"I want to be a writer but I don't know how to start."
I see this a lot on writing pages - people are ready to jump in and write the Great American Novel, but they just don't know how to take that bold first step. It's not easy - the mere thought of writing a 70,000-word novel can be overwhelming, especially if such a thing is about twenty times larger than anything you've ever written previously. So, how does one start?
Glad you asked.
- Just start writing. This is not a very easy step, but it gets the momentum going. Make yourself a promise that anything you write can be rewritten, and that none of your words are perfect at this point. Everything is a work in progress, so for now you are just committing to the process of creating. Start at the chronological beginning of the story and have your character look at where they are now. Open with, "Sam looked around the room, spending a moment to take everything in." Then describe the room, then have Sam do something. Not the most engaging beginning, but you promised yourself you can rewrite that if necessary. You have set things in motion. You have officially started your journey.
Not ready for that yet? Try this:
- Read some stories as a writer. Normally when we read, we do so as a reader enjoying someone's story. However, when we read as a writer, we study the beginning. "What is important about the opening line?" "How is the description important to the scene?" "How does the writer present the important elements of the story?" Try reading something you are already familiar with, but as a writer. Look at the pieces of the story and how they come together. Think about the story you want to write, and how its individual pieces should fit. Look at how the writer moves their story forward and imagine how your story could follow a similar path. Once you read a couple of stories as a writer, you will be ready for that step of "Just start writing."
No? Still not feeling it? Sounds like you need this as a first step:
- Tell yourself the story you want to write. Yes, tell yourself the story the way someone would tell you a story at a bar or around a campfire. If you are not ready to write and you do not see how your story fits into how other stories play out, you probably need to get a better feel for the story you want to tell. Why is it important? What makes it stand out? What gives it that special appeal? Tell yourself the story as if a stranger it explaining it to you, and start filling in all the pieces. Even play the role of someone asking, "Why did that character take that step?" or "How did they know that would happen?" This will allow you to fully understand your story. Once you know that part, then read a few stories as a writer to match your steps to theirs, and you will be ready for writing.
And here's the big step everyone needs to realize:
- There's no reason why you can't do this. If you are reading this, it means you are literate and want to do this task. The only thing holding you back is your own doubts. Discover those doubts, fight with them, overcome them, then march through the steps. I guarantee you will end up with the story you want.
(no promises about what the editors will say)