Getting Started Writing a Novel: Begin with a Notebook

One of my summer projects is to get started writing a novel. It’s been about eight years since I wrote my last book, so I’ll admit I’m a little rusty. Worse, for me summer isn’t the most ideal time to write, with kids home from school, beautiful days beckoning me outside, and mini-vacations scattered through the months. But I’m determined to at least get started on my book, and so I’ve decided to begin with a notebook.

It’s actually a pretty good-sized notebook, the three-ring kind with lots of tabbed dividers. Putting together this notebook is a project of its own but one I think will pay off in the long run. Here’s what I plan to include in my notebook:

  1. Character profiles, or sketches of my main characters. (For how to write a character profile, check out this article.)
  2. A synopsis, or a short summary of the plot. (Of course, this will likely change, many times.)
  3. A working outline, with a working title.
  4. Early chapter drafts.
  5. Research sources and ideas.
  6. Notes.
  7. A listing of books to read or browse for examples.
  8. A miscellaneous section for extra papers, contacts, etc.
  9. Loose leaf paper.

One thing I’ve learned over the years: Getting started writing a novel (or any book, for that matter) takes time, patience, and focus. A novel notebook is a great way to ease in to the process, especially during the summer months when you may not be ready to plunge into a big project. So far, my notebook has been fun to organize, handy to use, and—above all—motivating. More important, each time I add to my notebook, I feel a sense of accomplishment; I’m one step closer to writing that novel.

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