Starting a book is hard. No matter what kind of book it is – novel, autobiography, memoir, non-fiction – the beginning is always extremely difficult. There’s no getting around it. Some people love to plan every single second of their novel before they even write down the first word, while others jump in and wing it right to the very end, but either way, you’ve still got to get to the point where you can sit down and start writing, and that is never easy.
Luckily, there are about a million and one things you can do to start the creative juices flowing, and while some of them may seem a little odd, it’s worth giving them a go. There are the more well-known ways, the well-researched methods and the computer programs that push you into writing that first draft, but there are also some alternative ways, and this is what I’d like to talk about here.
Personally, I find the start of a book incredibly hard to get into. I stare at a blank word document and it takes me right back to having to write essays at school – something I hated with a fiery passion, no matter what the topic. This carried on into university, with me sitting in a different room in a different house in a different city, but still staring at that same blank word document and wondering what on earth I was going to write.
Fortunately, now that I’ve tried so many different things, a blank word document no longer puts the fear of God into me. I look at that blank page and know that soon it will be filled with words. Maybe not brilliant words – not straight away, at least – but words, nonetheless. It’s nothing to freak out about.
If you’re having some difficulty getting into that first draft of a book, take a look at some of these ideas – maybe one will be right for you.
If a blank document on a screen is too daunting, start by taking out a notepad and get doodling. Sketch some of your characters, draw one of the locations, or just scribble out words you think you might want to use. Scribble sentences. Scribble names. No matter what you do, just keep scribbling. Many of us succumb to mindless doodling during the work day, but you can take that mindless scribbling and turn it into scribbling of value. If you’re an artist, draw a mini storyboard, as though you were creating a short, three-panel comic. Just anything to get your ideas down onto paper. You can type them up later when you’re not feeling so daunted by the whole thing.
Not very original, but it’s always good to get away from your computer for a while and go for a walk. Take in the scenery, watch people interacting, see what words come to mind as you go. Type notes in your phone or talk into a dictation app, then when you’re back home, you can refer back to anything that inspired you during your trek.
3) Befriend a ghost.
Now, if you’re a writer, you probably won’t want to hire a ghostwriter for anything, but even a paragraph or two written by someone else on your subject can get you out of that funk and help you to continue writing. It doesn’t have to be a professional, either – give a friend or family member some notes and ask them to write a few sentences. This also might give you a different perspective on your characters that you hadn’t thought of before.
4) Type nonsense.
If you don’t want to spend time writing in notepads or going on an inspirational walk, get straight into typing by sitting down, opening your word processor, and typing. Type anything – anything at all that comes to mind. For example, the first sentence to pop into your head: The man walked into the fish and chip shop and looked around suspiciously. Just the very act of typing and seeing words appear on the screen can help get you into the zone, and who knows? Perhaps it’ll even give you an idea (I’m now thinking of the dodgy things that could be happening in that fish and chip shop – is the man a detective? Is he after someone who works there? Is the place haunted? Is someone poisoning the chips?). It’ll get your mind working, and that’s what we want.
5) Get crafty.
Grab a magazine and pick out someone who resembles your main character. Look up locations online and print out pictures to put in a scrap book. Get out your iPad and pin some images to some boards on Pinterest, or create an online gallery for ideas for your book. Some people work better with visuals than with words, so this can really help when you’re getting ready to start that book.
6) Get covered.
This may sound extremely random, but head online and search for ‘premade book covers’. There are hundreds of designers out there who offer this service, and all you do is search through the covers until you see one you like. Just looking at these can give you inspiration, but if you really want to commit to the idea of writing that book: buy one. Find one you love, and that would fit the vague idea you have for the book, and spend real money on it. You can always ask the designer to fill in the details for you later, or you can write a blurb for it and update the cover information straight away. Then, whenever you’re feeling a lack of inspiration, open up that book cover and have a good old stare at it: this is what your book will look like when it’s finished, and it looks awesome, so you’d better get writing! Plus, you spent money on it, so it would be a waste if you weren’t to get that book finished!
7) Invite your friends over.
If all else fails, forget about the computer for a while and gather up some of your nearest and dearest. Tell them of your idea for the book, and get a discussion going on the characters, the locations, and the storylines. Record the conversation so you’ll be able to refer back to the ideas, and when you come to start writing, your head should already be filled with information regarding your book. Of course, remember to credit your friends if you decide to use any of their ideas or perspectives!
There are many more ways to start writing your book, but the message here is: think outside the box, outside the word processor, outside the computer. Laptops are our friends when it comes to getting our first draft down on virtual paper, but they can also be our enemies, sucking out our creativity and turning the act of writing into something daunting and overwhelming.
So, step away from that computer, grab yourself some inspiration, and get writing!