5 questions to ask yourself before you start writing

Want to write a book and wondering where to start?  Ask yourself these five questions before you go any further.

WHY?

Writing a book is a lot of hard work for uncertain rewards, so make sure you’re very clear about why you’re doing it. Maybe you want to knock Hilary Mantel off her perch or make J.K. Rowling’s royalties look paltry.  Maybe you want a full page review in the TLS or you fancy working at home.  Maybe you just want to see your name on a book.  Your dream is your own and you don’t need to tell anyone what it is, but always keep it in your mind, as why you’re writing will dictate your answer to the next question you must ask:

WHAT?

A historical novel isn’t a clear enough answer.  You’ll need to know exactly what kind of historical novel you’re going to write.  Saga? Crime? Fantasy? Romance? A time slip? ‘Faction’?’   Are you writing for adults, children or young adults?  Know your audience and your market.  Read other books of the same kind and be clear about what your story shares with them – and why it is eye-catchingly different.  The same goes for any kind of genre fiction.

WHEN?

Self explanatory.  Are you writing a contemporary novel or a historical one, in which case, what period?

WHERE?

Your setting.  Like period, you might want to choose one that you know is popular with your target audience.

Finally, and most important of all:

WHO?

Whose story is it?  This is your key question.  In any kind of genre fiction you’ll want an engaging lead character, one readers can identify with and root for, and whose ‘journey’ is the longest and the hardest.  A character who has the most to learn, and the capacity to change.

If you can answer all these questions to your own satisfaction, you’re ready to start.  Now you just need a plot … Good luck!

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