Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.
So, you want to write a book. Where do you start? With an outline? With all of it in place on paper and in your head? Only if you are writing nonfiction. Otherwise, (please don’t tell my English teachers I said this) just shut up and sit down and write.
That is where you start. This very moment. Even if you don’t have a computer in front of you or a pen or paper. In your head, start writing. Put it down when you get to your computer. You cannot control true writing.
Really, It's an Idea
Maybe I could rephrase that and say that it starts with an idea. It could be from a book you just read but an entirely different angle. Your mind starts going, “What if . . . ” and "What if . . . "—the next thing you know, a story begins to unfold on the stage of your mind. You begin to see the main characters.
If it is a romance, you see the woman clearly. You see who she’ll fall in love with and the conflict between them. You’ll begin to see an overall concept of how their love will grow and develop. By this time, you are unable to think of anything else. This story obsesses you. Now, you put it on paper.
Don’t stop and think, “How do I want to start this?” You’ll be sitting there for hours staring at a blank screen or deleting over and over. Just write. Let the story tell you how it starts. You’ll find very quickly that you have little to no control over this process. You are at the mercy of the creative spirit and the muses that push you along. So, where do you start? With a dream and an idea.
But as you write, where do you actually start? Most think you have to start at the beginning of the story. Not necessarily. Start with what you think about the most. It might be just simply describing the characters and getting to know them. Maybe it is in the details on the scenes. Start with what you are thinking about.
Maybe you have the urge to write but have no idea what about. Maybe stories flirt with never settle down long enough for you to get a closer look at them. If that is the case, maybe you need a little inspiration.
Watch a movie. Does your mind think of alternate endings or wonder about the background of a minor character? Let your mind run away with it and see what story emerges. Go to a public place and people watch. You'd be surprised what ideas can come to you when you watch people interacting. Why is that one woman sitting by herself at the mall? Is she waiting for someone? Why? Follow the lead your mind travels and see where it takes you.
Getting It in Writing
I had a friend tell me of this great story idea. I asked if she had started writing it yet. No, she didn't know where to start. I told her to just write. It doesn't matter where you start. You can start in the middle of a scene if that is what keeps coming to mind. I did that with one story and then finished everything else before and after later after I got the one pestering scene out of my mind.
Just write it down. Maybe you only jot down ideas for scenes. You could create a rough outline if who goes where and why. The story could develop from there. Take a notebook and just see what pours out of your head. Then you might know where to start and how to do it.
Prioritize Your Writing
You need to want to write to actually get started. How bad do you want to write your story? If it is a drive, then get up an hour or two earlier each day and write. Stay up late. Postpone watching your favorite shows until you have written what you desire.
How do you start? By having a passion and following it. When it is not a driving force within you, it will not be a priority.