Getting it `Write’ at the Start – Help for New Writers
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1) You want to write a book but there are several things you want to know before you begin.
2) You have started your book and come to a screeching halt.
3) You have started writing your book and have completed two amazing chapters – but, suddenly, you are stuck – you seem to have boxed yourself in.
Relax. These situations regularly affect more experienced writers. There is no shame in it. It does not mean you can’t write – it probably means that:
a) There’s a bit of research needed
b) You probably threw yourself into it full throttle and just ran out of steam
c) You didn’t do a detailed outline or synopsis for your story
So, where do you go from here?
First, don’t panic – settle down and take a deep breath; you’ll get nowhere fast if you allow stress to take over. Let’s briefly examine items 1, 2 and 3.
If it’s things you need to know to keep your time, place, and characters etc realistic and accurate then it’s probably research that’s needed. This is what libraries, internet, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and museums are for.
Endless books have been written on almost every topic you can think up so perhaps the local library might be a good place to start. If a book tells you something you don’t particularly agree with (from your knowledge of the subject), reference it elsewhere, and elsewhere, and elsewhere until you are satisfied.
For every book that says one thing there will be others that are based on a slightly and sometimes radically different perception. But the more you read and the more questions you ask, things will generally start to fall into place.
Research is a wonderful writer’s tool; taking you down many different lanes in your search for accuracy. The more you undertake, the more adept you will become. Think – if you were working towards a degree you would be doing great chunks of research. Well, you are writing a book and that also can require large amount of research.
2) Bull at a Gate
Was this how you began your story?
You knew the story in detail and had noted down a basic outline from your dream or whatever it was that had come to you in that flash of inspiration. You’d sat down and started hammering at the keyboard, full of energy and excitement, and produced a worthy chapter or two; but then it all started to peter out – the momentum had gone and you were wondering if it was a worthwhile tale after all. It was exhausting to even think about it because your brain was tired of that particular story and was already working on another better one.
Fleshing it Out
Before you started, you might have had what seemed like a great idea for a story but that was all that it was; at the time it had no backbone, no `meat’ on its bones.
To write a sustainable `read’ it needs stronger than just an idea; your story should be something that’s perked away at the back of your mind for some time, developing muscle as you mentally fleshed it out. Finally you reach the moment when it demands to be written.
You think, “I can’t wait any longer, it’s too good to walk away from, I know the story from whoa to go – it’s got to be the next best seller.”
Many experienced authors claim this type of story-line or non-fiction development has forced them to their keyboard, where they have produced the well-rounded tale that has gone on to sell as a successful novel or non-fiction work. But note the word `experienced’ and how it is come by. Time plus constant sustained effort = Experience. These experienced authors have learned their craft and gained their credibility and reputations by doing the distance, the hard yards; by writing, writing, rewriting, and more writing.
3) The Elusive Synopsis
You have a story, you know it’s a winner, and you want to write it now. You have done no research and have not written anything down but you don’t feel you need to as you know exactly what you want to write. You know the story intimately. A synopsis or even a brief outline would be a waste of time because you know the beginning and you know the end; putting in the middle bit should be the fun bit, you just have to dream up some stuff for the characters to do before they reach the end and you already know that bit – it’s a happy ever after feel-good finale where the boy and girl resolve all their differences and fall into each other’s arms – The End.
Well, it sounds good and, in a perfect world where writing books was just a matter of deciding to do it and sitting down at the keyboard and getting on with it, all would be well.
But we know that this is not the case. To write a book, i.e. a coherent and interesting 50,000 – 100,000 words that people will want to read, there needs to be a reasonable amount of preparation i.e. some research and a synopsis.
Without a synopsis, even the best writer will struggle to stay on track. Think of it as the pattern for the dress you want to sew or the floor plan for the house you wish to build. So many heart aches can be avoided if you have a plan. In other words, a complete outline of your story, including detailed character descriptions and time lines. With these in place you have a map to follow.
Can My Synopsis be Changed?
Of course. You can change the order of things at any time but having one in place from the start gives you an essential guideline and, without it, you may just find yourself bogged down; in a corner; run out of steam; suffering from writer’s block; or whatever other misery that may slow your pace and, worst of all, put you off the idea of writing when it’s what you’ve always wanted to do but you hadn’t realised how difficult and draining it could be.
Yes, there will be times, even with a synopsis in place, that things will not go as smoothly as you had hoped but doesn’t that apply to anything? Like someone once said, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”
There will always be writers who can get by without research and outlines. The successful ones may be gifted, extremely knowledgeable in a number of areas, well-traveled, widely read, have years of experience; or they may have developed a writing method to suit their particular personality and ability. But, for most, the need for research and a synopsis is as necessary to a writer as getting out of bed in the morning and switching on the computer.
Take this quote from Ernest Hemingway – `There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. ‘
So be prepared to `bleed’ a little and hold onto your dream; don’t let it slip from your grasp because you were too eager to jump in and start before you were ready. Take your time and write it right the first time.
When you hold your book in your hand one day, you’ll know it was worth all the effort.