Workshop Two: Getting started

Workshop Two: Getting started


· Overcome obstacles that prevent you from writing
· Get the first draft of your novel down on paper

Welcome to the second workshop in the series. Now it’s time to stop procrastinating and start writing. There you go. End of workshop. See you next time.

Still here? Ah, so you’re looking for yet another reason not to write? Okay. Let’s look at how you can make a start on what could be a great addition to the wonderful world of crime fiction.

If you completed the last workshop, you’ll have a good idea of the sort of crime novel you’re writing and where it fits in today’s market. You probably also have some vague idea of what you’re going to write. At this point, that might be nothing more than one or two scenes, a rough character outline or something equally nebulous. It doesn’t matter. All novels have to start somewhere. Mine normally start with a single scene which I gradually build on.

If you have a basic idea – no matter how vague – and a quiet space where you can write, then you’re good to go. You really don’t need anything else. Scared? Don’t be. It’s a bit like walking or riding a bike. Once you’ve got the knack you never forget how to do it.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the various techniques that writers use to improve their fiction. However, not one of these is useful unless you can apply them to something you’re already working on.

Here’s the thing. Broadly speaking, you can split the writing process into two parts – writing and rewriting. The writing is all about getting your story down on paper. At this stage, you shouldn’t worry too much about what it actually looks like, how good or bad the writing is, or any of that. That’s all part of the rewriting stage, which you do once you’ve got a story. But first, you need the story…

So, you have an idea you’d like to explore. There’s a whole lot of other ‘stuff’ you suspect is involved if you want to transform this idea into a clever, gripping crime novel. And that ‘stuff’ is scary. Plotting, characterisation, point of view, narrative style, etc etc. Well, yes, the technical side of writing matters. A lot. But here’s the good news. You don’t need to worry about it yet.

For now, the only thing you have to focus on is finding the story. Here’s how you do that:

    • Set aside a dedicated time each day for writing. Don’t make it too long. An hour or two hours maximum.
    • Decide on the number of words you will write each day. Try for between 500 and 1,000 words a day. Just think, if you write 1,000 words for 100 days you’ll have created a 100,000 word story (a decent size crime novel, in fact).
    • As much as possible, stick to this – write at the same time each day and write 500 to 1,000 words each time you sit down to write.
    • Keep going forward. Don’t look back. Never, ever go back over what you’ve written. Keep writing until you get to the end.
    • Please, please, please do not decide you can only write in a particular location or using a special pen or much-loved laptop. That’s unhelpful nonsense. Most importantly, don’t become one of those writers who can only write in your local, chi chi café. If you choose a café to write in, chances are you’ll meet other ‘writers’ doing the same thing and instead of writing you’ll end up chatting. It’s probably a good way to make new friends but not an effective way to get a novel written.
    • Never, ever sit staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to come. It won’t. Force yourself to write something, even if you think it’s utter rubbish. Anything is better than nothing. If your story isn’t flowing, write an interview with your central character. Ask them questions – where did they grow up? What inspires them/drives them/makes them happy and sad?

In the next workshop (14 March 2013) I’ll be looking at crime series vs stand alone novels. That’s fourteen days away. Just think, you could have 1,400 words of your novel written by then!

Good luck.

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