How do you get started writing, anyway?
Perhaps one of the biggest questions asked by people interested in getting that novel written is how to simply get started. Even someone who has written and possibly completed a written something before may wonder how to possibly get started again. You can start by finding tons of resources on is writing - the three act system, the (however many) story tropes, character arcs - only to find some or all of the advice somewhat ambiguous because all of our processes are a little different. We may use some of the same resources, or not, and yet we all come up with story.
I strongly believe that very ambiguity is why it's important to share our systems. I, for one, enjoy reading about how others get going and keep going. Learning others' tips and tricks gives me the chance to try new things, edit in or out what works for me, and find like-minded souls who are sludging through the craft of word-smithing.
So, when thinking about writing that novel (I'm going to keep it specific, though these suggestions may work for other works), might as well start at the beginning: Going back to the treasure trove of saved content. When I'm ready to start something brand new, I start by reading my cast offs and left behinds.
I don't finish everything I write, but I keep it all. I have my pieces organized by genre because, yes, some of my content gathering is outside the genre I publish in, and it's all gem-worthy. Some of these snippets come from my dreams. Others come from freewriting. Some come from cast off scenes from my completed works, slain darlings, if you will. I've been writing for over 20 years, and where I've lost a lot to time, computer crashes, and the fact that floppy a drives (aka, the save icon) were nixed, I still have much of it.
If you are brand new to writing, keep the idea of collecting in mind as you go along. Not every idea will work out into a finished piece, but that doesn't mean some of your work won't transfer well once you find that idea to complete. Collect your content. How to be a Writer by Barbara Baig offers great advice on content collection. Keep your practice pieces and your false starts. Think of them as a bag full of stones - some just need to be cracked open to find the shine.
So, I open as many files as my tabs can hold and start skimming. Some windows I close immediately, knowing that's not the piece for right now. Some I'll make notes in, edit a little as I become reacquainted with the story. And then, eventually, I pull out a character from one piece, an event from another. I gather artifacts and begin to build a new file for this new world. The pieces allow for a stronger foundation than my free writes or dream worlds provided. I play with these elements, put them together in my mind before writing has even begun. Notes grow, a song list begins, and eventually, I figure out the Big Challenge for the story.
And all of that before the first word of the first chapter.
Black and white, right? Not really.
Every story is different, and sometimes that first chapter needs to come first. Sometimes the dream does result in a completed novel. Sometimes, the artifacts from previous work don't show a need until book two of the series. The process is cyclical, not linear. So why did I write all that and claim it's my process? Because it's also true. Without all those words that came before, what I'm write from now on would not be the same. Without years of archives to visit, more stories would end up in those files marked incomplete.
Did any part of my process resonate with you, aspiring writer or veteran? If there are there other aspects of my writing process you'd be interested in, please let me know in the comments.
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