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Writing Your Book: Where To Start

By Samantha Atkins

Writing a novel has been something I’ve dreamt of doing my entire life. There’s something quite magical about taking the thoughts from inside your head and pouring them into the blank pages of a book, creating a world of your very own for others to enjoy. As a mother of two with a busy household, I never thought it would become a reality for me – until, of course, it did.

The entire writing process can seem a bit daunting at first; it certainly was for me. Just the thought of collating 50,000+ words seemed so unattainable. There would be days when I would sit, staring at an empty screen, feeling as though I would never make it to the end of my book. Where would I even start? That’s when I decided that, rather than thinking of the whole story at once, I’d take it chapter by chapter.

I began by creating a timeline in my head; deciding where I wanted the story to go and what would be the defining moments - this helped to shape the chapters. Once the timeline was in order, the rest started to fall into place. Each day, I tasked myself with writing one chapter. Breaking it down into smaller sections was a lot more manageable.

When away from the laptop, I found it useful to keep my phone in my pocket. This meant that if I was out shopping, for example, and an idea popped into my head, I could easily note it down to prevent me from forgetting it – I’m known to be quite a forgetful person!

There were days when I’d feel so confident and enthusiastic that I’d write several chapters, one after the other, without hesitation. But there were also days when I’d struggle to compile a single sentence.

On these days, when I knew what I wanted to say but just couldn’t find the right words, I’d force myself to take some time to refocus the mind. Sometimes the best way to see things clearly is to step away, re charge, and come back with a fresh set of eyes.

I liked to use these breaks to get lost in someone else’s world for a while, delving into other books for inspiration. I believe that, in order to become a better writer, you must read. The more you read, the better you’ll write.

Your working environment can have a big impact on your morale and productivity, so finding the ideal working space is essential. This can be surprisingly challenging. I know plenty of people that are able to work perfectly well in loud environments, in fact, I believe there have been many successful novels written inside noisy cafés, but that wasn’t the case for me. Unless I could give it my full, undivided attention, I found it almost impossible to write. This meant no television, no sing-a-long music and no company to distract me. This might sound a bit reclusive, but I found that as I drifted back into the world that I was creating, I’d feel completely relaxed and easily able to lose myself for hours at a time.

Sometimes it isn’t that easy to completely isolate yourself, of course. If you’re like me and have family members around you most of the time, then it isn’t feasible or fair to ask them to sit in silence whilst you type away for the afternoon. Without the luxury of a study, I needed to get creative. I found that, whilst listening to most music was too distracting – I would end up listening to the lyrics and singing along – classical music was good at keeping me relaxed, focussed and free from distraction. I’d never really given classical music a chance in the past, it had never been a favourite of mine, but I’ve most certainly discovered the benefits of listening to it through headphones whilst writing my novel. It has a way of blocking out my surroundings without blocking out my imagination.

A final thing to note, that I would often need to remind myself to do, is to be kind. Everyone tries so hard to be kind to other people that they often forget to be kind to themselves. Writing a novel is hard work. It’s a long process and can’t be done in a day. It means writing and rewriting paragraphs – nit-picking over the smallest of details and agonising over the best adjective.

So, don’t worry or put too much pressure on yourself if you find that you suffer from writer’s block every now and again. Allow yourself time to figure things out by taking a step back. And most importantly, do not let the fear of other people’s opinions prevent you from doing what you love. This held me back many times over the years, until I asked myself, “what does it matter if someone doesn’t like it? There could be one person that does. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”.

Finishing a novel is a feeling like no other. There’s so much pride to be felt when you type that last chapter, knowing that you have poured your heart and soul into something that is now ready for others to read and enjoy. It’s something that I hope you too will experience some day.

I believe that there are hundreds of stories inside of us, just waiting to be found. I wish you the best of luck in finding yours.

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