A couple weeks ago, I grabbed John Gardner's The Art of Fiction off of Allie's shelf and started reading. It turned out to be just the thing I needed to get me started writing fiction.
I've wanted to write fiction for years. But whenever I try to start, my mind locks up. I become overwhelmed by the immensity of the task ahead of me. Fiction offers so much freedom that it's stifling.
Nonfiction, on the other hand, has always seemed easier to break down into manageable steps. You just collect your info, lay it out in front of you and write your way through it.
Gardner describes novel writing roughly the same way. A novel is just a collection of polished scenes that connect and build on one another.
I found this helpful. I sat down the next day and I wrote a very short scene. Not much happened in it. But it was a scene.
The next day I wrote another. This morning I finished up one more. I've got the next two scenes roughly planned.
That said, I'm not sure I would recommend Gardner's book. He's kind of arrogant, and he goes off on a lot of unnecessary rants about his contemporaries.