I decided to write a book. Naturally, the first step was education. Classes, books, articles – I sponged it all in. There are so many resources out there! Find the ones that work for you. Just because someone says to do something a certain way, that might not be the right way for you.
I took a class at the university in our town and was advised to change the first fifty pages to my novel. Assuming the speaker knew more than me, I rewrote them. Rewrote every word. Big change. For someone with a demanding full time job, this sort of thing can take months. Then I went to another class, and it was suggested that I change the intro again. And interestingly enough, the advice was to cut out all of the stuff the first person told me to put in. Just start it off the way I started it months before.
I had to go back and find an old copy of the original and was able to resurrect the old beginning. With improvements, of course. But I think I learned a very valuable lesson – write what appeals to you! If you write what appeals to you, then it will appeal to others. It’s a big world out there and there are a lot of people out there who like what you like. Trust yourself!
Along those lines, when you go to the library to research writing, don’t just pick the first book you see. Explore. Find the author that speaks to you. That author is going to unlock the clues for you.
This is important for developing the characters too. I had the plot more or less in my head, but I didn’t have the characters all fleshed out. A great first step is to get to know your characters. What do they look like? Where did they grow up? What were their parents like? Did they have any siblings? What makes them tick? What makes them human? What are their imperfections? What faults do they keep hidden to the world? What skeletons are in their closet? Your reader has to believe in your characters – even the “bad guys”. Please note I’m not being sexist when I say bad guys. Women can be the bad guy too.
I wrote a Word document on each character and I referred to those documents as I wrote my book. I definitely needed them in the beginning stages, because I didn’t really know them yet. As they came to life in my novel, I got to know them better and better.
And this may sound a little crazy but I was surprised to discover that I looked forward to spending time with them as I wrote. I’m looking forward to my next book so that I can wake them up and get them into some trouble again!