We all go through it when we are writing -- the beginning of a new project and starting to write those first few pages of the new book. The blank page is daunting at any time but when you're face with 100 or 200 blank pages, well, that is even worse.
How to begin? Of course, many people begin with research, but too many let that take over their lives and spend an overabundance of time with it. Others want to dive right in, but then the overwhelming prospect of writing it all gets to be too much.
So how do you get started? I've been thinking that through and have some tips for beginning that next book.
1. Set a Limit on your Research & Stick to It -- Yes, you do need to do that research. If you're writing historical novels, you need to have started that long before you begin the writing. If you are writing a specific location or about a particular industry you'll need to conduct research for sure. Just don't get bogged down in it. Set a time limit on that research. Know when you're going to end it and then be ready to start writing on a certain date or month. Don't waver from that date -- it gets too easy to put things off.
2. Get to know your characters before you start. Part of that research should be doing character profiles or studies. Know who your characters are so that they don't continually turn against you as you write. You need to know their emotional interior as well as the physical exterior. Get to know them and spend time with them so that when you actually write them, you don't find them acting in uncharacteristic ways.
3. Know how you want to start the story. What will your first scene be? What is going to get to the action quickly and get the story moving? As readers we don't want a long, involved set up so don't give that to YOUR readers. Bring in your characters and get them involved in something. Throw them off and challenge them from the beginning.
4. Have a general idea of how your story will end. If you're writing a romance you already have some part of an idea. A romance is going to have a Happily Ever After ending so you know you will need to bring your hero and heroine together. But you might also have an idea of how you're going to do that. You can do that by going back to item #3. Have a general idea of your character arc. If you know where the character is starting from, that can help you determine what it will take to get the character into a different position by the end of the story. This is true for romance, but it can be true for mystery, science fiction or fantasy too. Knowing who your character is can help you decide who you want the character to be at the end.
5. Start writing. There is no way around that. Begin writing your opening scenes. Don't worry if they don't sound perfect and don't wait for that perfect sentence to hit you. Bestselling author and super agent Donald Maass told us at a recent workshop not to sweat those opening pages because they will take care of themselves. You can always go back and fix them, but you need to get them started.
If you are working on a new project these ideas can help you get from the vague planning stages to the actual written word, which is what you need to get that next project going.
The bottom line goes back to START WRITING.
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