Struggling to get started? Helen Cross can help

Getting started. How? Where? When? With which part of the story? I started mine so long ago that I’ve almost forgotten how I did it!

We know that this can often be the most difficult part of writing a book, which is why we decided to make this the focus of our first writing workshop in September. 

Someone who has been through the "starting" process on many occasions is our expert tutor, Helen Cross, who will be providing our guest writers with techniques and exercises to help make the process less daunting. We asked her if she could share some advice in advance. Here's what she said:

"Start by putting your thoughts, memories, ideas, anecdotes into words. Writing prose fiction is different to writing a diary or a letter, you are creating an imaginative landscape, internally and externally, and you should let your writing style rise to the challenge. Read your paragraphs aloud and consider what sounds best.  As you get into a habit of doing this regularly, you will begin to identify your own writer's voice, a style of expression that is uniquely, and engagingly, you.  

Then begin paying attention to characters - noticing and noting details about any forming in your mind. Try to write with concrete nouns rather than abstract nouns – place an emphasis on things rather than feelings. Tell me what a character wears and says but also how they smell and sound. A great help to you will be learning to eavesdrop, noting down snippets of revealing, funny or astonishing conversations. Travelling on public transport is good for this. When you have characters who interest you, begin to build their world: think what is happening within them as well as without. What is their problem and what could happen in a story as they start to solve that problem?"

Helen’s top-tip is to carry a notebook so that you can write things whenever they spring into mind – often those initial raw thoughts are the purest.

In my experience, I have found there are times when I am unable to jot ideas down, so instead I use my voice recording facility on my iphone, because, did you know – our short-term memory only retains information for three minutes.  Three minutes!  That's nearly as bad as the memory of a gold-fish - no wonder I’ve forgotten so many excellent one-liners!


Helen Cross is the expert tutor at L’atelier des ecrivains – The Writers’ Workshop, France. Designed to motivate writers and help them on their new creative journey, so they can create brilliant work, it runs from 20-24 September 2018 in southwest France. Book your place today.