By Margaret Lucke
When I’ve taught writing classes, I’ve often had a student who’s said, “I want to write a novel but I don’t know how to get started. I tell them to think like someone who’s about to run a race. Writing a novel is more like a marathon than a sprint, but the starter’s instructions that begin the race can be adapted to apply – Get ready! Get set! Write!
Before you start writing a novel, you need a story to tell. Not the complete story, for that is something you’ll discover along the way. But you need to have a glimmering of what the tale might be, an idea. Even better, two ideas. Often a single idea lies there flat and lifeless until a second one comes along and merges with it, lighting the spark of the story.
The second thing you need to have is a commitment to getting your book written. Writing a novel is not a weekend enterprise. If you’re going to get it done, you’ll have to rearrange your life a bit, figuring out what blocks of time you can devote to writing on a regular basis. If you wait until inspiration strikes, or until you happen to have a few moments of free time, you may end up with the few good chapters but you’re less likely to reach the point of writing an author’s favorite words: The End.
You have the ideas and you’ve made the commitment. Now it’s time to consider the environment you’ll write in and the tools you’ll need in order to get the work done.
You’ll need a place to write, whether it’s an office, a corner of the kitchen table or a coffeehouse. Also, you’ll need something to write with, whether it’s a computer or a yellow legal pad, and perhaps some reference books. And if you’re like many of us, you’ll want a ready supply of caffeine.
You’ll want to write in a place where you feel comfortable and enjoy spending time, and where you have essential tools at hand. But your writing setup doesn’t need to be elaborate or fancy. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until you’ve achieved the perfect situation. That’s a good way to avoid ever getting your book written.
The race has begun. Though it’s not really a race – you have no competition, not from other writers or from the clock (unless, lucky you, a publisher has given you a deadline).
What it is, is a challenge, one you have created for yourself. A challenge to, as a writing instructor of mine once put it, to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair, to put in the necessary time, and to write the best book you can.
Get ready, get set, WRITE!