For the cosmically misinformed, writing a book sounds pretty straightforward: you start at the beginning, some stuff happens, and then you write “The End”. In reality, novels are like when your necklaces get all tangled up because you didn’t put them away properly and have made all these teeny tiny metal knots that you need to be a neurosurgeon to untangle, because you can’t just cut through them because 1) it’s metal and 2) your grandma gave it to you for your birthday and she’d be really upset if anything happened to it…
Anyway. Plot = tangled jewelry.
So, while you read books from beginning to end (or, at least, you’re supposed to. You can read it any way you want, create plot anarchy), they aren’t necessarily written that way.
For example, when I start a new project, I always write the first and last sentence before anything else. Why? Because that’s just how my brain works. I like to figure out what my hook is and where it’s all winding up before I get bogged down by the middle. Also, because I’m a weirdo, but that’s mostly unrelated. After I have those two bits down, I write chronologically*, for the most part.
And I’m 100% certain not everyone does it this way. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just that that approach isn’t for everyone. You could read a million different articles out there on the writing process (fairly certain that’s an accurate statistic) and still not know what works best for you. And that’s okay. You’ll forge your own path.
But if you’re still trying to figure out what works best for you, here are some places where you can get ideas/inspiration:
- Write. Honestly, get a lot of practice. Figure out what works best for you through experience. That is the best way.
- Read. What books are your favorite? What do they have in common? How do your favorite writers work?
- Watch TV/Movies. Mostly to get a fresh perspective, because writing for TV/Film is pretty different from writing novels. What are your favorite shows/movies? What do they have in common? How is the story presented?
- Mess up. No one gets it right the first time. It’s like sitting down at the piano for the first time and expecting to play Beethoven’s Ninth perfectly. You’re gonna hit some wrong notes. Experiment. Try writing the end first. Write all the scenes you’re excited about first. Start from the beginning and just pants the whole thing. There are no wrong answers.
Writing is like Harry Potter: “The wand chooses the wizard.” You can’t decide how you work best. You just stumble upon it and notice how natural it is. The important thing is to write, anyway, not how you do it.
*When I say I write the novel chronologically, I’m talking about the overall novel arc. I sometimes present the scenes themselves out of chronological order because I find it more effective that way. But that’s mostly because I don’t think in a linear, chronological way. Again, that’s my style, not everyone’s.