Writing advice

Where do I begin?

Ok, so you want to write a story? That’s great! You’ve picked up a fancy pen and some beautiful paper (or you turned on your computer, if you’re like me!), and you’re ready to write. Fantastic! So, where do you start? The answer may surprise you.

Figuring out how to start writing can be difficult. By starting, I don’t mean how to write the literal first page of the book. For now, I’m referring to the actual act of starting to write, as I figured that’s as good a place as any to start a blog about writing. My guess is, if you’re considering starting a book then you have a vague idea of what you want to write.

If you do – perfect! Get writing!!! If you don’t, that’s fine too!

The first thing you need to think of is, what prompted you to want to write? What idea sprang into your mind? Lots of things can inspire someone to write, including (but by no means limited to):

  • A ‘what if…’ question based on real-life events
    This can be based in reality, i.e. what if JFK hadn’t been assassinated. But it can also be based in fantasy, i.e. what if we found out the Moon really was made of cheese?
  • A particular character
    Maybe you’ve thought “Hey, you know who’s cool? Gandalf” but then wanted to do something different with his character. For example, “Wizards are cool, but you know what’s cooler? A space wizard! Gandalf in space!”. Or maybe you saw someone interesting one day and thought “They would be a cool person to write a story about.” Never underestimate the power of people-watching!
  • A setting/location
    This can either be very specific, such as the locked shed of a school in Australia, or vague/board, such as Australia itself. Maybe you want to do something with this location, i.e. make Australia have a mysterious ice-age. Or maybe the setting prompts something else, another detail about this emerging story; what’s inside that locked shed? A dead body? A magical artefact?
  • A conversation
    Did you overhear a conversation one day and think it would make a good starting point? It doesn’t matter how interesting or mundane it was, anything can spark a story. It could have been an entire conversation, or a random sentence out of context.
  • A thing
    Objects can be great tools to fuel a story, no matter what they are. A randomly discovered key; what does it open? Some discarded beer bottles on a pavement; who was drinking them? A half-eaten sausage roll tied to a tree; what if touching it somehow creates a portal to Hell? Alright, that last one was a stretch, but you never know!

My point is, anything can act as inspiration for a story, and it doesn’t matter what it was or where you found it. What matters is you did – so now what? Well, you only have two real options at this early stage in your illustrious career as a published author, and I’ll go into more detail in my next post about the pros/cons of each, but in a nutshell:

  • Start writing
    Literally pick up that pen, or dust off that computer keyboard, and just write whatever comes into your head. Don’t think about it too much, don’t sit there umm-ing and ahh-ing, or trying to come up with plot twists, exciting developments, or the end; just go for it! Start with what you have and work from there.
  • Start planning/researching
    Basically the opposite of option 1 – you have a rough idea, but you want to explore it a little bit more before you commit to anything. Spend some time researching, whatever it is that prompted the idea – look up the setting, learn about the character, or read about the genre – then get a plan together of how the story will shape.

So there you have it – step one of the writing process begins with the idea, and it’s worth spending some time to think about what exactly drew you to that idea. Was it a character from a book/film/tv show you loved? A photo of a medieval French castle? Or the old man on the bus behind you that said “The thing about God is…”?

Whatever it was, step one of the writing process is to simply find inspiration. It’s easier said than done, but once you have that idea and you’re losing sleep over it (please make sure to sleep a healthy amount, sleeping is important and I am in no way a hypocrite for saying this, nope, not at all) then you’re onto a winner and you can move on to step two!

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