Where does a writer begin?
It has been five years since I starting calling myself a writer. I am still working on the same novel project and slowly accumulating smaller published pieces. When I tell people that I am writer they often tell me about the idea for a book that they have been kicking aground in their heads for years. Lately people have been asking for advice on how to get that story out of their imaginations and make it a reality.
I had to stop and think. What do I think the starting line looks like? How might I direct others to it in a way that is doable and inspires them to continue taking steps toward their writing goal?
If there is one thing I have learned along this writing journey is that there are no rules. There is no one-way to get from idea to story and every writer has a different method. I can’t ask them to replicate my own progression because it was organic and very slow. There are more effective ways and as I return to my own version of a starting line with a new project I want to tweak my process to be more effective this time around.
What advice to I give to others and myself?
Create a container - I love giving tangible “homework” assignments to friends who ask me for advice (consider yourself warned). One friend said that she kept telling people about her book idea, all of the fabulous details that would become her story, but had yet to get beyond that stage. My suggestion was to create a tangible, physical space for those ideas to live so they stop running around her head. Getting them out and on paper will open space for more fabulous story details to enter. I have several containers for the beginnings of my stories. A file on my laptop where I empty all other containers plus a file on the “notes” section of my phone. I also carry a notebook with me always and have a journal at my bedside. Ideas pop up all the time so I need a place to put them in the moment and then a place to bring them together as the story grows.
Once the story takes hold, help the story take shape. This is where the “plotters” and the “pantsers” might divide and that is OK (no rules, remember). This is where I am with my new projects. I’m not sure which story will come to life so I am plotting two of them now and waiting to see which one demands more attention. I am learning the finer points of a premise line from Jeff Lyons through his book Anatomy of a Premise Line: How to Master Premise and Story Development for Writing Success. Creating a story foundation is a priority for me. I know there will be many, many drafts ahead and I need to start off with a framework that will keep my story together as I cut, paste, add, delete and reimagine the details.
So here it is, my unofficial I-am-still-figuring-this-out guide to getting started as a writer. I hope it helps anyone who wants to join me on this journey.