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'Start by writing an outline'

30 October 2017

Starting out

As an aspiring writer, you should certainly start by writing an outline. I explain how to do this in this Masterclass. You solve a lot of problems with an outline. It is far easier to correct your mistakes if you write an outline than if you sat down and wrote, ‘Chapter One' at the top of a piece of paper and started writing. If you work that way, it will take an awfully long time to correct your mistakes.

You will spend six months or a year writing the book, and only then will you find out things that you wish you had known right at the start. Writing an outline also concentrates your mind. It is good to carry on reading a lot at this stage. Suppose you are writing a love story and you have decided that the hero of the story is in love with a woman who is already married. When you are reading other books, you will see how other writers have handled this and you'll see the problem from different angles. That will give you a rich sense of how many possibilities there are.

Ken Follett, author of The Kingsbridge Series and The Century Trilogy, whose latest novel is Edge of Eternity on his website, in a helpful series that it's hard not to quote from again.