So you want to write a story, eh? Good on you, friendo. Welcome to the club. If you’re here, I’m going to assume you’ve already got a cool idea, but just haven’t gotten started yet, or don’t feel equal to the task. If the latter is the case, I’ve got good news for you: None of us are! Now, there are dozens of far more detailed guides out there about how to write a book, so this’ll be just the basic-est overview of the early steps. I’m also going to open with a warning. Unless you are 100% sure you want to write a book no matter what, do not look into the later stages of self publishing or the publishing industry. You may end up scaring yourself off, and that would be sad. Without any further ado, let’s get started.
Step one should be your outline. If this is your first rodeo, you really should try an outline no matter what your prior opinion of them was. From what people tell me, they are infinitely useful and allow you to organize your ideas ahead of time and write a more satisfying story. Outlines enable you to see your story from a distance and identify glaring plotholes and unintentionally boring plot points. Now, let me make this clear: An outline is not optional. Your personal style will simply effect when you do it. If you’re a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants), like me, the outline will be done as part of the editing phase instead of the planning phase. But again, if this is your first time, I recommend giving outlining a shot. Your outline can look like anything, so long as you can understand the story you want to tell and the pieces all fit together.
The outline itself should go through several phases, including a brainstorming phase, organizational phase, a phase where you spice stuff up, and finally some sort of final form where each scene of your story is arranged in the order it should be (or at least that’s what people tell me. I do not outline at the beginning.)
Either before or as you build your outline, you need to also build your characters and your world. Worldbuilding is a whole can of worms that I’m not even going to touch today, but if you want some advice on two very specific facets of worldbuilding, I’ll link to my other two blog posts here, and here. As for your characters, I’m not really sure what to say. In general, you want to build their personalities like real people, and try not to make them self-insert characters. Those sorts are always really obvious and don’t usually make for good characters. In general, you want your characters to be flawed and relatable. Perfect people are boring. For both characters and your world, research is your best friend. Read about interesting people, places and events. History is crazy if you look in the right places. For example, Robert Walpole.
Now you’ve got your idea, you’ve started to work on planning your story, but when should you start? I don’t know. Pick a time. Make time. I wrote a whole thing on that. Make sure it’s a routine and something you don’t mind doing over and over again. As for when to start the writing itself, you’ll know when your outline is good enough to get started. Now remember: all first drafts suck. I’m sure you want to waste time fiddling with chapter 1, getting it perfect, but stop. Unless you have god-like self control, do not edit as you write. Write the entire first draft and then go back and fix it up. The logic I’ve heard is that all the editing in the world won’t help your story if it isn’t even finished.
Congratulations. If you’ve followed my advice, you should be well on the way to starting to write your story. I’ll tell you now, that if any of this information seems contrary to some other advice you’ve read, you pick whichever thing you think would work best for you. And if you have any questions or need clarification, feel free to leave a comment, or shoot me a message via email or Twitter. Good luck with the writing.
Full disclosure here. I threw this together in less than a day. This guide is, in my opinion, woefully underdeveloped and I would have loved to go into more detail, but I ran out of time. Rest assured that in the future, I will go into greater detail into each point I make here. Still, if you’re just getting into writing, I hope I could help you somehow.