The number one question people ask me when they come to me for writing advice is this:
How do I start? I have no idea what I’m doing.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most writers don’t know what the heck they’re doing. Quite often, an idea will come in the form of a snippet of dialogue, a beginning or ending sentence, or a general mental sketch of a main character. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your mind will be invaded by what is commonly known as a “plot bunny.” This is a story idea that suddenly bursts through your consciousness and runs about through your mind, poking and plodding at your brain until you give it your full attention. The annoying thing about this (for me, anyway) is that plot bunnies usually invade when I have the least amount of time to sit down and give them the attention for which they plead. The wonderful thing about them, however, is that they never fail to inspire me and get me excited about the prospect of starting a new story and getting to know new characters.
The most important thing when dealing with these ideas and thoughts is to write them down. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought of the perfect descriptor or piece of dialogue only to draw a blank later because I didn’t write down my thought. Keep a notepad on your nightstand, in your car, and wherever else you seem to be inspired. It takes just a few seconds to jot down a few words to remind you of your brilliant idea.
So…you’ve got a general idea of what you want to write. You might even have a notepad full of words, phrases, and plot details for your novel. What’s next? You might be surprised to hear that a lot of authors don’t start from the beginning. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is:
Start Where You Want.
What part of your story are you really eager to write? Do you have a great idea for an ending? Start there! There is no rule that says you can’t work backwards. Maybe you have a specific scene in mind, filled with dramatic description or comedic dialogue. Start there! Beginning in the middle of the story can help you iron out the rest of the timeline. You can figure out what leads up to that scene later. The point is that the order of writing isn’t important. In fact, not much about your first draft matters. What does matter is your end product. No one is going to stand over your shoulder to make sure you’re “doing it right.” Trust me. When it comes to writing, there is no “doing it right.”
So where do you begin?
You begin with what inspires you. Starting out by getting down that first idea down on paper (or in your word processing document) will keep you from getting stressed out and quitting before you’ve even begun.