A middle-aged friend quipped recently, “That’s the problem with millennials – they only write, they can’t read.” Of course, he didn’t mean it literally. Of course most millennials can read – the literacy rate among this age group is comparable to that of other age groups across the world. What he meant was that you need a certain background to write, be it a blog post, poem, essay, or book, and people without experience shouldn’t attempt to author any works.
Well, he had a point. But we all have to start somewhere, don’t we? Professional writers, who have wanted to write ever since they were kids, started honing their skills back in junior high. There were lots of essays to write, and rules were strict. This continued in high school. By the time they completed high school, they had learned quite a few things.
Admittedly, an essay for English class is far from a book. If you don’t have any experience, you have to start with a plot. Think about an interesting story you’d like to develop. People without a background in writing find it easiest to write about themselves or someone they know, or a situation they’ve often been in. They let it play out in their heads. Once you have the idea, all that’s left is to put it in words.
Sometimes, the end of the book will occur to you before the whole plot’s developed. That’s fine. Write the end first and proceed from the back moving forward, i.e. base the book on its ending. Lots of Hollywood scripts were written just like this.
Another option is writing about something you’re really interested in. It’s OK if you don’t know much about it, but you need to do research. Research is imperative in lieu of experience and knowledge. If you want to write about a secret agent’s trials and tribulations, read at least one Ian Fleming novel (he wrote the James Bond books, later made into films). Don’t watch the films. Read the books. Books are different from movies. When someone is reading, they’re putting more effort into understanding the action and other processes. More cognitive effort is exerted, so to speak. This needs to be reflected in the writing.
To sum up, we can say writing a book without experience is possible, but the returns might not be as impressive as you think. If you self-publish, you aren’t likely to sell more than 150 copies, which won’t cover the publishing costs. Still, it’ll give you a sense of achievement, and your next book will do better. Who knows – you might turn out to be the next JK Rowling!