Previously, I’ve written a blog post on finding motivation in writing a story you love, but how do you actually start the darn thing? There’s plots, outlines, character sheets- and even then when you have all of those, just getting the write words out seems daunting. Many authors have different approaches to their writing process, but here are some tips I’ve researched that can hopefully help get you past the first page.
Start With an Outline
Some people, like me, need everything we can possibly carry when trekking up the mountain of our story, and like to plan almost everything out. Other people, such as my creative writing teacher, could just whip out books without writing a single plot point down. Whatever side you lean more to, a simple outline can still help map out your story and give you a view of the bigger picture. It doesn’t have to be scripted to the very last detail, but just major points you want to write about and organize those into a timeline of when things should happen. It’ll also be there to look back on in case you get stuck or need direction on where to go.
Expectations vs. Reality
Your first draft may be the worst thing you’ve ever written, even if its a story you care about. And that’s ok, because first drafts are suppose to be awful and messy. Don’t get too caught up in making it perfect and just how you want it to be, because it’ll take you ages to finish your story. No author’s first draft was their final, and you’ll have plenty of chances to go back and refine these early works. This also comes down to not being too precious with your masterpiece. Sometimes we get caught up in how much we love our story idea and characters that we’re scared to ‘ruin’ them. I’m not saying to love your story less, but understand that this will be a learning experience and mistakes are meant to happen. The only way to get this off the ground is to know that it won’t be exactly how you imaged it to be and that’s ok. At the very least, it’ll be something you care about and will have fun writing about, and that’s what matters.
Just Start Somewhere
How to begin your story can be the hardest part, and often is the biggest hinerance in going forward. But like I said in the last point, this doesn’t need to be a spit and spotless endeavor, therefore you don’t need to necessarily start at the very beginning. You just need to start. You could start in the middle, or the end, if you want to. Skip the enticing attention getter if it’s holding you back. This is actually a strategy I use for my essays, but it works for stories too. Once you get started, it’s comparatively a lot easier to write the rest.
Set Goals and Deadlines
The trick to getting almost anything done is set your own goals and deadlines. Only writing when you feel like it isn’t a very efficient method, and learning this skill regardless will help you in many other aspects of your life. Once you have your outline and an idea of how long you want your story to be, break it up into reasonable chunks and decide when you want to get them done. You can divide these chunks into chapters if you’d like, though I find it easier to divide it into numbers like words or pages. You can also come up with a set deadline for when you want the story to be done and then decide how much work you’ll need to do to finish by that point. For example, if you wanted to plan out your novel for Write Your Novel Month in November, and you wanted to get at least 50,000 words in your story (starting at the beginning of November to the end), you could break up the chunks like this:
50,000 words / 30 days = You need ~1667 words written per day
You can adjust however you’d like, whether you’d like 3 months to write your book or if your book will be substantially longer than 50,000 words, you can plan accordingly.
The big thing is to stick to these deadlines. If you need to revise due to a lot of stress from outside factors, its always ok to look around and reassess your situation. But don’t let procrastination keep you from finishing your story. Maybe set yourself with a treat or reward, or have someone else give you one if you meet your goals to help motivate you to not give up.
Starting a writing project can be overwhelming, especially with the endless possibilities of where to start. But once you start mapping out the journey, accept imperfection, and create a schedule, it can become a lot more tangible to accomplish. To start your story, just start writing it. Even if it’s really bad, right now it just needs to exist :)
(For more writing tips, see : https://self-publishingschool.com/start-writing-book/)