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‘Work out what kinds of fiction you are drawn to and why’

What’s the first thing that someone who wants to write a novel should do?


Read widely at first – including novels and short story collections, and try to work out what kinds of fiction you are drawn to and why.  Do you like unusual characters, or particular settings, or do you enjoy a dramatic plot? Reading with these questions in mind can tell you a lot about what will help you to drive your own writing forwards. You could try some exercises based on what interests you – to write a page creating an interesting character, or describing a particular place, or you could draw a map or bullet points to design the plot of your potential story. Spending a day in the library reading the first paragraphs of novels and short stories can also be a useful exercise –  which ones grab your attention, and how has the writer done this? You could experiment with writing some opening paragraphs of your own, then pick your favourite and continue with the story. Try to see a story like a film in your mind – and write in ‘scenes’ focusing on the point of view of one character. Let them take you on their journey and use their senses – what can they see/smell/taste etc?  If you get stuck, try to picture the character clearly in your mind, and ask them ‘what happens next?’ Remember that no writing is wasted – let yourself make mistakes. Some of these mistakes might take your writing in an exciting new direction.