How do I start writing my story?

So you’ve got a great story idea…but how – or where – should you start?

How to start writing, what to do first, or what the “right” way to go about writing is are questions I see popping up in online writers’ groups all the time. In this video I talked about the importance of just writing and leaving your critical mind out of the creative process…but even then, often that’s easier said than done. How do you know you’ve got enough of an idea to start writing? Where do you start?

I started to think about this recently when a new writer posted a question in a writers’ group asking how they could start making their ideas into stories.

There were lots of varied replies to this writer’s post. Some people suggested learning all elements of craft and reading a lot (which is all good advice) so that the poster would feel more confident to write and craft their story. Others suggested just writing out everything, just getting thoughts out onto the page without restricting them (like writer-editor Ann Bolch discussed in our interview series). This is also great advice, but even then the question can arise of “Where?”.

My own advice was to start with whatever you feel most passionate about or inspired by at the time.
I mean, why wouldn’t you start with your strongest idea, the one that distracts you when you try to start where you think you “should”, and that grows your confidence, rather than eroding it?

When I wrote that, it was a bit of a surprise to me. But it shouldn’t have been. It’s the advice that helps me the most…when I accept it.

Blog posts, manuscript appraisals…I always take a while to really get started. I wrote hundreds of essays for my literature degree, putting my heart and soul into each because I simply couldn’t help it, and every time I would stress and fret and waste time to not knowing where to start. My love of the books made me passionate about the secrets and structures within the texts, and I’d map out in dot points the general structure of the essay and what belonged in which paragraph…but it didn’t do much to help me start writing.

By the end of my degree it was easy. I’d practiced and leant a lot about myself as a writer, researcher and student, and I could write in three days what had taken me almost two weeks. By that point, I’d worked out that the only way I could start was by writing about the thing I cared most about in that particular moment first. Create a big word splurge, leave a gap if the thoughts move on to different areas or ideas and write those new ideas down too, express your sentence in multiple ways while you’re figuring it out, but just give into your passion and your creativity and start with the best bit first. You’ll be distracted by that brilliant idea you had in your head anyway, so you may as well write out the good stuff before you forget it, and leave the start for later.

So, what’s your best idea? What’s that snippet of dialogue, that piece of a plot line, that ending or twist that’s drawing you to write? What’s the thing that makes you excited? If you’re scared or stuck, start where you are most passionate, wherever that is. Be kind to yourself, let your passion shine, and you’ll build your own confidence and enthusiasm.

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