Jul 14, 2010

Beginning a Book by Marilyn Meredith

One of the first things I do when beginning a book—after I know what I’m going to write about—is put down everything I know about the characters. Who they are, what they look like, what brought them to the place where the story begins, and what kind of changes I want for them. To make sure I don’t change someone’s eyes or hair color, I keep a 3 X 5 card on each one. I’m sure there is a way to do this on the computer, but this is how I’ve always done it, so know I won’t be changing.

In the case of Lingering Spirit, the story premise is based on something that actually happened—though much of the story is fictionalized. When creating the characters, they needed to be different from the actual people I planned to write about; different names, different physical descriptions and different personalities.

Picking names is something I enjoy. I keep lists of names, obits with interesting names, graduation programs and programs of plays with the cast of characters. Of course, I’d never use someone’s whole name, but it’s fun to put a first name with someone else’s last name. It’s important that the names fit the character; not giving a wimpy male name to a macho type guy. I also try not to use names that rhyme, start with the same letter, or all have the same number of syllables.

Once I’ve done that, I might write the first paragraph. I don’t outline my novels before I write, though I usually have a pretty good idea where I want to go with the story and what the outcome will be. (This might change as I really get into the book.)

I have ideas about scenes and I might jot down two or three words to remind me what I want to write about. Sometimes I’ll write several paragraphs of a particular scene. I do this with pen and paper.

Even after I’ve started writing the story on the computer, I’ll keep a notepad close by so I can scribble ideas that come to me that I want to be sure to include later on in the story. When I’m writing, that’s when the ideas really start to flow. If I don’t write them down I might forget.

For some this might detract from the actual writing, but I’ve spent my writing life being distracted and learned to go right back to whatever I am working on. I think it’s all part of really wanting to be a writer. If you want it enough, nothing will keep you from writing.

It’s important to have a specific time to write even if it’s only an hour before everyone else gets up. Years ago, when I worked outside the home, that’s how I first got started with my writing.

If you really want to get the first draft done of your novel, then it’s important that you write as often and as regularly as you can.



Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Dispel the Mist from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com


  1. I'm so glad to be here today and I hope my comments abut how I begin a book will be helpful to aspiring writers.


  2. Marilyn has such great ideas for guest posts...this was 100% enjoyable!

  3. Only...I don't see a link to where I can buy your book, Marilyn...?

  4. Hi, Dorothy, you can get it from Amazon or an autographed copy from my website http://fictionforyou.com

  5. Great article, Marilyn. I love your guest posts.

    Thanks for hosting Marilyn today, JM.


  6. Wow, your're very organized! I once tried to write a novel. When I write, I compose everything in my head and when I get on the computer I just keep typing until I run out of words. LOL. That works for poetry and for essays which I do write mostly, but not so much for a novel. :)

  7. Thanks for a peek into your novel writing process. I enjoyed reading how you go about it, especially getting the characters down first...great idea.

  8. Hi Marilyn (and everyone else) I am posting to win the contest so my mom can be in Marilyn's next book. She is your biggest fan; I might be second :)
    Sara W