You’ve got pen to paper and you’re ready to go – there’s just one problem – where on earth do you start and what are the best steps to writing a novel?

Begin at the middle

Don’t stress about being even remotely linear when it comes to writing your novel. Start at the middle, the end, the penultimate chapter – it’s up to you – wind your way back to the beginning. If you have an idea for an extract but you know it’s not going to take place until mid-way through your book, start with it. Once it’s written, you’ll be surprised how quickly you work out how and where in your story it ought to be placed, and how you’re led to write other elements that link with it.

Start with your character

If you have a character in mind but you don’t have a story for the character, start by simply writing about the character. What does your character look like, how does your character think and what does he or she feel? What is he or she doing right now? Bring in another character, and have them meet; start a dialogue between them and envision how character will react. While the final scenario might not make the cut and wind up in your story, it’ll give you a good opportunity to try your character out – to play your character against another character and see how dialogue and action develops.

Write about yourself

If you really have no idea where to start – no plot, no character, and no idea – then just write about yourself, or about something that interests you. Write about anything – just write! Keeping a diary is a great means of practicing you writing, and finding inspiration; keeping a log of the things you encounter on a day-to-day basis or when you’re out and about on trips might prove handy when it comes to identifying a potential plot line. You might also be able to identify a potential character amidst your descriptions of the people you know or have encountered.

Stop putting it off

One of the main problems that plagues writers is procrastination – putting off writing, or feeling so glum about not knowing where to start that you unconsciously start to think about other tasks that you need to do instead. Instruct yourself to spend a specific amount of time at your writing desk, even if you don’t actually manage to write. Getting into the routine of spending time at your writing desk will encourage you to write.

Enforce deadlines

Give yourself a self-enforced deadline that you have to work towards; for example, have a chapter written in half an hour, or a character profile completed by bed-time. Knowing that you have to keep to a deadline will encourage you to write naturally without investing too much thought. Thinking too deeply about writing can reduce your ability to write by preventing you from focussing on one thing; having a deadline forces you to just write whatever comes to you first.