Tips for Writing Your First Novel

September 18, 2013 at 7:57 pm

writing-tipsEver since I wrote my first book, Blood Harvest, I have met countless people who tell me they have a wonderful idea for a book, only to discover what they really have a is a premise or a scene in mind that would they believe would make for a great story. Beyond that initial inspiration they have little else in the way of how the story pieces itself together, almost like a pitch without a product.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

“I have this idea for a book. It’s a comedy about a Englishman, you know the real staunch, snooty, Englishman stereotype, who gets a job at an American University teaching advanced English Literature and ends up having to be the head trainer of an up-and-coming MMA Fighter.”

My first question would be the obvious one, “Really? How did that happen?”

The answer is typically, “I don’t know. I have some ideas, but wouldn’t it be hilarious to see someone like that trying to function alongside the fighters and such inside the UFC?”

Now take a moment and consider that concept. Allow images of John Cleese doing the stodgy Englishman routine while Rampage Jackson is dry humping his leg (an apparent interview requirement for the fighter) to flood into your mind.  Clearly a story like that has the potential to be very funny; unfortunately, I also think you can see how there is no actual story there, just a concept or maybe a scene at best. My usual response at this point is to politely indicate that I think there is a good idea in the works and that the person asking should start writing their thoughts down and see if they can piece a story together. Before I can finish speaking I see the disappointment on their faces and realize that what they were really hoping was that I would be so inspired by the scene that I would want to write the novel for them.


So, if you are someone who has an idea for a terrific novel and want to write it, but have no idea how to begin, then here’s the advice I would give on how to get started:


  1. “The secret of writing is to write.” This is a quote, as I remember it, from the movie “Finding Forrester” that the reclusive author William Forrester, played by Sean Connery, spoke to Jamal Wallace, played by Rob Brown, a teenager with a talent for writing. The power in that sentence is so far beyond the seven little words comprising it that it boggles the mind. If you want to write a book, then you have to write. Just write. Don’t think. Write. Get words down onto the page and let them guide you if need be. If your grammar isn’t perfect, then ignore it for now and fix it later. If you’re not sure where you are going, then just keep going and write. Not every word has to be an inspired creation of eloquence. Just get the words on the page and worry about the rest when you are done.


  1. Having said all of that, I concede that there is little more daunting for the aspiring writer than to have that blank white page staring back at you waiting for you to do something. If you find yourself incapable of pouring words onto the page and are desperate for some kind of order, then a good method I have used is to write the entire story in outline form. I go through the entire story and set my chapters in numerical order while providing a brief description of what is to take place within that chapter. Once I have finished this task, then it’s just a matter of “filling in the blanks” because I already know what I want to write in the given spaces. Remember, you don’t have to stick to the outline if the story takes on a life of its own. The outline is simply a tool for you to put the pieces of your story together with some form of cohesiveness so you don’t feel like you are floundering around haphazardly in space.


  1. After that the only other thing I can recommend is coffee. Lots and lots of coffee… And chocolate… Or pie, if available.