Every book starts with a single sentence. How do YOU get started? Do you agonize over the first words? Do you start somewhere in the middle? Worry about the first line last? My friend Fred Rayworth shares some thoughts on getting started. Fred and I have been buddies ever since we discovered we’d both lived in Turkey for a time and practice what little Turkish we remember on each other. ~CHU
TIME TO GET STARTED: NOW WHAT?
Whenever you start something, there always has to be a first step. A starting point. So far we’ve talked about already being there. You’ve already had something to show, to have criticized and torn up by fellow writers and strangers. Where do you start? How do you start?
The simple answer is, to just sit down, fire up the computer (or a pen/pencil and pad of paper) and get to it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, not everyone can just burst forth with verbal diarrhea at the drop of a hat. For some, it takes a plan.
First off, there has to be the desire to write. Since you are here reading this, that is a given. Second, if you are reading this, you at least have the ability to read so you also have some inkling of how to put sentences together. However, that doesn’t mean you can put them together coherently. Most people with a desire to write have had some kind of training or education that moves them (or pushes them) in this direction.
I strongly suggest you take a few basic writing courses either on-line, at a local community college, or even through a senior center. Learn how to put basic sentences together in a coherent fashion. Just reading them doesn’t mean you can write them!
Let’s assume you have the basics down and you’re ready to start. We’re back to square one again. How do you go about it? What do you want to write about? I can only speak for myself, but I’ve found the best thing to do is just start! That’s it.
Many people start out writing by keeping a personal journal. A recent example was Mary Wilson from The Supremes. She was our guest speaker a few weeks ago at our Henderson Writer’s Group meeting and she started writing a journal early in her life. She still writes almost every day. She’s turned it into several books.
When I sit down to write a story, whether short or long, I know two things. I know where I want to start and where I want to end. Everything else in the middle is a total surprise.
That, my friends, is my method. It surely doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. Below are some other methods that may work for you but don’t for me. I’ll explain why.
Many people must plan out their work ahead of time. Outlining is a good example. This type author meticulously outlines their story, chapter by chapter. That way, they are sure to leave no plot holes or gaps. They can find flow problems and all the bugaboos that can cause a story to run flat or hit a brick wall. That may be your path to success. For me, that is the perfect way to kill my creativity, lose my mojo.
At one of our writer’s group meetings, we discussed this one successful female writer. She would write a sentence and agonize over it, rewrite it and perfect it before she went on to the next one. Screech! Stop the presses! In text speech I’d have to say OMG! That’s “Oh my God!” for the rest of us. Talk about sucking all the creativity right out of a story. I just can’t imagine writing a story that way. To this day, I can’t remember that author’s name, but it worked for her.
We have a member of our group that started a wonderful story and I really enjoyed reading and critiquing it. However, he became so hung up on the mechanics of writing, he not only stopped writing that story, he stopped writing altogether because he didn’t think he was good enough yet. I kept telling him to just let it flow and worry about the details later, but it took him a long time to finally come around. I am happy to report that he is finally writing again. Please don’t let that happen to you! He is a truly gifted writer and I see great things for him, just delayed for a while.
This is how MY process goes. I have an idea. I stew on it for a while. After a few days… weeks… months… it all comes together. That inspiration. The spark. The beginning and the ending. When that happens, I may be in the middle of several other projects. I may have nothing going. I may stop what I’m doing if this inspiration is that intriguing. Whatever the case, I just go for it. I guess you could say I follow my muse, whatever that may be.
If I were to sit down and map it all out, the whole process would come to a screeching halt. It would just not work for me.
However, I am NOT you! What do YOU need to do? Do you need to just sit down and start writing your story? Or, do you need to sit down and map everything out? There are good reasons to outline a story. If your story involves a lot of research, it would be a good idea to gather that information first. As for me, I try to write what I know and if my writing leads me to something I don’t know, I’ll stop and do the research at that point. If it doesn’t pan out, I’ll change the story a bit. It still will not affect the final outcome.
You can’t know everything. No matter what you write or what method you use, there will come a time when you will have to research something. That brings up a great point and will become the subject of my next article.
Follow Fred’s blog at FredRayworth.com.