The blank page stares at you, the cursor flashing, and you don’t know where to begin. You have an idea of the narrative that you want to write, an idea of the overall shape of it. You even have an idea of where you’re going to begin, and yet you can’t write anything.
This is a common problem amongst writers. And there are a thousand and one things that people across the world do to combat it. Some of those things might work for you, some of them might not. But here are a few tips to combat the crippling fear that comes with starting a book:
- Don’t start at the beginning. This might sound counterproductive, but sometimes it might be easier to start a little later in the narrative than the beginning. For example, rather than trying to think of an interesting starting to the novel, it might be easier to simply bypass the beginning and just begin the story. Then, when you’re finished, you might go back to the starting and find you never really needed an interesting starting in the first place. Or, perhaps, when writing your narrative, you are hit with inspiration for a beginning. Either way, your problem has been solved.
- Plan your book. It might help to know how to start your book if you plan it. So sit down and think about the arc of your narrative. Think about where it begins, where it will go, where it will end. When writing fiction, most people tend to think about the three-act structure: the Setup, the Confrontation, the Resolution. The titles are fairly self-explanatory: the Setup will setup primary characters, the Confrontation will introduce the problem, and the Resolution will end everything. For non-fiction, the three-act structure can work, but writers will often let things unfold as they have happened in real life, which is often messier than the three-act structure allows for.
- Read other books. This might sound a little simple, but it is sometimes a good idea to step back from your narrative to read other books. And they don’t necessarily have to be the same genre/style as the book you want to write. If you are writing fantasy, it might be good to read science-fiction. If you are writing non-fiction, it might be good to read fiction to spark some ideas. In any case, reading will flex your writing muscles, and provide an opportunity to be inspired by something.
- Consume content about your topic. As well as reading other books, it’s a good idea to begin consuming other content about what you’re writing on. There will no doubt be a TED Talk out there on writing (Elizabeth Gilbert has one – https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius), a podcast, a film, a TV show, an interview. There is a myriad of things out there that can help you start writing, just like this article, but be wary. Sometimes, it is easy to get sucked into spending hours reading, watching, and listening to things that are there to help you write, but in doing so, you’ll have less and less time to actually write.
- Just write. And, of course, the one piece of advice no article about how to start writing should be without: just write. However small it is, whether it is one page, one paragraph, one sentence. Just write.
You might find that all of these work for you. Or, perhaps, none of them work for you. But it’s important to remember that everyone goes through the same problem.