Writing a novel… Where do you start?

When you set out to write a novel, where do you start?

For me, I start with an idea and then I start to brainstorm. But when it actually comes to the writing, where do you start?

Do you start at chapter one?

Some random scene in the middle of the book?

Or do you write the climax and ending first?

I generally start from chapter one. I find it easiest to start at the beginning and write in a linear fashion. I never used to, but now days if I have an idea for a later chapter, I’ll write it down long hand and then come back to it later.

Where do you start?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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69 Responses to Writing a novel… Where do you start?

  1. Raúl says:

    I’m not a novelist, but I’ve started every story with the most approximated description of the recurrent thoughts that flash inside my head, that are indeed the seed of those stories. Almost never the draft reflects exactly the initial mental-seed, therefore they unveil in something aesthetically and conceptually different.

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  2. I’ve found that after I’ve written the first draft chapters shift around and what was my opening chapter might end up being pushed further ahead. For me, these days the difficult part is really getting started.
    As for the ending I usually don’t know it until I’ve a first draft written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jennicurry says:

    When it comes time to write, I start at chapter 1 and make sure I keep it linear. This is because, as much as I would like to right the climactic parts, my characters have a habit of changing the direction of the book. So, I have learnt to just follow them wherever they go.

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  4. orawrites says:

    I usually start at the beginning, too. Chapter One. I’m a planner, though, and I like to thoroughly outline the entire story arc before I write a single word. I also keep notepads all around me and endless notes on my phone when I’m out and about. When I get a flow of words I jot them down and fit them in their appropriate spots later. I find I usually make notes and little blurbs that fit through the entire story, but sit down and formally write it from beginning to end.

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  5. Kinley Dane says:

    As I’m working on my first novel, I am going the helter skelter route right now. I hope to someday be a linear writer!

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  6. S. Toman says:

    Seeing so many people say they start with Chapter 1 and go forward from there makes me feel like I’m bucking the system, but I start with an idea and write the scene that is clearest in my mind.I then work backwards and forwards and fill in gaps when I know what’s going on. Often I write more dialogue than descriptions, filling in those tidbits later as well. My first drafts look very different than those that come after, like a skeleton magically turning into a living, breathing person.

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    • Do you find it hard to string the scenes together, or is it fairly organic?

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      • S. Toman says:

        I find the whole process to be fairly organic. I think of it like when you watch a movie and there’s the big moments you think of right away when you retell the story, those are typically the first few scenes I write. Those big moments that inform the rest of the story so the in between tidbits are easy to fill in.

        It also helps that most of the time the first scene I write out has enough “stuff” in it to give me a good idea of other scenes that are needed to lead up to or away from the it. Then I just pick which scene interests me most and run with it.

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      • Thank you for elaborating!

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  7. This got me thinking. I remember reading years ago that Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander books which are now a show on Starz) writes in scenes, and not consecutively. I wonder if that would help with those times when you are just stuck, or if it would make editing and constructing the whole that much harder. Great question, thanks!

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  8. jaymsgatz says:

    I have started with emotion describing a scene with a major theme in it, something with intense feeling. It helps me get the scenes surrounding that on paper, and then I start the building blocks around them.

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  9. bklynboy59 says:

    I like to start at the beginning but lately I had a brainstorm idea for a novel and I keep envisioning starting the book in the middle and build the story out from there.

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  10. I always start with a character who has something to say. And my writing is very linear, from beginning to end. I think I’ve only ever written one scene out of order in my whole life. It’s not that I’m trying to write this way… this is just the way it comes out.

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  11. Paul J Gies says:

    After the idea bounces around in my head for weeks or months or years or decades, I basically always write in linear sequence from page one onward. For one thing, my writing process feels more like a slow read. I don’t know what’s going to happen: I see it at the same time the reader does.

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