Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Step One

By Michelle Helliwell

So, how do you write a book?

Okay, there may be a bit more to it. But, if you are thinking about writing for the first time, the advice in that meme is really 90% of what you need to know.

I met up with a work colleague over the weekend and we began talking about writing. She asked me, in so many words, how a person goes about writing. I told her, very seriously, that she needs to get herself some paper, and a pen, and just start. Just write.

That’s it.

Okay – that’s not exactly it. You have to learn about the craft, you need to read, you need to learn about character, plot, sentence structure. But all of that is pointless (except the reading, perhaps) if you don’t have anything on the page to work with. A potter takes clay and with great skill turns that clay into a pot or a vase. A painter turns watercolours or oils into a brilliant painting. For a writer, you have words that you form into a short story or a poem or a novel, but until you get those words on the page, you have nothing to work with. The words are your clay, your oils. You have to work with them, and to do that, you need to get them on the page. 

For most writers, those words don’t come out perfectly the first time. If you need a reminder of that, watch your favourite movie with the director or writer’s commentary on, or watch the deleted scenes section of the extras on the DVD. You’ll hear screenwriters and directors talk about characters or scenes that just didn’t work, story lines that were changed, or even dropped all together. Even for experienced creators, there is the struggle to get the right mix of elements to get the story right. Why should it be any different for you?

If you’re tinkering with the idea of writing a story, just write it. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just make your clay. And then, finish. Finish, finish, finish. Get all the clay you need to shape your story, to create your characters and drive your plot. But you can’t do any of that unless you have your words. And how to you get your words?

You write them down. There is no step two.

Michelle Helliwell is a lover of tech and an aspiring historical romance author. She blogs regularly on her website. You can also find her occasionally on twitter, popping into Goodreads. and far too much on Pinterest. In fact, she gives you permission to scold her about getting back to her writing if you see her pinning too much.


  1. LOVE the meme graphic, Michelle! LOL! Meanwhile, in other news, everyone's stash of how-to-write-a-book resources. Ah, optimism. You need that once you just need to keep writing -- LOL

  2. You're absolutely right, Michelle. Every book is written one word at a time. You just have to sit down and do it.