I am – I think – on the threshold of starting my Next Major Work. If you detect a note of caution, it’s because I’m not absolutely certain that I’m ready to begin, even though I started making notes about possible ideas last May, so I’ve already had a good forty weeks’ gestation and should be ready to give birth.
Which brings me to my first tip: don’t start writing your story or novel too soon. This is because you need to be so pent up, so desperate to write it, that you generate enough momentum to keep you going over a period which could last years. Giving yourself plenty of time to prepare will also mean that your ideas and characters are well developed and will therefore spring vividly from the page.
My second tip is that you should have a reasonable sense of where you’re going. I’m always amazed at the number of people who set off on the long creative trek to write a book without having some kind of a route map to guide them. Don’t be afraid that having a plan will cramp or inhibit your inspiration – you can modify your work right up until the last minute if you want to and it’s a good idea to build in enough flexibility to allow you to respond to the brilliant idea that hits you halfway through. But if you don’t give your imagination material to work with – the basis and structure for a story – you may find that you’re making impossible demands on it and don’t be surprised if it, and your project, run out of steam. If you were building a house you’d employ an architect, who would be there to help you if you wanted to change the position of the kitchen halfway through the build. It’s the same with writing fiction. Having a solid structure will support the alterations you want to make, as well as giving you the confidence to be bold and implement them.
My third tip is that you should keep mum: don’t reveal what you’re writing about to anybody because it will dilute the story you want to tell. The first narration should occur on the page. I wouldn’t be too precious about having your idea stolen because, like fingerprints, no two stories are the same and you can’t copyright ideas, only words. By keeping quiet about what you are up to, the only expectations you have to deal with are your own and you may find those difficult enough in any case.
My final tip – enjoy what you are doing. Relish every phrase you write. Fall in love with your characters as you get to know them better. Let yourself be giddy with the excitement of it all. Writing is the easy part – the big challenge of how to get your work into the public domain comes later.