Have a great idea for a novel, but don’t know where to start? Have you started your novel, but got bogged down after only the first few pages and don’t know how to go on? Then this book is for you.

Chapter One is a companion book to a beginning writing course. This book can be used in conjunction with the course, or instead of it. Either way, you’ll have fun reading and using this book to get started on writing your story.

Do you love to read a good story? Do you wish you could write your own? Have you ever started writing a story and then got bogged down and didn’t know where to go after the first page or two or five? Well, this book is going to help you.

I’m going to guide you in writing not just a good story, but a great one. I’m going to teach you how to engage your readers and have fun while you’re doing it. Now, don’t think for a minute that this is going to be a breeze—writing is hard work! It takes a lot of time and energy. But it can also be fun and exciting. You get to create people and whole new worlds, and then you get to live in that world and interact with those people. You decide where those people go, what they do, and what they say. You put thoughts into their minds, give them a history and a life—you make them into real people. In this story of your own creation, what you want to happen is what’s going to happen and I’m going to show you how to get started.

With this book, you are essentially going to be taking the writing course I teach. Each chapter in the book equates to one “class”. In class, my students and I discuss and learn about the day’s topic and then, in almost every class, I give out a worksheet (or two) to help the students organize their story and put what they’ve learned into practice.

Because you’re reading this and not having to listen to me while I’m standing in front of a classroom, you get to take this class any way you want. You don’t have to “listen” to my entire lesson. You can go directly to the meat of each idea by reading “The Basics,” which gives you just the basic idea of the lesson, and then skip to the end of the chapter and get started on the worksheet. Or, if you want or need more information on any topic, you can read “The Details” and get the whole lecture, all of my explanations and examples. Or, you can do both—first, learn the basics and try to do the worksheet; then, if you get stuck or don’t understand something, you can go back and read through the details where, hopefully, all of your questions will be answered. However you choose to use the book is the best way for you do it.

I believe that the easiest way to learn how to write fiction is by starting with the bigger concepts first. For this reason, my first course, and the first half of this book, deals with those—characters; goal, motivation, and conflict; setting; story structure; and the hero’s journey. With these basic building blocks you can get started either writing or just planning your story. The second half of this book (from chapter 6 onward), which corresponds to my second writing course, I get into more of the detail— point of view, dialogue, show vs. tell and editing. But as they all say, it’s best to start at the beginning.

Speaking of the beginning—where do you begin when you start to write a story? I like to begin with the characters, and so that is where I begin this book. You might like to begin with the plot. If so, start with the chapter on story structure; that’ll help you get your plot going and then you can go back to the chapter on characters when you start working on them. You should feel free to start wherever in the book you like—but do be warned, I sometimes refer back to previous chapters, so if you start in the middle, you just might find yourself flipping back to figure out what something means.

Reading a novel takes you on a wonderful adventure into someone else’s imagination; writing your own story is even better because you get to go on a fabulous adventure into your own imagination. Be wild, be wacky, be sweet or romantic, be brave and strong and daring, or be cruel and nasty. But whatever you do, have fun because if you are having fun writing your story, you can be pretty sure your readers are going to have fun reading it.

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Meredith Bond