How to Start a Writing Project (Author Answers)

Hello everyone and welcome to the first post of Author Answers! These posts are dedicated to answering whatever questions fans, aspiring authors, or just curious individuals have about the wonderful writing business.This post's question is from @cynthiasfancies on Instagram:

Looking for some writing advice. How did you start your book? Did you just jump in and start writing or plan it out first...

This question is actually the basis of one of my author presentations! Well, let me tell you the shortened version of it so you don't have to sit here for an hour...

In The Beginning...(How To Start A Writing Project)

So, all stories have a beginning but they don't all start with "Once Upon a Time". No, unfortunately it is as little more complicated than that. It starts with, "Once Upon a Plan"

Step One - Make a Plan

A lot of people hate this part because it includes something we normally don't use: outlines. *GASP* I SAID IT! The dastardly word. But this step that many people (especially college students writing essays) love to skip. What we don't realize is that it is actually a life saver.

Outlines are the back bones to a story that stays straight.

You should always start with an outline. Sure they can change over time, but you need a foundation. Lay out your story. An outline ensures that you:

  • Develop a premise

  • Categorize your main events

  • See the progression that takes place

  • Figure out what events are needed to make it to the next

  • Recognize the different parts of your story

  • Make sure the story flows before writing it out

These are only a few of the great benefits to outlining.  It's the blueprint for a building. You sketch it all out and can still make changes before construction. At this stage, you don't need fully developed characters or even their names. This is the important part of the process where you develop 3/5 of the most critical elements of your story: plot, conflict, and resolution.

Step Two - Develop Characters

You have your outline all set and you know how the story will start, when it will climax, and when it will end. Now, you have a vague idea of the characters but you want to really bring them to life! This is another important step in the writing process. It's okay to develop and figure them out as you go along, but for consistency's sake you want a clear idea of who your character's are and what their goals are. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What are their dreams?

  • What do they fear the most?

  • What do they like?

  • What do they hate?

  • What do they look like/behave?

These are only a few questions that you need to ask when doing character development.  (A more detailed method can be found in a future blog post and/or my "AuthorTube" video: Developing and Creating Characters.)

Step Four - Create the World

You have your plot and characters, now you should define the setting. This technically can also be included in Step One, but depending on your story, defining a setting can be a whole separate step. If you are creating an entirely new, fantasy world for your characters you're going to need to create a list and basic draft of what the universe is like. As always, there are questions you can ask yourself:

  • What's the name of my world?

  • Is there a governement? Is there anarchy?

  • What are the people like?

  • Where does my character live?

  • How does my character feel about his home?

These are only a few questions to help you explore more of your universe. (A more detailed method can be found in a future blog post.)

Step Five - Write it Out!

You have your plot, you know how the story will end, and you have your characters that live in the world you just created. Now, you are ready. It is time to put the pen to the paper (or the fingers to the keyboard) and begin your story!

Your first go through doesn't have to be perfect.

Always, always keep this in mind. A lot of times we get so caught up in the grammar, sentence structure, how it can be better, etc. that we don't actually get through it. Write the story down, edit and worry later. It will not be perfect, I assure you. But it will be there which means the hard part is now over. The editing and redrafting are the easy steps that follow. These five steps sum up the basic workflow when starting a book. Of course there are more steps but,  like I said, that's an hour long presentation/workshop. (Of course, if you are interested in my services for school/book club/library, just let me know.) But until then, these serve as a good basic guide and I hope I helped answer your question, @cynthiasfancies. If you have a question, just let me know and I will be glad to answer!Happy writing!

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© 2020 Sara Francis