Episode Title: Okay, I’m ready, but where do I begin?
You are on the brink of a great adventure…and challenge. You will create everything about your story: the plot and subplots, the characters and how they interact with one another, the time period in which the story will unfold, the many scenes that will propel your story forward, and so on—you are the ringmaster! Two new questions now materialize within the mind’s eye: The first of these is the fundamental matter of how to begin; the second, mentioned briefly in Blog #3, is how to find what has always been the most fleeting of life’s commodities—the time to write.
It is time to remind you that I am but a fellow writer and, thus, I can only share my own experiences in the writing of three novels. Most of all, however, I recommend that you allow your common sense to be your guide. You see, there are as many answers to “where to begin” as their are writers. So, what I am about to tell you is more about your personal preference concerning what would work best for you, than it is about any established, hardcore guidelines.
Some writers have found that a detailed outline works best for them, chapter by chapter, keeping them on track to completion. This method has the benefit of requiring the writer to make many plot and character decisions up front. If done properly, any flaws within the story’s concept will be found out early, allowing modifications to be made before one paints themselves into a corner, so to speak. At the other end of the spectrum, some choose not to predetermine the direction of the story with even the broadest written outline, not wanting to be limited by their earlier conceptual thinking about how a story will unfold. This method requires considerable flexibility as to how one’s story might evolve, and the ability to ride the storyline as it stretches out before them. All and all, it is not my recommendation that you should wing it this way, for this, your first effort. Those in the middle of the spectrum might want only the broad strokes of their stories to be placed in outline form and then only as a general guide. I fall into the this category, wanting only the broadest markers for my stories. Some of my best thinking on character and plot development, in my judgment, occurred during the novel’s progress. For this same reason, I do not tell anyone about the detail of a story while it is being written. I simply don’t want anything to compel me in one direction or another, including someone else’s expectations of the storyline. I prefer the story itself to direct me, as it is being written. Remember, you are writing for yourself and not for a demanding publisher, so you have the freedom to do what makes you most comfortable—no one is going to ask you to send in your detailed outline or story synopsis. But it is important to decide how you wish to proceed.
Finding time to write can be an impediment to your finishing a short story or novel. After all, as a premise for Blog #1, isn’t the lack of time one of the principal culprits in keeping you from writing up until now? If one follows the advice from just about every source on the subject of writing, the strong and consistent admonition is to write daily, no matter what. And I suppose if you and I were that young writer trying to actually make a living with our pen, we’d better be in there knocking out something daily—our daily bread would depend on it. On the other hand, for people well into their years, who have a busy life already, I would argue that the idea that one must write daily is not only unhelpful, but counterproductive. It provides an easy excuse to rationalize that one cannot meet such a stern requirement; it is an excuse that will stop you dead in your tracks. Rather, why not think in terms of a schedule to write multiple times over a period of a week, or even a month. Select what you think is a reasonable number of times and hours that you can dedicate to your story over these longer time periods. Then, if a day or two, or even a week passes and you are unable to write, you have planned for the vicissitudes of your very active schedule. Again, you are the ringmaster of your story, and, yes, this includes your determination of what reasonable commitment of time you can make. But make the commitment, stick to it, and go forward. Please retweet! Thanks.
Image by Izoca from Pixabay
All the best,
Dick is author of Joshua Rye, Serpent at the Well, and MOLTO GRANDE. Go to: amazon.com/author/dickfranklin