Creative writing starts with passion. Therefore, if you want to be a creative writer, the first thing to do is identify your passion. Then write out of your passion. But how? – is what you have to say best suited to poetry, short story, non-fiction article or novel? Your next step is to ask yourself what you love to read. Whatever it is – that's what you could start to write.
Let's say you want to start writing a novel. Think of a phrase that's the perfect title for a book. That could be your starting point. And so now you are on a new threshold.
We can learn a lot from our ancestors. For instance, if you visit the Museum of London's prehistoric galleries, you'll find that Bronze Age people would build their roundhouses with the entrance facing the midwinter solstice. They would then consult their ancestors before making an offer to the new threshold. Now, sometimes modern builders have a comparable ritual – I do not know. But if they do not – maybe they should. And so should those embarking on a long-term building project like a novel. I love the idea of "making an offer to a new threshold." And what I have to say here is like an offering to the new threshold.
First, where do your ideas come from? From life itself, all around you, wherever you are. Ideas fly past, and you catch them. Listen to conversations in every situation. Observe people. Eavesdrop whilst sitting on the top deck of a bus. Have notebooks with you at all times – and keep notes. And if you have a notebook system, you have to build in time to review your notebooks and retrieve your ideas.
Then you have to apply the first secret of writing:
1. Avoid Not Writing – take your craft seriously; believe that what you're doing is of sufficient value that you are going to carve out time for it. Book time for it if necessary – put it in your diary. Get in there and do it. Do not be afraid of the blank screen or blank page.
2. Pay attention to structure – break down the book in your head into an Outline. You could do it on a piece of software like Scrivener, or you could do it through a wall of Post It Notes, or you could plot it on a storyboard; or you could write your novel as a short story first. But realize that you are unique and may have your own special way of working that is right for you. With a novel, sometimes writers find they can not plot too far ahead (though be aware you may have to go back and impose structure later). If that is the case for you –
3. Go on the journey and see what happens . If a character develops a life of his or her own it's a good sign. Some say the characters create the plot. Keep asking why, what, where, how, when.
4. Set yourself a goal of a thousand words per working day, if you respond well to deadlines and schedules. If not write anyway.
5. Do not talk your novel out of existence . Write that first draft. I believe it's not a good idea to discuss the details of your novel with anyone until you've written it. Then you can seek feedback, and redraft, and revise and revise and revise.
Finally, when your book is finished to the very best of your ability and beyond, send it off to literary agents. And be prepared for rejection. Remember – you write because you are compelled to, because you can not "not write". Take note of these wise words from popular author Adrian Plass: "If things fall apart, pick up the pieces and carry on. Do not despair. There are strange things going on behind the scenes."