How to Write a Novel: Getting Your Story Started

Writing a novel seems like a magical and intimidating process to any writer who has never written a full novel from start to finish – but it’s not as hard as you might think, and it could be said that everyone out there has a good story to tell, but not everyone has the persistence to tell theirs. 

The start of a story or chapter is often called the hardest part for many writers. If you’re struggling to get started, here are some great tips for how to kick off your story without too much worry or effort.

Just Get Started

Writer’s block can exist for a lot of reasons. Sometimes you feel like you can’t think of ideas, other times you feel like all of your starting sentences and pages should be destroyed with fire before anyone ever gets to read them. Ignore all of these feelings and move on to just getting started with your story. 

The most important thing for being a writer is writing. So, start writing! Starting with an outline can also make you feel like you know where your story is going while you’re busy writing it. 

Everything else that you might be worried about for your story can be worried about during the later stage. 

Examine Famous Examples

The best way to figure out how to start a story effectively is to take a closer look at examples that actually worked. Grab some of your nearest books and short story collections and read through the first and last sentences of the story – what makes it work and which ones don’t work as well? 

Where does the story start and why? 

Answering these questions about a few other stories that have already been written can help you to find that magical start that you’ve been looking for in your own story.

Write a Few of Them

Not sure about your starting sentence? Take a more practical approach and write a few alternate starting sentences. Write as many of them as you like. Write start and end sentences for each chapter – or start with the ending sentences of each chapter first. 

Writing a few alternate sentences and examples can help you to choose the right one to start your story. You don’t have to use all of them, and generating starting sentences might even help you to find new and inspiring ideas. 

Never discard the sentences or sections that you don’t use. These can always be useful for starting the next story.

Don’t Start with the Opening Scene

There’s no writing rule that says you have to start writing your story at the opening scene, but it holds a lot of writers back who think that they do. The truth is that you have complete freedom as the writer of the story – and you can take the story absolutely anywhere you want (in addition to starting it anywhere you like). 

If inspiration strikes you more to write a specific scene right now, go with your inspiration and get back to the actual start of your story during later drafts when you’ve already fleshed out the middle or end. 

Write Keywords First

Struggling to get started? Write down a few keywords for your story instead. Keywords can help you see key concepts in your story – and they can often be jotted down faster than full sentences. Generate some keywords or ideas first – words that you think have punch, or elements that you would like to see your story kick off with.

Then, take these keywords and see what alternate starting sentences you can make out of them. 

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