My Pointers On How To Start Writing The Novel You Are Too Scared to Write

My fear as a writer and author.

Joe Plumb Mental Health

As any creatives knows, there is no instruction manual that comes with starting a new project - whether that be writing, music, or starting a new painting.

There are trends and industry standards, of course, but nothing that says you have to do something a certain way. Especially if you’re self-published like me.

That’s part of the joy of being creative, and having a creative outlet. That joy is also why I’m not going to delve further into that today. I’m going to take a slightly different angle.

What I want to talk to you about today is the daunting task of writing a novel, and the fear I have of getting started.

Well…it’s not the getting started, exactly. I’m good with gathering ideas and sitting down to write. It’s the thought of ‘what if my ideas can’t come together to create a novel?’

My own answer to this would be to start writing, see where and how the ideas find themselves on the page. That often works best for me.

Because we can quickly work out how far our ideas will go - how far we want them to go - or whether we just want to focus on a particular emotion, perspective or theme. Whether the story we want to tell is best suited as flash fiction, short story, novella or a novel.

But what if you want to try something different? What if you want to write a novel, but you’re not sure whether you have enough story yet?

Now, I know I’m speaking as the author of a poetry anthology and blogger, but the thought of writing a story of 40,000 (ish) words feels beyond me. This will undoubtedly change as my confidence and stamina as a writer grows.

I’m new to compiling a novel, but I’m not new to writing. So, I need to allow myself to feel that fear for a little while. It is there to remind me that this is a new beginning. It is only scary because it’s new. That fear is protecting me. I can, and will, channel that energy into my writing.

Like I am now, coming to think of it; writing about my feelings and perspectives in the hope that one person will relate to this. My writing will help you.

Thinking about the novel as one entire word count really doesn’t help anyone. It just adds unnecessary pressure. A book is more than it’s word count. It is also the words. And their meaning. And the effect it could have on potential readers. How do you want them to feel?

Breaking down the word count doesn’t seem to help me, either (it may help you, though, don’t discount it). I’ve still got to fill those words with emotion, plot and characterisation. That may sound silly to you, because it even sounds silly to me. It feels like I’m weaving a piece of string…

Do you know, I think we’ve struck the nail on the head!

  • I am being too perfectionistic

  • I am thinking too far ahead

  • I am judging myself before I’ve even started

  • I am losing myself in the technicalities, more so than enjoying the process

Sound familiar?

I feel like the best way to go about dealing with this is to start writing, but also break down the ‘just start writing' stage that little bit further.

Here are my suggestions and key points:

  1. Write in a stream of consciousness - get the initial thoughts out of your head

  2. Write about a character outside of the story you are writing to get to know them better

  3. Feel free to write what you know - thoughts, feelings, circumstances

  4. If you have any scenes in mind, write them down; it doesn’t matter if they are disjointed

  5. It’s not a race

  6. Different stages of writing process will take you longer than others

  7. Don’t count these scribblings as ‘starting your book’ - think of them as a stepping stone

After giving it some deep thought, these feel like the best ways to begin writing the novel I’m scared to write.

You can take these pointers and apply them to your own writing processes, if you wish. I hope my vulnerability and honesty gives you something to think about. But most of all, helps you better manage any niggling doubts.

Don’t let fear take the joy out of writing.