1. PokeNet
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    PokeNet Member

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    How to start a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PokeNet, May 5, 2014.

    So, I decided today, after reading countless entries in the short story contests, that I would enter the current contest. I collected myself, came up with a few ideas for the plot, then went to write. Then I realized something.
    I've never written a story before.
    So I'm fifteen if you're wondering why I've never written,but back onto topic, I have no idea how I should start the story. How do I go about character/plot development, etc.? This is probably a horrible post on such a high standard forum, but I hope you can help me out. Thanks :)
     
  2. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    There are as many ways to do this as there are people, I think.

    A lot of novels start out by introducing the main character. Take this example:

    "Call me Ishmael" from Moby Dick.

    On the other hand, some novels start out to create a sense of normalcy, which they then immediately subvert.

    "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen" from 1984.

    You probably need to make some decisions before you start writing. Will you write from the perspective of your main character? This is probably a good idea. Will you use first person, third person?

    For example:

    First Person: "I went to pick up the mail, stepping carefully around the kids toys and bicycles. When I got to the mailbox I got a shock."

    Third Person: "He crossed the garden, avoiding the inevitable children's toys and bicycles, but when he reached the mailbox he recoiled, his face showing his shock."

    You can do a gazillion things really. But some key thoughts should be: Grab your reader. Don't let go. Give him a good shake.

    If you can figure out how to do that, let me know!
     
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  3. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Just FYI, a novel is different from a story. Many people have their own opinion on this, but the wordcount goes something like this: flash fiction (anywhere from a few words to about 500), short stories (500-10,000 words, but that's really too long), novelette (10,000-20,000), novella (20,000-50,000), novel (50,000+). Of course, if you wanted to write a children's book or a young adult book for younger teenagers, then the wordcount can of course be altered. It's just to give you a general idea. :)

    Well first of all, you must realise that all writers are different, and you must figure how you work. So, do you think of the plot and then the characters, or does a character pop into your head first and then the plot? Whichever way is fine, it's just good to know for yourself. So think about the plot and the characters. How do you think you want it to end? Write down everything that comes to your head, however ridiculous it may be, and once you've slowed down, have a look at them properly. Anything interesting? There should be, so then you can develop the interesting ideas.

    Writing your first piece isn't going to be easy, and it isn't going to be a masterpiece. You may not even finish it - you don't want to know how many projects I left unfinished. But it is experience. You'll learn what worked and what didn't, and because you've read many of the short stories here, and other books, you should have a general idea of how it works best. Personally, I like to start my pieces with a line of dialogue, but again, that's just me; you may be different. You could start by describing an unusual face (he had a nose the size of cat's tail, and it was just as hairy), or by opening with an unusual line (Today was the day the sky rained melons), or whatever else you can think of. Be careful, though: because it's your story, you're more likely to get excited by it, however it is written or however it opens. But remember that you need to consider the reader of your story. Will they like the opening line? The opening paragraph? Are the characters realistic enough? Is the dialogue?

    It can be a lot to take in, but you are on a good forum and you seem like a patient person, because you've read many stories before wanting to write your own. That's great. Writing is a skill which is mainly self-developed; we're just here to gently guide you. Start writing, and keep writing, no matter what anyone says (even you), because you will improve the more you write.

    Have fun. :)
     
  4. PokeNet
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    Thanks for all your help guys!
    And just pointing out, I'm not a shark out of water when it comes to writing, I understand the Point of Views, etc. Just wanted some extra tips. Thanks again!
     
  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's also a lot of different ways to plan a story. I bought the Dummies Guide to Writing when I first started. Embarrassing, but it had a lot of good information available. :p

    You'll need to figure out your writing type. Can you just sit down and write and let the ideas come to you? Or are you a planner, needing to flesh out every detail first? Everyone has their own way, and it's something you'll need to figure out in order to make the writing process much easier for you.

    I started as a seat-of-the-pants writer, as my dummies guide described it. I had a plot idea and characters, so I just sat down and started writing. But when I'd come up with new ideas, it bothered me that everything I'd written before that point didn't reflect that. So I switched to the snowflake method, again from my dummies guide (but can also be found online). That was more my style, but I never actually planned my plot. So I'd get about a fourth of my novel written, only to discover that I had no idea where to go from there. So then is stop writing because I'd get stuck. And by the time I'd revisit the story, I'd have so many new ideas that I'd have to start over. So I finally switched to outlining, in a way. I planned every scene, every major conversation, every twist and turn. And man, did that make life so much easier for me.

    Every writer has their own process. And every novel is different, so you may find the style that normally works for you doesn't work for a certain piece of work. But since I'm still new to writing too, I know how daunting that first story can be. I'd definitely look into the different writing techniques and see which one works best for you.

    Can I use this? :p lol
     
  6. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    99% of the royalties go to me.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As @Thomas Kitchen said, a novel is very different from a short story. Judging by this:
    you're really looking at starting a short story. So, stick with that.

    My advice is to start with the first significant thing that happens to your character, then tell the story in chronological order. This is solely to get the thing down on paper. Once you've done that, you can decide how you really want to tell it, where and how you want to start, how you want to play with time. But unless you force yourself forward, you risk remaining frozen in uncertainty.

    Also, you will likely be better off if instead of saying to yourself, "This is going to me my entry in the short story contest", make it more like, "I'm writing this so I can develop my writing chops enough to enter the short story contest." And, as you go along, read lots of short stories so that you can compare and contrast with your own methods. See what you really are comfortable doing.

    Just for fun, I'm listing openings from a few of my all time favorite short stories:

    "I suppose the high-water mark of my youth in Columbus, Ohio, was the night the bed fell on my father." - James Thurber, "The Night the Bed Fell."

    "His right name was Frank X. Farrell, and I guess the X stood for "Excuse me". - Ring Lardner, "Alibi Ike."

    "As soon as I got to Borstal they made me a cross-country runner." - Alan Sillitoe, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner."

    "On his bench in Madison Square Soapy moved uneasily." - O. Henry, "The Cop and the Anthem."
     
  8. Morristreet
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    For my two bits worth, you start by thinking of a scene that will be some kind of anchor. Then you work from there. Forwards and backwards. Two of my more popular works began that way, one from an image of a woman falling into the water in front of our hero's sailboat, and another from an image of a girl standing in her kitchen staring at herself from another parallel world. Both were scenes that made no sense initially, but they developed themselves into significant works that have been read and enjoyed by hundreds of people.

    This is how I write, it may not work for everybody, but it helps me to establish a lot of things right away, from the background, setting, character style and so forth. Don't always start at the beginning, but try not to start at the end.:D
     
  9. PokeNet
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    Thank you all so much for your help! I've already entered into the contest, but will be using all your well thought tips to edit and improve what I have so far.
     
  10. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    What is the contest?
     
  11. Thomas Kitchen
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    He's not allowed to say which one he's entered, because then other members may be able to guess which one he wrote. :)
     
  12. Lmc71775
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    Lmc71775 Active Member

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    Tom's got it spot on with the word count, which REALLY matters in novels depending on what genre and what category you're writing for. Like Young Adult novels run shorter as well as Middle Grade too.

    I would start out small. Does the contest have a word count? Not sure if you mentioned it or not. As for starting a novel, I would dive right in and start writing first and foremost. Sometimes later on revisions will totally change your beginning, adding, editing etc. The writing is what counts. You can always change the beginning later.
     

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