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How to begin writing

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Wondering how to begin writing? Start with this checklist for beginning writers

Beginning writing can be a daunting task.  A blank page can strike fear in the heart of any writer, whether novice or professional.  Having a plan in mind can help alleviate some your trepidation and give you a better idea of how to start writing.

Generating Ideas


Story ideas can come from anywhere:  names, commercials, dreams, life-events, or sheer boredom.  Many writers keep notebooks with snippets and bits of story ideas for future use.  An unusual place name, a quirky individual seen across a restaurant, or even part of an overheard conversation can be the beginning of a story.  Inspiration can come from anywhere. 

There are entire websites and blogs devoted to writing prompts — photos, words, or sentences to use as a jumping point for a story.  As Neil Gaiman so wisely said, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.”  Start noticing!

“Plotter” or “Pantser”

Knowing whether you prefer to work with more structure and planning (a “Plotter”), or if you prefer to just fly by the seat of your pants (a “Pantster”), can help focus your energy in a way that is more beneficial.  Plotters tend to make outlines, or notecards, or have details event maps.  Pantsters, on the other hand, tend to allow the characters to drive the story, often having no idea of what will happen until it ends up on the page. 

Neither method is right nor wrong, they are just preferences … ways in which an individual's mind prefers to work.  Experiment and find out what works in your mind.





Software

Both Plotters and Pantsters alike can benefit from good writing software. There are still many authors (Neil Gaiman among them) that get by just fine with a pen and paper, but there is something to be said about having good software that assists with grammar, word count, creating outlines or notecards, and backing up all those wrestled-with words. 

There are many software programs available, but one award winning program that has garnered the praise of many writers is Scrivener.  Scrivener has an impressive array of tools to help writers’ with their craft, including: outlines, corkboards, notecards, name generators, word count, and page count.  But no matter which software you decide on, the most important thing is that it frees you up to focus on the writing.

Goals and Deadlines


Some writing has built-in deadlines, but other writing (like your first novel that no one even knows, or cares, that you are writing) does not.  Writing without a deadline is often an excuse not to write at all.  One way to encourage yourself to write is to set deadlines.  Some writers set a daily word count for themselves.  Other writers try to write a certain number of pages per week.  Still others decide to share their project and goals with the world in order to be held accountable. 

There is also NaNoWriMo.  In case you had not heard, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Writers can share accountability while trying to churn out the rough draft of a novel.  Thirty days of typing and writing and angsting over words while thousands of other aspiring writings share in your pain … what’s not to like?

Another way to hold yourself accountable is to blog about your efforts. This not only serves to keep you faithful in your writing, but it also memorializes your journey.  (And, in case you are one of those one-in-a-million J. K. Rowling type writers, it will be a wonderful resource for future biographers!)

But perhaps the most important reminder for beginning writers is to actually write.  Do not sit around thinking about writing, or talk about writing, or just make notes about things you might someday write.  Actually write.  The hardest part about writing is actually doing it, and it is also the one thing with which no one can help you.

Resources:


Neil Gaiman Essays

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