How to Write Stories (4 Tips for Starting Your Novel)
  • 3-minute read
  • 17th June 2016

How to Write Stories (4 Tips for Starting Your Novel)

We’re told that everyone has a novel inside them. However, extracting that novel can be a long and difficult process. Think of it as the literary equivalent of passing a kidney stone; it’s painful at the time and might seem impossible, but you’ll feel much better once it’s done.

Of course, unlike kidney stones, which typically emerge within 48 hours as part of a natural physical process, you have to actively decide to write a novel, come up with a story, and then start the actual writing.

Plus, it’s rare for a novel to emerge from your urethra. [Photo: Youtube/careworldTV]
But these early steps can be challenging and many budding writers stumble at the first hurdle. Thus, to avert this waste of literary talent, we’ve come up with four top tips for starting your novel.

1. Coming Up With Ideas

Every novel has to start somewhere, so coming up with something to write about is pretty important. But where should you look for ideas?

There’s no strict rule here, but it’s often good to write about something you know, perhaps related to your job, your family or other interests. You could also try using the news for inspiration.

2. Develop Your Idea

Even if you already know what you want to write about, you’ll need to flesh out your ideas before setting to work. This might include listing characters and their motivations, identifying themes and points of conflict, or working out the general structure of the plot.

If only writing a good story was simple as Freytag’s Pyramid suggests.

3. Formulate a Killer First Line

Hooking your reader early on is important, and working out the first line of your novel can set the tone for the rest of the story.

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Again, there’s no magic formula for creating a perfect first line, so you’ll need to try different ideas until something sticks. However, it’s often good to go for something snappy, clear and memorable. Try checking how your favourite novels begin if you’re short on ideas.

She's snappy and memorable, sure, but we think Michael Crichton already wrote that story.
She’s snappy and memorable, sure, but we think Michael Crichton already wrote that story.

4. Trust Yourself

Maybe you’ve got a great idea for a setting, plot and characters. But maybe you don’t think of yourself as a ‘novelist’. Maybe this is stopping you from setting to work.

The key here is to write anyway; no one else is going to write your novel for you! Unless you’re a minor celebrity with an autobiography in production. In which case your publisher will supply a suitable ghostwriter. Which isn’t as spooky as it sounds.

WoOoOo! I won’t get credited for my work! WoOoO! [Image: SlimVirgin/Wikimedia]
Most of us have to rely on our own efforts, though. The point is that you can always edit later on, so it doesn’t matter if your first attempt isn’t perfect. At the beginning of the writing process, you need to allow yourself to make mistakes.

The only way to improve as a writer is by practising, after all.

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