Thursday, 3 May 2018

Getting started on your first book

This week, I received an email from a lad called Josh. It said;

I am a 14-yr-old boy who wants to write his first book. How do I start my first book?

I replied with some advice, but thought that actually, this would make a good blog post. So for any other young folk out there who are thinking of writing a book and wondering where to start, here's my advice. 

(Remember though, it's only advice. What works for me might not work for you. Read the advice of other authors too, and be wary of applying advice as 'rules'.)

1. The best advice I can give is...start writing! A writer writes - simple as. So pick up that pen and start putting words on the page, and see where it takes you. Keep a notebook to jot ideas into; write short stories; write scenes, dialogue, descriptions; play with words. Use prompt sites to give you ideas if you're stuck. The more you write, the better your writing will become. 

One of my notebooks and a story that has yet to be finished...

2. Read. A lot. By reading you get to see how the best authors structure their stories, and equally, how those that aren't so good make mistakes. Don't just get to the end of the book and say 'that was great!' or 'That was awful!' Try and analyse what made it good or bad for you - and then try and use or avoid similar things in your own writing.

3. Be aware of how you approach your writing. Are you a planner? Do you need to know exactly what the story's about before you begin to write it? Or are you a pantser? You get a whiff of an idea and you're off, seeing where it takes you? Are you a mix of the two (I certainly am!) Do you like to write every day, or only when the muse strikes? What works for you won't necessarily be the same for someone else...and it might take you some time to figure out how you work best.  

4. Don't worry if your story isn't perfect to start with. Tell yourself it's the s****y first draft, it's you working it out for yourself. The 'proper' story comes later, when you're writing it for your reader. And don't be surprised if you end up editing it again and again and again... fuel of choice when editing

5. Make sure the writing is as good as you can make it, especially if you reach the point of wanting to submit it anywhere. Check spellings, grammar, punctuation, and presentation etc. Ask for help if you need it - and be prepared to accept it.

6. Don't give up. If you really want to be a writer, then you have to be prepared for some serious knocks - and each time you get knocked, you have to get up again and keep on trying. If you believe there's a story in you which you have to tell, make sure you tell it. Persistence pays off, as long as you are learning and improving.

There's probably a lot more I could add, but I think that will do for starters. Picking up that pen is the first step in capturing the story ideas that are in your head. Once you've done that, well...who knows where you'll end up?


  1. Replies
    1. My pleasure Josh - I hope at least some of it helps you make a start! And if what I said doesn't, check out some of the other good 'starting your first novel' advice out there from all sorts of different authors and publishers.

      But remember - most importantly - pick up that pen and WRITE! ;)