Every stage of writing a book is a challenge—the beginning, the middle, and the end—but I think figuring out how to begin to write a book might be the most difficult.

I’m at the beginning stage of writing my next novel now. I’m going to use Scrivener for this one, and so I have a lot to learn. It’s coming.

I’ve started etching out a plot using plot “beats” I’ve gleaned from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Yet I’ve been floundering. I’m accustomed to writing biographical fiction, with reams of biographies to work from. That has its own challenges, certainly, but for me, the free fall of a novel based on someone about whom there are only a few paragraphs written—and whose existence is debated, at that—is even more challenging.

I’ve discovered a book that is excellent for the pre-plot stage: Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere).

I’ve resisted this book because it felt too gimmicky, but it was recommended by writers I respect and admire, and so I’m giving it a try. I’m impressed! It’s helping me to closely define my protagonist before I construct the plot. It doesn’t make it easy (nothing can), but it’s highly worthwhile. If you are at the pre-plot stage—or if you are having difficulty knowing how to begin writing—I recommend you read this book. Better yet, do the exercises.

How do you begin writing a book? What works for you?

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