How to Begin

How to Begin

In the last 20 years, I’ve written many novels, not all of which were suitable for public consumption. In fact, the first three books I wrote were absolutely awful, just pages and pages of histrionic dreck fit only for the lining of bird cages! Thankfully, they’re located on stacks of floppy discs that are inaccessible to modern technology, and have therefore been rendered secret and safe from innocent eyes, never to see the light of day.

But through trial and error, persistence, patience, and downright stubbornness, I’ve learned a lot about how to craft and create stories. I’m now starting work on a new novel, and I thought it might be helpful to talk about the process as I do it, and encourage you to do the same. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, I hope these posts can help. It’s never easy to start a project and see it through to completion. Plus, writing a novel can be a lonely and isolating experience, especially if you have doubts about your own ability or goals. (For the record, I still have terrible doubts about my ability as a writer, even after a bunch of published stories and articles, a career as a promotional writer, and a stint working as a screenwriter for a large film company. Don’t let your doubts trip you up — and I say that as much to you as I do to myself!)

I hope my process can be useful to you as you start your own journey. Grab a cup of your favourite hot beverage and let’s write our books together!


The Beginning

“The beginning is always today.”
Mary Shelley

So, as I said, I’m just starting out with the particular novel, and I have a head full of ideas and concepts that have sparked joy in my heart. At this stage, it doesn’t matter if it’s a scene, a character, a relationship or an emotion that provides inspiration — something has sunk its claws into my heart, and hopefully it’s strong enough to hold on through the process of writing the first draft.

I don’t yet know the world in which the story takes place, and I don’t have a clear idea of the characters. Really, I know nothing at all about my finished book, and so many pieces could change, it would be unrealistic to pin myself to anything concrete. At the beginning, when I start my research, it’s important to be open and receptive to any little tidbit I find. These might drastically alter the form of the book, but if I anticipate that flexibility, I won’t be discouraged by change.

Research takes time and will undoubtably lead me down strange and winding paths into shadowy corners of the internet. Frankly, my browser history is terrifying. However, the knowledge I dredge up is going to provide unique and tantalizing aspects to my murder mysteries, and the more obscure the facts, the better it is for the reader.

So take your time, follow your interests, and read as much as you can about whatever catches your fancy. Let your imagination run wild with all the new information you’re feeding it. Open up a bazillion browser tabs and just cruise through Wikipedia with aimless abandon.

As for me, I’m off to the library to read madly and passionately! Best of luck in your research, too — may you unearth some really weird and wonderful bits of trivia!


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