The thing I hear most often is: I’ve got lots of ideas but I just can’t get them down on paper, or I’d love to write a book, but I just don’t know where to start. There’s a chapter on this in my book: Fountain of Creativity – Ways to nourish your writing, from Victorina Press.

The thing to realise about ideas is that they are etheric, and very hard to pin down. You need to start with an image, not an idea. It’s the image that begins everything. Writing, contrary to what some people may assume, is a visual art: it paints pictures in your head. Image is a primary language, it’s the language of dreams, and every story is a journey made up of sequential images. Once you’ve got one image, then that leads on to the next image, and so on. Think of it like a play on the stage, or a film: a novel is also made up of images, it’s just that it’s transferred via words, instead of physical people or pixels on a screen.

So, if you have this idea about writing a story about a couple who are separated by war, who are desperately trying to reunite, you need to find an image. Who are your protagonists? What are their names? What are their physical characteristics? Where exactly do they live? What is their occupation? What does their house look like? What hobbies do they have?

If you were opening the book with a scene of them saying goodbye, where are they, and what does the environment look like? If it starts with a domestic scene between them, which room are they in and what activity are they doing, and how are they carrying out this activity? If you had two actors on a stage, what would the backdrop be, and what stage directions would you give them? It’s useful to think of film or play, in as much as it helps you ground the novel in a physical world for the characters to exist within. Everything happens within a particular time and a particular place.

The environment and how the protagonists move, can give a lot of information to the reader as to their state of mind, or what tensions are present.

Life is taken in through the senses, so stories need to be told through the senses: touch, taste, smell, look, sound, atmosphere. Every story is written one word at a time, one image at a time. Every journey begins with a single step and is comprised of one step after another. Writing a book is the same: let the image arise, let it lead you into the life of your characters, let the story unfold through a sequence of images.

For more tips and tricks on writing, check out Bethany’s book, Fountain of Creativity, ways to nourish your writing.  Now on sale. 

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