Writing tips: how to start writing a book

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

Many people writing a book are looking for writing prompts or ideas for how to start writing.  A couple of simple tips may help, including: start today!

How to start writing?

How to start a new story or a new blog?  Many writers find beginning a new piece of writing an enormous challenge.

That’s not surprising when you consider that your first sentence, or first page, will define your story; be the shop window for your book; and decide whether your writing will be read.

Thus it is that when you sit down to start writing, you suddenly find that other activities – making a cup of coffee, checking the latest news, phoning a friend – suddenly take on a weird urgency.

Sophie Thun exhibit

Sophie Thun and writing

So I was intrigued when top Vienna-based artist Sophie Thun drew my attention to the catalogue of her latest work at the Vienna Secession gallery, entitled Sophie Thun (in German).

The catalogue consists of a dialogue between Sophie and 90 year-old artist Daniel Spoerri, a Romanian artist based in Switzerland, one of whose “snare” pictures I remember seeing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2019.  In the frontispiece to the book, pictured above in hard-to-read black-on-black script, Spoerri recalls a friend struggling with a book:

It was that he couldn’t find a beginning.  He had to have the first sentence before he could start.  I met him again and again in Ascona at the bar, in the evenings, and I would ask him and he would say: No, still not; no, I still don’t have anything.  

And then one evening he was suddenly very happy and said: Now I’ve started!

So I asked: This means, you found the sentence?  And he said: Yes, exactly, now I can write.

And what is it then, this sentence?

It was raining. 

The same text, in German, signed by Daniel Spoerri

Stephen Donaldson on how to start writing

The Spoerri text is spot on: funny, trenchant and accurate.  It reminds me of the quote by the writer Stephen Donaldson  I cite it in my post Writing tips: writing a book: plan in advance, or not?   Asked how to achieve success in writing, Donaldson replied “start today”.

Beating writer’s block

The thought of starting something intimidates many people, whether it is starting to write, or to redecorate the front room. My blog 5 ways to beat writer’s block explores ways of getting started.  They include artistic endeavours, writing prompts, story ideas, and other tips.

I enjoyed Sophie Thun’s show at the Secession, including a live feed of her studio and dark room (now finished).  Because of coronavirus, the artist set up a darkroom in the exhibition space of the gallery to make photograms of every item in her flat in the Stolbergasse – from toothbrushes to tools, and books – up to a maximum size of eight inches by ten.  In the contact prints, you can see her hands as white silhouettes.

“Seven Hotel Stories” as art

Because Sophie owns a copy of my black feminist comedy Seven Hotel Stories (the links connects to Amazon) her photograms include an image of that book, below.  It’s thrilling to have my book become part of a work of art.

If you are interested in how to start writing a novel, tips for writers and writing techniques, please have a look at my writing tips category.

Finally, if you’d like to look at my own writing, my most recent books are: Seven Hotel Stories, Blood Summit and Corona Crime.

Seven Hotel Stories cover Blood Summit cover Corona Crime cover

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