First step in writing my novel

I’ve been wanting to write a novel for a long time, but I’ve always felt intimidated by the prospect. Thoughts of the following blocked me:

  • ‘Novel writing is for the experts – not someone like me that struggles with writing and does not even have a clear plot or story idea’
  • ‘Better leave it to the professional creative writers’
  • ‘Who am I kidding, I can’t write a novel. I have no experience, and no technical training in this’
  • ‘Every story idea I come up with, it’s already been written or done. What can I bring?’
  • ‘Writing a novel is for the experts, the creative ones, the great writers. I am none of these things’.

Despite all these thoughts, there was still a desire inside me to write a novel that I just could not ignore. And the more I tried to ignore it, the stronger it became. I would catch myself randomly making mental notes for plot ideas and squirreling them away in one corner of my brain. I was constantly inspired by books and films and these would trigger random potential plot ideas. I kept dreaming about writing a novel, instead of actually doing it.

I didn’t (and still don’t) have a clear idea of the story or plot, but I did have a clear idea of who my main character would be: a female protagonist, but I couldn’t find the perfect name for her. For months I searched. I felt I couldn’t start writing, until I named her. But then the other day, I found the perfect name and that was the catalyst I needed.

Today I gave myself a five minute timer, to just ‘write’. I sat at my desk and wrote a single paragraph. It’s an isolated random paragraph, it might not even make it to the final draft, but it’s a start, and I enjoyed writing it.

The main inspiration I attribute to me embarking on writing a story comes from Austin Kleon – who wrote in his book ‘Steal like an artist’: “Write the book you want to read. Write the kind of story you like best – write the story you want to read“. I love this. This is the best advice I’ve come across about writing your own work of fiction. It’s so simple and gives everyone the permission needed to write the story only you can write. I absolutely adore this advice and recall it countless times in my head, and use it as ammunition against those thought demons.

I was hesitant to publicly declare my ambition of writing a novel, as truth be told – I’m writing the novel for me. Just me.  No one else will read it, and I have no desire to publish it (which is pretty presumptuous of me to even say at this point!). I may change my mind, but for now, I need to believe this novel is only for me and no one will ever read it. I need to believe this because it allows me to have complete freedom in what I write, without me being influenced by imaginary readers.  If I think no one else will ever read it, I can write the book that I would personally enjoy reading.

I have a friend who is also writing a novel, and I suggested a ‘writers pact’ with her. Every day we will tell each other how many words we have written, that’s it. No more details. She won’t ask me and I won’t ask her.

For now, I’m keeping the character’s name, details about characters, potential plot ideas, and the story – a secret; at least until I have a good idea of what the story is. All I will say is the genre will most likely either be: dystopian, sci-fi or supernatural, or perhaps a combination of all three. Right now, I have lots of vague ideas, mostly inspired by works of fiction I personally love, but nothing concrete, and nothing that’s original. I’m working on the character first, and already I’m seeing what she’s like. Maybe the story will unfold itself. Whatever the case may be, it’s exciting.

I came across these random quotes from an old diary of mine, I don’t know who wrote them.

“Anything you think of can become a story” – unknown

“There are things you’ll never do, but you can still make them happen by simply putting words on paper”.  – unknown

Austin Kleon
From Austin Kleon’s book: Steal Like an Artist
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The Constant Scholar

Former academic biologist (PhD), now a rogue scholar in psychology, philosophy, and other things that interest me. Things I love: films, books, music, writing, photography, philosophy, and psychology.

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