Starting a novel: 5 questions to ask yourself before writing
Have you ever had an idea? A brilliant idea.
It starts with an image, a strong image. For example, a woman meets her double in the street. What happens next? Little by little, the characters begin to become clearer. The heroine and her double have different characters: the first is cranky, impatient; the second is quieter, more reserved.
But, you don't stop there. The questions follow one another. Your story is even starting to take shape. What if the lookalike was in fact pursued by a mysterious organization? But, why so?
It's decided. You have your next novel. You are fully motivated. But where to start? What factors MUST be taken into consideration to start off on the right foot?
This fable by Jean de La Fontaine carries an explicit moral: "Patience and length of time are more than strength or rage”. The net is so strong that the lion's strength has no effect, the animal may have roared, scratched, nothing helps. Despite its small size, the rat manages to free it by nibbling through the mesh of the net.
What can you take away from this story that can help you write your story?
And you, do you think about these 5 questions, before starting a novel?
It goes without saying that writing a novel requires perseverance and patience. And if you don't want to find yourself in the lion's place, stuck in a net from which you can hardly escape, prefer to adopt the meticulousness of the rat. Slowly, surely, lay the foundations before embarking on that book that you dream of completing.
If you don't know where to start, here are 5 tips from Aman Anand, an English author to apply, before starting a novel. I took care to transcribe them here, because I find them very relevant. You will find some additional recommendations at the end of the article.
The advantage of this method is that it forces you to take the bull by the horns, to decide, to make decisions on each of the fundamental aspects of your future creation. If you answer the questions in order, it is as if you are nibbling through the net one by one. This approach therefore helps you channel your motivation, instead of dispersing it.
Think of it as a checklist, a list of important things that you will need at some point. Let's run the program.
1. Why write a novel?
Too many young authors are cutting corners. They get down to writing a novel without previous experience. They never wrote short stories or short works. However, it amounts to improvising a car driver without having taken a driving course. Maybe you can get by for a while, but once on the highway the situation will get unmanageable.
Indeed, opening the site of a novel and carrying the burden is an almost impossible mission, without experience. Start by writing bits of history, news, short texts. That way, you can ramp up. Gradually, you will aim for longer, more ambitious stories.
According to GhostwritingLLC, a first step would be to start by writing a particular scene from your novel. The goal is for you to be well aware of the difficulties and demands of writing a book. Only practice will help you feel more comfortable.
2. Why tell this story and not another?
Why broach this specific topic?
Your motivation must be deep. If you just want to ride the wave of vampires (because vampire stories sell well), your approach is not the right one. Same observation, if you want to write a "serious" novel on the human condition to establish your legitimacy as a writer.
Nay! Writing a novel for the above reasons would be counterproductive. It will be very difficult for you to finish your book if your motives are wrong. Instead, write about something you really care about, where you think you have some interesting things to say.
There is nothing more important than making sure that you are passionate yourself by what you do. Believe me, readers can easily spot the cynicism and boredom, sincerity and falsehood.
3. What style of writing to use?
One thing that is often overlooked in writing a book is choosing which writing style to adopt. In fact, the way you tell a story, the form, is just as important as its content, the content. It is through the form (your Voice, the dad of Dexter would say) that you express yourself as a writer, because you have total freedom in the style employed (some experimental novels can combine several).
For example, let's say you're working on a novel, chronicling the rise and fall of an American footballer. Which do you prefer, a first or third person narrator? Suppose you go for the third person. Do you prefer the narrator's tone to be detached and neutral or colorful and satirical? Are you comfortable with this style of writing? You have to take into account your strengths and weaknesses, but also your preferences.
You can, as some authors do, let your style be shaped while writing. It is an equally valid approach. Still, in both cases, it's necessary to create a unique voice that appeals to your reader.
4. What do you expect from the first draft of your novel?
Authors tend to put too much pressure on themselves when writing the first draft of their book.
But, it's only after you've completed your first roll that you'll realize there's always room for improvement, whether it's good or bad.
This is why it is perfectly acceptable (and even recommended) to annotate your manuscript, in full writing: "insert a description later" or "write a love scene in the next version". By releasing the pressure and lowering your expectations of your first release, you will be more relaxed and therefore more spontaneous.
5. Who can you trust to have an honest review of your first draft?
From experience, I cannot stress enough the importance of finding one or two great beta readers. Make sure they are more inclined to help you build the story than to identify with your characters.
Reliable beta readers are a big boost. Rest assured that your book will improve significantly in future editions. (However, don't worry, if you can't find the right beta player the first time!)
It's your turn
I think that by taking the time to think about each of the five questions, you will be better equipped to climb the mountain of writing a book. Isn't good organization synonymous with success?
In practice, once you have collected enough ideas and juice, print out this checklist and answer the questions one by one. You will not necessarily have the answer to everything, in any case, immediately. Take your time…
Precisely, this list of questions will help you to remember the important things that you will need at one time or another.
It is not by chance that, in the field of aviation, the checklist is used to check whether the aircraft is in a condition to perform the next phase of flight. Prefer the patience of the rat to the strength of the lion! ;)
As a bonus
To go further, I would even be tempted to add the following two tips.
6) Who are my characters?
Define your protagonists. You can write a short description for each of them or even a two-page history.
Imagine their backgrounds, their motivations, and the function they perform in your plot. What do they care most about in life? What do they want? What do they fear? What are they doing with their life? What do they need?
Do not hesitate to remove one, if you find that two characters serve the same purpose (in general, your protagonist does not need to have more than two friends or two adjuvants).
7) Where to locate the action?
The setting and the period count for a lot and contribute to the atmosphere of a book.
For example, telling your story in a large, noisy metropolis will give your story a different tone than if you set the action in a small village. It's a means of differentiation that can even serve your plot.
Example: a place can provide explanations for the behavior of your protagonists. Your characters may live in a hostile place and, as a result, are inherently suspicious. And so on.