THE WAILING WRITER | sticky starts (how do you begin writing a novel… seriously HOW?!?)

On a white background is black typewriter font, with light pink shadow, states the wailing writer.

Welcome to the start of my writer diaries. Specifically called ‘The Wailing Writer’ because (1) alliteration is one of the skills I learnt in school and (2) I feel like crying a lot when writing… but in a fun way. πŸ₯²

warning: in these posts I only act like I know what I am doing. It’s a disguise.

A pink smudge on white background with black typewriter font stating subject:

HOW TO START A NOVEL

Confession: I don’t know what I’m doing

Context: I’ve been trying to write this story since I was 15 (7 years ago), and it’s basically an entirely new concept at this point. Not once have I gotten to a first draft stage. I’ve had a few attempts, but it always goes back to planning, planning, PLANNING.

Safe to say… I started to procrastinate a lot. Like to the extreme where I don’t think you could say I was even working on my novel. Why? Because I hate the planning.

Instead of being a sad puddle on the floor, thinking about my lack of progress and essentially having a pity party, I decided to hit the refresh button.

Then I procrastinated again, but NOW I am seriously going to actively work on my writing. Hence, I thought I would talk about all the steps/progress on my blog in this new ‘feature’ whilst begging for any help people have. Let’s begin…

the ‘idea’ steps

step one: idea

*lightbulb moment*… probably happens in the shower

step two: flesh out the idea.

Imagine the major conflict, the journey. (do you think it’s a standalone?)

step three: decide who the main character should be?

This is important, the main characters need to pull the story. Why are they the main character and nobody else? Is it multiple POV?

step four: consider the villain(s) in more depth.

What are their goals, motivation and methods?

Pink typewriter font saying worry entry... On black background with a broken heart to the left of title.

Starting a novel feels really daunting and overwhelming. There are so many things to do, it is like where do I start? Plus, I’m dealing with ‘baby’, underdeveloped fledglings of ideas, yet, my brain insisted on comparing them to fully developed, 100x edited ones. Why? It is not fair, brain. 

Plus, I am constantly in pursuit of the feeling of ‘completeness’, but planning requires a lot of open-ended thoughts to be developed and explored later when writing. To change as I learn more about my WIP. Instead of seeing what it could be later, I only see what is missing now.

These steps probably won’t take too much time, and I ended up with about 2-4 pages of A4. This is only the bare skeleton, and I will go back to every step to flesh them out. I just need the main concepts written down to consider the simple parts in an interconnected way first.

After that, I can fully flesh out the specific aspects, starting with…

SETTING

The setting is so important. I mean, it is literally the groundwork *ba-dum-tss*. It influences the atmosphere and feel of the story so much. Do not underestimate it. As I attempt to write fantasy, setting plays an extensive factor. It affects societal norms, technological advancement, culture, and more. As well as developing a clear understanding of its magic and history. I want need a clear image of its society and land.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SETTING?
  1. Where it is set? What is it called?
  2. What is the terrain? What is the weather like? Is it highly populated/busy?
  3. What are the people like? What are their norms and values?
  4. What is there to do?
  5. Is the history of the setting relevant to your plot? If so, why?
  6. Where do your characters spend the majority of their time?
Black typewriter font states a personal tip with light bulb outline to the right of title, all on pink background.

I create what I call a setting ingredients list. For each of the main settings, I write down qualities of each one… different senses you would feel there, the lighting, distinctive traits. It does feel ever-so-slightly like primary school, where you list the 5 senses. However, it helps because (1) 70% of the time, I forget about smell and touch when writing and (2) it encourages me to build a solid, unique picture in my head of the locations.

Each genre requires these questions to be answered and is essential for authors and readers to understand their environment. The approach needed for each genre will vary, e.g. historical, sci-fi. As I mentioned, I am working on a fantasy book, so let the worldbuilding commence. My next ‘writing diary’ will be all about fantasy worldbuilding.

Pink typewriter font saying worry entry... On black background with a broken heart to the left of title.

Notekeeping is a messy business. I always struggle to keep them neat and organised. It is scraps of paper everywhere then trying to find them. Then doubting you had even written it down. I’ve tried to keep my notes more organised, but the mess always creeps in.

one: develop the fantasy worldbuilding

Is possible to be afraid of a step in your writing? Because I definitely am.

two: develop villains

Am I seriously having more villains than main characters? Nope, I will have to change this. Note to self: stop falling for the villains.

three: character development frenzy

I’m actually excited to get into character development. This could just be pure naΓ―vety though.

Black typewriter title on white background, saying how i'm currently feeling. A pink happy and sad face at each end of title.
A pink smudge on white background with black typewriter font stating quote of the day.
“ALMOST ALL GOOD WRITING BEGINS WITH TERRIBLE FIRST EFFORTS, YOU NEED TO START SOMEWHERE.”
– ANNE LAMOTT

Do you write fiction? How do you start your WIP? What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?


33 thoughts on “THE WAILING WRITER | sticky starts (how do you begin writing a novel… seriously HOW?!?)

    1. Yay, I’m glad it could be helpful! Good luck on your WIP, it’s actually nice to hear you enjoy worldbuilding. I don’t think it always gets a lot of love in that way! It is hard though, but when it clicks together it is sooo satisfying! Hope that tip works well for you!! πŸ₯° Thank you for reading ❀️

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  1. I’ve been writing stories, but never seriously enough so I very rarely finish a draft. Even when I do, it’s usually a mess I don’t feel like looking at again. There’s one wip I have been working on since 2018 and it’s the only one I don’t feel like giving up on because I love the characters so much lol. Good luck on your wip!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you write a lot though. I bet you’ve picked up a lot of skills through doing it. πŸ₯°
      I finished one (small) draft like 3 years ago and I have never looked at it again either πŸ™ˆ
      I’m glad you have a WIP you feel passionate about and best of luck with it! πŸ’ž I love it! Characters can make you care sooo much! They have a place in your heart I think πŸ₯Ί
      thank youuuu πŸ’œ

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  2. Loved reading about your process!! I feel like we’re very different. I, too, have a lightbulb moment, I think, but for me it’s not an idea as a whole, but often just a single scene that I can’t get out of my head. I need to write it down and it often becomes the opening chapter to *something*. I don’t plan anything … which often leads to me not finishing anything, because the middle bit is HARD!!! Anyway, not to ramble too long, the only time I finished a draft was when I was super involved with NaNoWriMo and forced myself to write every day to get to a certain word count. I’m now, 6 or 7 years later, editing that monster.
    I hope you get to finish your story. We all need to get that first one out of the way! ❀

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    1. Thank you so much Kat πŸ’ž
      It is really fun to think where ideas come from, because they can start at the randomest of moments. I love that it is a scene that first comes to your mind… and then it just grows. Sooo cool!
      It is so easy to hit bumps in the road when writing. On my first attempt, I remember writing then I needed some answers to do with magic lore and I had no idea what my answers was. That was the first time I considered worldbuilding πŸ˜‚
      That’s great that NaNoWriMo worked for you. I’d love to try it one day. Ahh.. Best of luck with editing it. I bet it brings back some memories!
      Thank you for your comment. I LOVED hearing about your process.
      Thank you soooo much ❀️❀️

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  3. Ahhh I love this post!! I’ve never really attempted writing anything like a story (because I have the writing skills of a potato) and the only writing I do other than my blog is for school πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ but I think I’d love to try it out for fun sometime and this post really gave me some great ideas!!πŸ’–πŸ’–

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    1. Thank you so much Suhani πŸ₯°
      Honestly I used to hate writing because of school (and still feel like I have no skill), but I took a dive on it one day and I actually enjoyed it so thought why not πŸ˜‚! I definitely encourage checking it out… Like you say, it can be just for fun. I’m glad this post gave you some ideas though. Thank you for reading! πŸ’œ

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  4. hahah, loved the format of this post, sophie! i hope writing these entries allows you to learn as you teach us too. as someone who writes contemporary only, i don’t have to worry that much about the worldbuilding and setting, but i definitely relate to the struggle of hating planning. i know that is necessary for the flow of my story but i loathe it perpetually hahah hope you’re having a great journey with your writing so far, even if a rocky one hehe

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    1. Thank you so much Lais πŸ’žπŸ₯Ί glad you liked it! Haha, I definitely hope to learn as I go and I’m actually finding these posts great motivation tools at the minute too πŸ˜‚
      I do like how in contemporary you can rely on writing what you know for setting!
      Glad I’m not alone in hating planning πŸ˜… Planning is not my fortΓ©, but when I’ve tried without it, it just doesn’t work for me. Good luck with your writing ❀️
      Thank youuu πŸ₯°πŸ₯°

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  5. Ooh I love your warning, it made me laugh. And the name!! Yay for alliteration πŸ˜…
    I love your idea of a setting ingredients list!! And I can’t wait to see your world building post in the future. I love learning about fantasy lands so learning how you reach yours will be fascinating.
    Messy notes are a nightmare. I’ve jotted just a few words down before then thought ‘what the hell did I mean?’ Or hurriedly written them so that I can’t read them later πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ
    Is it bad that I saw your comment about more villians than heroes & thought ‘yay’ 🀣 a fantasy with loads of villians would be fantastic though. Although I have a terrible tendency to fall for them too so maybes that’s why I think so πŸ˜… don’t they fascinate most readers though?
    I never get passed the stage in writing of jotting down random notes πŸ™ˆ planning terrifies me too much. To get a whole plot is so overwhelming.
    I did see a tip (tbh i probably found it from you) about writing a few key points down on separate pieces of paper then trying to rearrange them into the correct order afterwards.

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    1. Omg sorry!! I jotted a few things down to remind me (and didn’t worry about spelling as even having Earning instead of warning would remind me what I wanted to say) and somehow sent then through too. And now it won’t let me edit it 😭 kind of proves the whole messy notes idea though I guess πŸ˜‚

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    2. Yay, I’m glad it made you laugh and you like the name! You’ve got to love alliteration, right πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
      A setting ingredients definitely helped me build and picture and try to make it have unique aspects.
      Building fantasy lands can be an uphill battle but I have enjoy parts. I definitely find the step by step method helps me a lot!!
      Messy notes everywhere!! It is so confusing when even you can’t understand your own notes πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ it is a struggle. Especially as I seem to have the habit of writing music lyrics among my notes when bored so i confuse myself πŸ˜‚
      Haha I definitely love exploring villains. I think in my story I have loads of Morally Grey characters who flit between good and bad, then a few select villains the plot is moving against if that makes sense. I definitely think lots of readers love them and they have a lot of nuances to explore!!
      I have struggled with moving and developing ideas. It is overwhelming and figuring out things is far too complex at times. I always wish I made more progress with my WIP but even if I only decide a character trait I like to call it a success and encourage myself to make time. Small steps is really how I get by. Or some people prefer going straight into writing and just seeing what ideas come out without focusing on the end goal. I wish you best of luck with though ❀️
      I love that tip… It seems a great way to visualise things and interconnect plot points. Thank you, I hadn’t heard it before.

      Haha its completely fine. I can edit the comment for you. It does prove messy notes so kinda perfect πŸ˜‚πŸ₯°

      Thank you for reading and commenting Charlotte ❀️❀️

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      1. Definitely!! It’s my go to when I’m stuck name wise for things πŸ˜…
        It really does sound helpful. And I get what you mean about it helping you to include all five senses too.
        There is a lot to think about!! So much to cover. Although in some ways it must be fun to create your own lands too.
        Omg really? πŸ˜‚ Well you never know, the right lyrics could potentially give you an idea one day at least!! With me it would probably end up being flower drawings πŸ™ˆ
        Omg that sounds amazing!!! Morally gray characters are the best & so many people adore them. Lots of them & full blown villians sounds incredible 😍😍
        Aww I totally understand that. If it makes you feel any better you’re doing infinitely better than me. I just have a notebook with random ideas jotted down for various different things, none of them developed. Planning scares me too much πŸ™ˆ to be fair every little helps & sometimes something that seems small can eventually make a massive difference to a story. I’m sure you’ll get there in the end ❀❀
        Yeah I can see how that could help, sometimes the act of writing in itself can help inspire you.
        Thank you ❀❀
        Aww well I hope it helps then!! I did think it sounded potentially useful. Might help to have each note separate too at times.

        Yes please πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ I still can’t believe I did that!!

        ❀❀❀

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        1. Same πŸ˜‚
          Yeah I truly forget about smell every time πŸ˜…
          Definitely a lot but it does have really fun and satisfying moments to see it come together!!
          Haha you never know… Lyrics can be very inspirational!! Flower drawings are the best though πŸ˜‚πŸŒΈ
          Thank you πŸ₯Ί I do love morally grey characters but like you say a book with loads of villains would be so popular. Maybe you should write it πŸ‘€πŸ˜ˆ
          Aww.. Thank you but I bet that is a really cool notebook. It can be there for when you are ready! Planning is scary I agree!!
          Very true, little things can make a difference! Thank you sooo much πŸ₯Ίβ€οΈβ€οΈ
          Definitely!!
          Of course ❀️
          Thank you… Yeah definitely. It feels more organised with I like!!
          Haha done πŸ˜‚
          πŸ₯°πŸ’œπŸ₯°πŸ’œ

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          1. I don’t know if I do?? I’ve written a lot of vampire stuff & they have such strong senses & zone into blood so I guess it comes naturally with them πŸ˜‚
            Yeah & making a world with its own magic systems & rules gives you a lot to explore too.
            They can! And they are πŸ˜…πŸŒΌπŸŒΈπŸŒ»
            Ooh it would be fun!! Like GOT but where everybody is as horrid as the worst of them πŸ˜‚
            Thanks πŸ’— I haven’t looker at it in ages. I think its a random mix of retelling & fantasy notes πŸ˜…
            They can!!
            Thank you.
            Good luck with it all! I really look forward to your world building post. And hope planning goes well as from what you’ve said so far about the characters it’s super intriguing πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

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            1. Ofc, the character perspective would make a difference. Vampire are very sensitive. I never thought of that!!
              Definitely!!
              Haha exactly, an intense GOT πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
              Love the sound of it 😍😍
              Thank you sooooo much!! Yay, thank youuuuu again. Hopefully within the next 2 months the post will be out!!
              ❀️❀️❀️❀️

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              1. I really fell into the vampire phase when it got popular & never got over it πŸ˜… luckily vampire books seem to be on the rise again!!
                It would be!!
                Aww yay well I look forward to it!! πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

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