Where do I get started?
I’ve heard this question from a few friends and over the years this is what I’ve managed to come up with. Start small. For a long time, I used to pass around a list of drabbles (subjects for people to write exactly 100 words about). When sending the list, I would instruct people to aim for completing the list. 100 words a day is something everyone has time for. By working on this list a few at a time or even one a day, I wanted my friends to simply get in the habit of writing. While something exciting like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – every November) might be a bit intimidating, 100 words is a good place to start. 100 words forces you to carefully choose what exactly is going to be included and what is extra. The 100 words a day could be an ongoing story or different scenes. The drabbles, I’ve found, are also a fantastic way to break through writers block.
So, now you’re writing every day – great! Writing is a kind of muscle and habit that needs to be worked out. What next? Reading! For whatever genre you are intending to write in, you need to know what is selling and how popular authors are doing. After all, if your end game is to write a fantastic novel, but also find representation for that book, you’ll need to approach an agent who represents authors similar to your style. An agent with sales for books similar to yours is a great way to think about approaching your dream agent in the future and building a list of those who might want to represent you. Reading will also help you understand how genre stories are crafted. When ‘research reading’ (reading books similar to those I’m working on), I critically approach the book. I want to know why the author made the decisions they did. Why is their character acting a certain way? How would my character respond in a similar situation? What is the tone? What does the dialogue sound like?
Hopefully, by now, you’ve got your idea. And you’ve been reading. So, time to get started! While many authors prefer to use an outline (and that can involve anything from note cards to extensive pages of exactly what actions and scenes are going to take place), I do not. For you, do what is comfortable. After all, this is your book. While completing your outline, you might want to invest some time in research (depending on the topic) and character development. There are numerous fact sheets to get to know your character. If you’re writing in science fiction, maybe you need to spend some time world building.
Now, find a comfortable space and get started. Yes, that first page does look lonely, but it will soon be followed by many other pages and scenes. Go ahead and set a loose timeline or deadline you want to finish the book by. It could be six months, one year or by some anniversary, but hold yourself accountable or it’s never going to be finished. But one day, it will be finished!
After the rough draft is complete, I believe in the Stephen King principle – that is, once you are finished putting the book in the proverbial drawer for at least a month. I tend to put mine away for even longer. It’s important to get some space from your work so that when you come back you’ll be ready to look at the manuscript with fresh eyes. Personally, I don’t let anyone look at my work until I’ve finished the first draft, but perhaps you might want to seek out notes for a rough draft.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to go back to basics. While there are numerous books on the subject of writing, I thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing as well as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Chuck Wendig also has a lot of fantastic stuff to say.
For experienced writers, what advice would you give a young writer starting out?
One hotel suite. One year. Many stories. The Winchester Hotel is an active property in Beverly Hills, California. Luxurious and discreet, it is a perfect location for business meetings, weddings, affairs, and other important life events - including the death of an A List celebrity. Told from the omniscient perspective of the room, the reader has a front row seat to the drama that unfolds in the suite. Although each chapter is unique, the characters' lives intertwine in a way only possible in a major metropolis like Los Angeles.
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Genre - Contemporary
Rating – R
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