If you're reading this, it's because you're interested in writing and because you'd probably like to try writing something a bit more ambitious than a shopping list or memo!

Despite what you might see in the movies, writers NEVER sit down with a pen and notepad and dash off a best seller! It just doesn't work that way.

Writing requires planning and preparation.

Writing requires discipline.

PLANNING

Begin with a brief synopsis of what you intend to write. The synopsis should include:
• The beginning
• The end
• At least one scene

This way, you know where you'll be starting and where you're hoping to go. Including one scene in your synopsis helps you to focus on your characters and plot.

IDEAS

If you intend to write, you should carry a small notebook with you - everywhere you go. You just never know when you're likely to:
• See an ideal setting for your book
• Overhear a snippet of dialogue that sparks ideas for a scene
• Witness an exchange between individuals that could become the pivotal scene in your book
• See an interesting face/ hairstyle/ expression that could be used
• Read a notice/ newspaper headline/ piece of graffiti that could be worked into your plot

Inspiration is all around you.

NAMES

Make a note of surnames that you come across - carry a small, indexed book for this and enter names in alphabetical order for ease of reference later.

As you enter a name in your book, make a note of your ideas at the time (is this a good name for a villain, a hero, a background character etc) and note your reasons.

LOCATIONS

Keep a file of maps and tourist guides to locations that you can use in your book. Tourist guides give you details about climate, temperatures, places of interest, industries etc.

If you're using real places in your book, they MUST be accurate - nothing will turn off readers more than obvious inaccuracies. A basic example - if your story is set in Australia, the currency is dollars and cents, not pounds and pence. Errors such as these indicate sloppiness and carelessness and detract from the impact of your work. The Internet has made it so easy to research these days – there’s no excuse.

If you're using imaginary settings for your book, be consistent. Draw a map of your locations, pencil in distances, geographic features etc and then refer to this during your writing. That way you won't have one scene where your heroine strolls between the church and her home in ten minutes and another where it takes the hero ten minutes to drive the same distance while being pursued by villains on motor cycles.

CHARACTERS

Write biographies for your main characters.

Even if you don't use all the information in the book, it helps you to present your characters as rounded, when you have an idea about their family background, education, likes and dislikes etc.

Include:
• Age
• Appearance
• Occupation
• Income
• Education
• Marital state
• Recent relationships
• Children / siblings
• Likes and dislikes
• Favourite music
• Hobbies / pastimes
• Strengths and weaknesses
• Special characteristics (movement, speech, laugh etc)
• Favourite sayings
• Idiosyncrasies

LENGTH

How long is a piece of string?

How long should your book be? Not as long as it takes to present the story! That could take forever.

The most popular fiction books are between 60,000 and 100,000 words and contain at least 20 chapters.

Every chapter should end with a hook - to entice the readers on to the next chapter and the book should end with a note of finality. You don't want your readers thinking that the last page is missing.

Author's Bio: 

Jennifer Stewart has been part of the Web's writing community since 1998 and continues to offer detailed insights into the workings of the English language presented with just a touch of humour. Her site, www.write101.com, was voted one of the 101 best websites for writers and has more than 800 pages of articles about all aspects of writing as well as a free online writing course, vocab quizzes and more. Writing is one of the best ways to express yourself, so click now to visit www.write101.com