Writing: How To Start

Some writers are planners. Before they even write "once upon a time" they plot out lines, or a synopsis, maybe even notes on characterization, location, background stories . . . my favorite writer, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote an entire universe around his published works that is still keeping armchair Middle Earth historians busy to this day.

Others are improvisers who may start on a work of fiction with no idea what is going to happen or where it is going to lead.

I'm definitely somewhere in the middle.

When I was younger I would have the story planned out in my head but I would rarely work off of outlines and notes. As my writing progressed, however, and my works of fiction got longer and more complicated, going from on average 40 hand written pages to upwards of 200, I begin to forget things. I would reach a point and realize that my characters had never had an important conversation or done a specific action that was essential to the plot, forcing me to go back and rewrite.

So I started writing down "to do lists" along with the page count record I would keep to make sure I was writing at least a page a day.

Now I generally work from a synopsis.

A synopsis differs a little from an outline. An outline is basically the skeleton of the story written out in quick, to the point sentences. A synopsis, to me, is the "campfire" version of your story. It is what you would do if you had to tell your story in ten minutes, the important parts, summing up the action, without usually including dialogue or details. While your synopsis can be for your eyes only, it is good to have one handy if you ever find yourself writing a book proposal for a traditional publisher. It's not something you will use as a self-publishing marketing tool because it will obviously be filled with spoilers, which we just can't have.

River Song will NOT let you read my plot synopsis
For me having this "wikipedia version" of my novel to reference helps keep me on track and when I feel bogged down in a portion of the story that is moving slowly; I can look to it, see where I need to be, and write in a straight line to that destination.

If you aren't a planner and like to improvise, I would say, fine, as long as you keep writing. Don't let your love of inspired writing cause you to only write when there is a lightning flash of brilliance and you think of the next great chapter in the next great novel. If you are in a slump write yourself out of it. Better to write badly than not at all.

I am actually not quite sure I believe writers who say they write with no idea where their stories are going to go. I've tried to do that, as an exercise of sorts, starting a story with no plot in mind. I always end up having a plot in mind by the time I've written the first few pages. I can't help it. It just happens. Even if it isn't a particularly good plot, it is a plot. My Ordinary Knight story, which if you have read previous posts you know started out as a "free write," happened that way, and by the time I started seriously working on it, I already knew the ending and most of the middle (Middles are the worst, aren't they, unless they are the Empire Strikes Back, that movie rocks. . .oh and The Two Towers, also awesome. . .disregard, middles are wonderful! That's where the meat should be).

You like me because I'm a scoundrel. . .
That said, some of my most planned out novels are the ones that never got written. Why? Because you can plan the life out of something. I have maps that I drew of fantasy kingdoms which I never set more than a toe in where the actual writing was concerned. Don't let your planning get the better of you. If something isn't working out according to plan, again, WRITE YOUR WAY OUT OF IT!

I don't know any other way to put it. It doesn't matter if you are writing something that later will require re-writing or outright deletion. You are never going to find your novel's voice if you don't allow it to speak. Let it ramble. Let it babble. Just don't let it stop.

So you can start with an outline, or a synopsis, or with just a vague feeling of inspiration. What really matters is that you start and that you do NOT stop.

Shut up, Yoda. I can try if I want to. . .
So if you want to be a writer, write. Don't worry about perfection. That's what editing is for. Don't worry about what the product will be when you stop, just worry about starting and keeping on moving until you have cause to write "the end" on the paper. That's how you become a writer.

By writing.

Thanks for stopping by and as always, please take a look at my self published novel and ebook. If you would like to get a copy free, enter my give away here.