I’m often asked about the best way to start working on a manuscript, and have lost count of the amount of people who claim to have a bestselling story in their heads, but have yet to write a single page. Understandably, the unrelenting pace of life – pre-lockdown, at least; and, for many, during and after it – accounts for so much time that getting things going seems nigh on impossible, let alone establishing some kind of rhythm when settling into the writing process, albeit while managing the precarious balancing act that is the work/life balance.
The truth, as dictated by my own experiences, is that some degree of sacrifice is required. The creation of time is the most important aspect of story-building, and that might involve getting up an hour earlier than normal, extending your day a little or putting some time aside at weekends, if you don’t happen to be working then. It doesn’t have to be a daily commitment, but it’s amazing what a few hours a week can do in terms of establishing and developing a story, whatever it happens to be.
The most important question to ask yourself at the start of the process is: what do I want this story to be about, and what’s its end goal? In relation to the latter, the author may wish to try and launch a writing career, while for others it’s simply the satisfaction of having a book out in their name; recording a family legacy or promoting a business. Whatever the endgame, structuring the manuscript is essential. If you’ve taken notes while considering your project, revisit them and try to assemble them into a workable composition. A little like creative scaffolding, build from the bottom up, breaking your story up into expandable segments, or individual chapters, each of which represent a different part of the overall document.
It doesn’t matter if your story is fiction, memoir or any other genre – structure is the platform on which story develops. Once that’s in place, flesh each chapter, or segment, out by packing it with as much detail as possible. And then start writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a few words a day; for once you get the ball rolling, if you’ve done your preparatory work well, others will follow. The pace at which you lay your work down will vary, even if you’re able to rigidly adhere to the time you’ve set aside for writing.
Some days the flow will be so good you might want to consider extending that day’s session assuming, of course, that you don’t have to rush off to work or do the school run, for example. Others will disappoint, and an unsatisfactory amount of text will be laid down. The most important thing here is not to stop. All writers have poor days, whether starting out or with vast experience under their belt, so persevere and don’t worry about getting things ‘wrong’ along the way – sometimes, a preconceived plot, for instance, will benefit from greater reflection, or by simply realising that an alternative direction might work better. And if you’re really stuck along the way, we at United Ghostwriters are available to help you over the finishing line.