Where do I start? – 18th January 2016

I decided to write this post for the benefit of new authors who are thinking of writing a book for the first time with the hope that I can inspire them. I have often been asked this question: I want to write a book but how do I go about it? Well, it’s a difficult one to answer! The easiest way to ponder the dilemma is to relate my own experience.

Know your Plot

Books don’t just happen. First of all, you need to have an idea of what you want to write about. Is it your take on an old fashioned tale? Has something in the media made you so angry, you feel a need to express yourself? Did you have a dream last night that sparked a fantasy? Or did your dog look at you in such a way, you couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in his mind? The fact is, every writer gets a flash of inspiration and when that happens, you have two choices: either go with the flow or move on.

I was intrigued by stories which involved power – the power of the church, the power of politics, how power affects us lesser mortals in the ever turning wheel of life and that is how my series ‘Same Face Different Place’ started to develop.

Plan your Synopsis

Given the likelihood you have decided to develop your story, the next stage in my opinion, is to formulate some sort of plan. I think this is best done in rough note form. You really need to just sit down and work out the content. What is the book going to be about? What is going to happen (the detail can come later), who is it about (characters) and where (location of the story or place whether it is real or imagined). It is when you sit down and work out the first threads of a synopsis, your ideas begin to grow branches.

I spent about six months thinking about all this, before I wrote a word. For me, it was the characters who materialised first. Once I had a fairly good cast and a rough idea of what the story would be about, only then did I start scribbling out a few scenes.

Find your Motivation

Author Helen J Christmas 'Thinking about writing a book.'

If you have an idea, as well as a plan, the next thing you need is motivation. The chances are, if you are burning to get started, you’ll move heaven and earth to find the time. Writing a book does involve a degree of self-discipline. You can’t keep procrastinating. My advice is to put aside a couple of hours to get the ball rolling. It could be a free Sunday afternoon or an evening when there is nothing on the telly. I would even go so far as to advise switching off your phone and your computer to avoid interruptions.

My moment came, on a weekend when my husband was away. I had an entire Sunday afternoon and made the choice that this was the day I was going to start my book. I spent six months wondering how I would ever find the time. I’m glad I did.

Just do it!

It sounds simple but every writer needs to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you spew out several pages of rubbish – just write something, anything to get the ball rolling. If you are genuinely inspired, you will find the process gets easier as time goes by. Once you get started, the ideas keep coming and coming. The first few pages might be a little shaky but it doesn’t matter. You can always go back and edit them and once you become a writer you will discover that it is the editing that takes time. Writing is the fun part.

It took a while to get the first chapter written but once I had engaged with my story and its characters, it took off. I found myself waking up at 6:00 in the morning, unable get back to sleep. It was like a calling and this has now become my best time for writing.

  • Other advise to budding writers:
    Carry a notebook so if you get a flash of inspiration you can jot it down as soon as possible.
  • Or carry a recording device – most smart phones have a microphone.
  • Do research – visit the places in your stories, use the internet which provides answers to just about anything.
  • Make reading part of your own life – you can get lots of inspiration from others.
  • Enjoy yourself – if I didn’t love writing I wouldn’t do it.

I started my debut novel, Beginnings in 2011 and it took just 6 months to complete the first draft (in between socialising and work). After doing a complete re-write and further edits, I asked a couple of friends to read it. The feedback was so positive, I published the book on Amazon Kindle in 2012. I have never looked back and have since written two more books in the same series. All my books are self-published.

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About Helen J. Christmas

I am a budding author and have written the first 3 books of my British series of novels, 'Same Face Different Place. Beginnings is a suspense thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. The second Book 'Visions' is a psychological thriller, set in Kent - a mystery which ensnares the owners of an historic, English Country House. Book 3 Pleasures contains suspense, thrills and YA romance and the 4th book is being written.
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