Courage Igene’s Five Tips for Beginner Authors

Important Points to Consider When Writing a First Work

For those who harbor a desire to write but have yet to make an attempt, the idea of putting pen to paper for the first time or typing out the initial few sentences on a word processing screen can be daunting. How is it done? Once one has a dynamite idea for a story, where does one begin? Outlines are always helpful, and so is keeping a journal of ideas, but when it finally comes time to sit down and write the thing, how is it best to proceed? Pastor Courage Igene is a pastor, motivational speaker, and the published author of the books God’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, 100 Reasons Why I Hate Poverty, and Lessons from the Furnace of Affliction, who understands the struggles that writers will face. Courage Igene took the time to provide his insights for aspiring novelists.
Operating under the assumption that a premise has been chosen and that the characters are in place, here are five tips from Courage Igene which may prove valuable to anyone who wishes to conquer the blank page and follow through on writing a story:

Decide on a Format

The first major factor to consider is the length of the story. Is it best suited to be a short story, novella, or a full-blown novel? Each format has their own advantages and disadvantages. Novels, for example, take a lot longer to write, but allow for more literary freedom and complexity. On the other hand, while short stories require a conscientiousness of brevity, they are often-times much more poignant and hard-hitting. Then again, after careful consideration, the would-be author may decide that the story works best as a magazine serial.

Decide on a Perspective

The next element to consider is how to frame the story. Ought it to be presented from the point-of-view of a single character, or through the eyes of many? Perhaps the story is best presented by an omniscient narrator — a voice which is detached from the narrative, but all-seeing, nonetheless. Courage Igene suggests that another possibility is an epistolary narrative, wherein the story is told through a series of documents, such as letters, emails, newspaper articles, or a diary.

Consider the Structure of the Story

There are many elements to narrative structure beyond a simple ‘beginning’, ‘middle’, and ‘end’. Courage Igene states that one must consider how to convey plot information, character background, and dramatic tension. How does one cohesively tell the story from the inciting force through the rising action to the climax, all the while keeping the reader interested? This is where story structure becomes eminently important. Does it make more sense to tell the story as a linear or non-linear narrative? Once again, both approaches have their merits. While a linear narrative is much easier for the reader to follow, a non-linear narrative allows the author the opportunity to be more playful by jumping around the story’s timeline to reveal elements of plot and character.

Once Started, Do Not Stop Until Finished

This point cannot be underscored enough: perseverance is the key to finishing a story. Schedule time to write every day, or as close to every day as possible. Pastor Courage Igene claims that this practice helps the author to see the fruit of their labors, as well as fostering creative momentum. In short, once a story is started, it’s a lot easier to keep writing until the end than it is to stop and start up again a few days or weeks later. Discipline is an extremely important characteristic in any serious writer.

Correspondingly, just as discipline and perseverance are invaluable allies, distraction is the enemy of the aspiring author. Multi-tasking non-stop while trying to write can often result in a poor day’s work. The time one sets aside for writing should not also be used for replying to text messages or returning emails. In that vein, turning off all electronic devices — save a word processor, of course — is often useful. Additionally, many established authors find working in silence, or with instrumental music playing in the background to be beneficial (music with lyrics tends to pre-occupy the same parts of the brain that concern itself with writing).

Edit and Proofread

At this point in the writing process, it is usually helpful for the author to walk away from the story for a week or two. Once the first draft is finished, taking a step back and cleansing one’s intellectual palette can provide worthwhile perspective to the first-time author, especially when embarking on the ever-crucial editing phase. After a decent amount of time has passed, re-read the story in its entirety. Fresh eyes will help the writer see clearly which elements of their creation work and which do not, and to cut or re-write passages accordingly. This course of action should be repeated at least three or four times, each time tightening up the writing and refining the story a little bit more.

Finally, when the author is convinced that no more editing is necessary, it is time to proofread. Although a tricky craft in its own right, a cursory proofread ought to be done by the writer, themselves. Dive deeply into the text, noting and correcting any errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax. After this is done, it is usually wise to share the manuscript with a trusted colleague or pay a professional to catch anything that may have been missed.

Courage Igene’s Final Thoughts

No matter the type of story being told — science fiction, historical, romance, horror, fantasy, or comedy — employing these five tips will greatly assist any would-be author in creating a thought-provoking, entertaining, and well-written first work of fiction.

Apostles' Blog