Friday, 6 January 2012

Where Do New Writers Begin?

Whilst talking recently with my teenage niece, she expressed the view that she couldn't possibly write a novel. I asked why she believed this and she replied that she wouldn't know where to start and wouldn't know what to write about.

My humble advice to her and all new writers, young and old, would be to start with what you know. If you're a student, set your short story or novel in a college, local youth club or even your house. If you're a nurse, have your story pan out in a hospital or doctor's surgery. When you become more confident in your writing, you can develop your ideas further afield. If you're happy to jump in and write about imaginery places immediately, go for it! Overall, it's so much easier to write about what you know to begin with; and that includes your backdrop. A college or a hospital has to be built somewhere, and where better than the place you know best - the area in which you live. Of course it doesn't have to be identical and you can re-name the town. And remember that when it comes to writing, you're in charge of your own imagination. If you live near an incinerator or rubbish dump and want to replace it with a luxury spa or a department store - you can!

I set my first novel in Car Colston, Nottingham, England. That's where I live. It's a small village without a single shop, but it does have a delightfully old-fashioned pub and a magnificent manor house. I re-named the village Larkston in my book. I placed my hero in the manor house after my narrative described how he'd inherited it on the death of his parents. My protagonist set up home in a small rented cottage in a nearby lane. Writing about the village green, The Royal Oak, the cricket pitch, the shop in the next village and a myriad of other local places, my writing flowed much more easily because I could 'see' and describe things that were in my minds' eye. I'm sure many writers would tell you the same thing. It helps to write what you know. Before long I'd caused crime, jealousies, deception, romance and lies to kick off in quiet little Larkston!

Car Colston village

Next choose what genre you'd like to write about. What are your interests? If you like sport, you don't have to play a particular game to include it in your writing. If you like science fiction or history, of course you're not able to hop aboard the US Enterprise or jump in Doc's DeLorean, like Marty did in Back To The Future. That's where research comes in. And how much easier has this been made for us since search engines have been invented? And remember, it'll be fun because you're going to research something that interests you.

I also told my niece that the first chapter, preferably the first few pages, should contain a hook. A hook, for all new writers, is something that makes your reader want to continue reading your book. Something should happen which literally 'hooks' their interest. The protagonist of your piece, that is, your main character, will have to face challenges which he/she must overcome. Don't make it easy for your character to live happily ever after (or not). She/he must learn and grow from their experience and find a way out of their dilemma for themselves. Winning the lottery to get out of serious debt is just a dream for most people. Your reader will feel cheated if you end your story with such a 'cop out!'

Happy writing and good luck to all new writers.


  1. I agree with starting with what we know - but don't feel we need to stick with it if we wish to make up something else.

  2. Hi Patsy
    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
    It goes without saying that new and established writers can write about anything they wish. There's no doubt however that for new writers, which is the group my post is aimed at, will find writing far easier if they write about subjects they're familiar with.
    Good luck with your writing.

  3. All excellent advice, Ange. As a short story writer I was always daunted by moving on to novel length. A well-published writer helped by telling me to think of the novel in scenes, not as one huge piece of endless writing. It helped a lot!

  4. Great advice and still relevant as I face the blank page and start a new book this week.

    Happy New Year Ange!

  5. That was helpful advice from your writer friend Rosemary. Tackling one scene at a time won't make writing a novel so daunting for new or established writers. Lovely to hear from you. xx

    Good luck with your new book Janice. What comes after a Scottish hunk and a talented chef? Happy new year to you too! xx

  6. My advice would be to write something every day. Even if it's just one sentence.

  7. Great advice Keith. Keep the old grey matter ticking over....! : )

  8. Nice blog....great posts.

    NEW follower.

    I am stopping by from the Top Writing Blog competition.

    Just wanted to say hello. This is a great way to find new blogs and visit ones you haven't visited in a while. :)

    Elizabeth - Silver's Reviews

  9. Thank you so much for popping by and for your lovely comment Elizabeth. I shall take a look at your blog too. xx