Saturday, April 16, 2011

Where to Get Started

april fools 2010 020aTwice in the last month, I’ve had someone say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. But I just don’t know where to start.”

I think writing a book can seem really overwhelming. There are tons of resources out there, but those resources can be helpful…and overwhelming at the same time.

Most of the people who say they want to write a book have a germ of an idea already. It’s this idea that’s been on their mind for however long they’ve wanted to write.

Maybe it’s a family story. Maybe it’s just a thought they’ve had that they’re not sure how to develop. But there’s something there.

What these folks need to do is not worry about all the info on queries, synopses, and craft. It’s always nice to just focus on the story.

First of all is identifying that story. What was the seed of the idea that came to the writer? Who is the main character? What’s the main conflict? What does this character most want and how is that thing denied her/him?

Then it’s telling the story. What happens next? What obstacles does this character run into when trying to get what they want most? Are these obstacles other characters? Events? The character himself? How does this character overcome these obstacles?

Where should you start with a first draft? Start at the beginning. Or…start at the end. I’ve done both. I’ve started at the beginning, skipped ahead to the middle of the book, then written the end. I’ve written books straight through and I’ve written books that I’ve run into huge problems with—and skipped around to whatever scene I’ve got in my head instead of moving forward in a linear way.

You don’t have to block hours off on your calendar for this project. Try blocking off 30 minutes. Or even 15. Don’t try to play catch-up the next day if you miss your goal the day before—treat each day as a clean slate and just get your 15 minutes of writing in.

It doesn’t matter if your first draft is bad.

You can either outline your story or make it up as you go along. I’ve done both.

Ask yourself, “And then what happens?” a lot.

Make friends with writers online—they will understand what you’re going through and can give you support and encouragement.

If you encounter set-backs with your story, brainstorm ways of getting past the problem—make lists of ways to get your characters out of the mess they’re in.

Got any other advice for where to start writing a book? What have you learned from writing yours?