How to start writing in 2021 – tips from those who do it themselves

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So, you want to start writing in 2021?

Perhaps it’s always been your dream to write a novel and leave a permanent literary mark on the world? Or maybe you’re simply looking for a new hobby to try in 2021 and this January lockdown seems like an ideal time to start.

You might have been putting it off for a while because you’re simply clueless on how to go about writing a novel, non-fiction or short stories – or it could be the idea of starting that you’re finding overwhelming.

Whatever your situation, there are some simple tips to keep in mind to get you on your way.

We’ve asked those who have written their own books – both fiction and non-fiction – to give shed light on how to get started and the important things to bear in mind.

Here’s what three authors had to say…

Don’t set time periods to write

Metro.co.uk’s Natalie Morris, who has written her first book, due to be published this year, says: ‘My main tip for writing is to step away from setting time periods.

‘At first I was obsessed with doing a set number of hours after work or at the weekend, but that was so stressful and I found I would just sit there and not even get much done. 

‘Now, I am better at accepting that sometimes it flows and other times it doesn’t. On some occasions, I can be more productive in 45 minutes than over four hours, so I have learnt to be less worried about how long I spend writing.’

Read, read, and read

‘The first – and most basic – tip is to read,’ best-selling children’s author and literary agent Sam Copeland tells Metro.co.uk. 

‘If you want to write funny children’s books, don’t just start writing because you enjoyed reading them when you were a kid. You need to be fully immersed in all the wonderful books that are being published now.

‘It’s the same with all genres of fiction – of course you shouldn’t want to simply ape what is out there, but you need to be aware.’

The more you read the more you’ll be inspired by genres, characters and storylines and they will help you form your own creative ideas.

Make it part of your routine

The more you include something in your daily or weekly routine, the more likely it will become a habit. This is something championed by Natalie, too.

She says: ‘In terms of actually starting, my motivation fluctuated during lockdown. 

‘The thing that helped me, was to make writing a habit. It just had to become part of my routine – like going for a walk, or calling my mum – I’ve made writing something that I do every day. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes. It needs to become habitual for it to not feel like a huge chore.’

Leave a bit of time before editing

As soon as you’ve finished a writing session it can be tempting to go back and edit it straight away, but Natalie advises against this as it might break your creative flow.

She says: ‘Don’t read over everything you did yesterday before you start writing again. I used to do this and would end up fixating on old work, re-drafting and making tiny changes for hours, rather than moving forwards.

‘Set yourself specific time or days for editing/re-reading/re-drafting, but when you sit down to write, focus on the next thing you’re writing.’

Care about your characters

Where would a story be without interesting characters?

Sam says: ‘Like all great fiction, you must care for the characters. That’s how you make the reader care. Without characters who move you in some way, you have nothing.’

Journalist and author Lizzie Enfield – who has even written a book on how to write a novel – says characters are a great place to begin if you find the writing process a little overwhelming. 

She says: ‘If you don’t have one in mind start by describing someone you know well. Think about what makes them unique and interesting, the way they talk, the way they behave around others, the things they surround themselves with. Now ask “what if they found themselves in a certain situation: how would they react? What would they do?” All fiction is about putting a character in a situation and allowing the story to unfold.’

Just start writing… anything 

Lizzie adds: ‘Writing a novel is a daunting task. When I set out to write my first novel I had not written anything longer than a 2,000 word article, but the best way to start is just to write. 

‘Don’t think about writing the opening chapter of an epic novel, think about writing a small scene, or describing a character, a setting or an incident. 

‘There’s a touch of magic involved in writing and often simply doing it allows a more concrete idea to take hold.’

Keep a journal for scribbling 

Sometimes the best ideas come to you when you least expect them – like when you’re lying in bed or out for a walk.

Lizzie says: ‘Keep a notebook or a file on your phone. Jot down thoughts that occur to you, things that you see, snippets of overheard conversations. Use these as prompts for scenes. Even once your writing begins to take shape and has a clear direction you will still need these to feed it.  

‘Don’t worry about whether it is any good or not. All writing is editing. Most writers’ first drafts are not very good. You can edit a bad page but you cannot edit a blank page.’ 

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch at [email protected].


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