I am hoping this will help you the way it helped me.

I often get bouts of the best scenes when I think of my new story and I get desperate to write it down. True. You should write it down. But then, once written, please file it safely and forget all about it. At least till you have reached that point in your novel.

For you to reach that point, you need to start your novel.

I recommend starting your novel by writing it down once – the outline I mean. Yes, I can hear some of you saying, “I haven’t thought about the whole thing yet!” Well then, think the whole thing through! One of the surest ways to start a novel and ensure you do not leave it incomplete is to think through the story from the beginning to the end once. You do not have to write down every dialogue or every character that would be in the story. But you do need to write down who are your main characters, what are they doing in the story, why do you have a story in the first place, what is their problem, how do they want to solve it, what is blocking them from solving it, etc that will get YOU more clarity. There are some writers who answer these questions like it’s a questionnaire. That is a great way to organize. I am almost always unorganized and I prefer writing it on paper. I usually make it a shorter version of my novel. It spans about 2000 words and once it’s all out there, I feel the only thing left to do is elongate it. 

I achieve three things when I write my outline – One, I get to tell someone what my whole story is even if it is a blank screen now filled up. Trust me, it feels great. You have just released the excitement of a brilliant new story and also found the conviction to make it in to a novel. Two, once my outline is complete, I now have a foundation based on which I can elongate, modify, scratch my story in to a novel. Three, in those dark moments when a blank page is all that I have, I can always get back to my outline to recall what made me start this book. What was the original idea that forced me to forget my existence and write about another.

Of course it is not as easy as it sounds. An outline doesn’t give me the novel. I agree. Just an outline would not help you start your novel. You need well drawn characters as well. Your characters are through whom you are going to tell your story and it becomes imperative that they feel real to your readers. To do that, it is often recommended that you describe each character exhaustively in your notes to know them better. You should be thorough enough with your characters to know if they like drinking coffee with sugar or otherwise. 

Why is this so necessary? Simply because tomorrow when you are writing your novel, there are often times when your character just runs off with it. Your knowledge about that character helps you bring the story back on path. For example, the usually shy heroine of your novel suddenly does not start flirting. If she does, you know there has to be a solid reason for it. If you know your character well, you would either insert the solid reason or just erase that scene. This not only saves you from rewriting, it also helps you be faithful to your story. Therefore, research your characters well before you start your novel. Of course, you do not have to do it all before you start. You can keep building them slowly during the writing, but remember to sketch at least the core of your characters.

Once you have the outline and the characters, the next thing to do is - Write! Yes, all that you need to do it write your heart out. Do not worry about grammar, about organizing, or about any other trivial things that impede your creative flow. You know your story, you know your characters. It is time you make them real! Do not worry about where to start the story. Every author has a different way to do it. You will find yours too. If you need help, I will soon post one in this blog.

The key is to start writing and making sure you do so some everyday.
You will soon realize that starting the novel was only the first of the obstacles to finish a novel:-).

Did you or do you face problems starting your novel? How do you tackle them? 


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