How to Start Writing Your Book.

Today's Writer Wednesday is Twitter inspired!!!

Kaycee tweeted me over the weekend and asked this all-important question: I want to start writing a book but have no idea where to start! Any suggestions?

I've talked a lot about the writing process and what happens once you begin your journey to authordom, but I'm not sure I've actually said anything about this particular point!

And it's kind of important.

I mean, basically step one. Out of a million. 

So we should probably go there- to step one- and tackle all the complexities of the beginning. 

And by complexities, I mean super super simple steps. 

I'm not kidding!! Starting your book is the easiest thing you will do in the entire process. And if it's not... maybe you should re-think your dream. 

I'm not saying that in this haughty, I-know-better-than-you way. I'm saying that because it's the truth. Chapter One is the EASIEST.

And I'll tell you why. In Chapter One you have nothing to cross reference. You have complete and utter creative freedom. You are the puppetmaster and those precious words are your puppets. You tell them what to say and where to go and they haven't developed a personality yet, so they actually listen!! (You'll understand how phenomenal that is once you really get into the meat of your story.) 

Also, in Chapter One, no one is reading this story. It's just you and the words. There's no pressure, no judgment, no deadline. You have nothing keeping you from being the most innovative, exciting, interesting writer that ever was.

Or you have the freedom to write absolute crap. It's up to you!! The good thing is, you are in the Writing Stage so even if it is crap, it's YOUR crap. And you get to love it and nurture it and help it grow and mature and develop into something that's less-crap. 
You can worry about the quality of your writing later in the Editing Stage. Right now, your at Step One so forget making it sound amazing and award worthy and getting it on a bestsellers list. 

Just write Chapter One. 

I'm going to assume that if you're reading this and wanting to start your own book that you already have a story idea in your head. You probably have a ton of stories in your head. You've probably been creating stories in your head since you were a child. 

In real life, people call those Daydreams. In the writer world, we call those potential story ideas. We call that future money. Or if you're really ambitious, future pop culture phenomenons. (Just kidding) 

So Step One of Step One is to pick one.

A story idea that is. 

Any one. 

It can be any of them. 

Seriously. Get decisive. Forget thinking about what other people want to read or what will sell. Strip it all down. 

There is only one person you need to consider when writing a book. And that's you. Yourself. What do you want to read? What story captivates you??? What is the book you look for every single time you surf Amazon or dig through a book store?? What's the story that's missing from YOUR life.

And forget everybody else. They're not important. You shouldn't EVER care about their opinion. It will just kill you to try an please all those unknown opinions. So why start now??? Forget them.

They're not writing this story. They're not even helping you!! They're just being selfish, going on with their own lives, thinking about only their needs, just waiting and waiting to read the story you're going to give to them. Even if they don't know it yet. 

But they're not helping you get the job done, so you might as well forget them. Completely. 

Write for you.

Because when you write for YOU. When you write the story you want to read, that's where inspiration comes from. That's what you pour your passion, drive and soul into.

If you're trying to write something that sells?? It won't. If you're trying to please readers you don't even have yet??? You won't! You'll never get those readers. That's how it works in this business.
But if you write a story you are completely and utterly in love with, then you will be proud of that story.You won't be able to stop until the last word is on the page. Your fingers won't leave the keyboard until you have finished your the last word in the last chapter. You want to meet your writing goal?? Then meet it for YOU. Write for you.

Now that you know your audience, it's time to pick up a subject. Choose the book you want to read. And then write it.  

The next thing I'm going to say is very very very important. So get ready. 

It doesn't matter what that book is about. Not in any way.

And I really mean that!!

The actual plot of a book is not what makes it great. It's the story line and the way YOU tell it.

Let me just pitch you one of my own story concepts to give you an idea of what I mean.

Reckless Magic.

It's about this girl. She's a witch. But she doesn't know she's a witch! And she goes to this school with other people like her. Only they aren't just witches. Some are Titans. And some are Psychics. And one is a Shape-Shifter. They all know what they are, but don't tell her. Nobody tells her anything. Then she's in the woods and someone tries to kill her. Well... not her actually. But the guy she's with. The guy who also happens to be an Immortal prince, engaged to someone else and whom she both likes and hates completely. Then she flies to Romania to save her friend, but it doesn't actually work. Then she has to run back home with the principal of her school, who in a grand twist of fate is actually her grandfather. And at the end of the story the guy she loves is still engaged to someone else.

See what I mean?? That story is CRAZY!!!!!!! At least when I write it out like that. But it's all in the execution. YOU make the story great. No matter what it's about.

You can write about space ponies that are flying from planet to planet in search of golden hay. If you write it in a way that people can relate to and make it so that they find themselves inside the story, then people will read it.

And even better? People will love it. 

So do that next. Be authentic in your story. Pour yourself into it. Give your readers a genuine voice.

People do not want the story you think they want. They don't even know what they want. :) 

Except for this. They want to read something real. They want to read something that makes them feel. That takes them out of their world and into yours.

And you can't do that if you're not honest in your story. You can't make your characters relatable unless you relate to them. You can't make your fictional relationships realistic unless you've been there- at least emotionally.

This is probably the worst part of writing. I'm not kidding. It SUCKS to be so transparent. And it really really sucks when people then judge your transparency with their reviews. 

But that right there is what is going to keep people reading to the end of the story. And then immediately hunt down the next book you wrote. 

Even in Chapter One. Even at the very beginning. Your lead character needs a voice, so give her yours. 

When I sat down to write Reckless Magic, I had already written a different book. It was contemporary. And terrible. Reckless Magic was my first ever paranormal. And while the world is complicated and intricate and took a lot of time and effort to build and develop.

Eden did not.

I already knew who Eden was, because she's me.

Or parts of me. I like to think I'm more complicated than a 2-D character. But who knows? That might just be vanity.

I've had SO many reviews crucifying Eden for how ditsy and dense she is. They go on and on and on and on and complain about how she doesn't ask enough questions, or she doesn't get things when they would have figured it out ten chapters ago. Or whatever. 

But here's the thing. Eden is ditsy. Because I AM DITSY. So... ditsy. 

So completely ditsy. 

And I'm fine with that. I am confident with who I am and I embrace all my ditsy-ness. It still sucks to hear it in a negative review. I won't lie about that.

But, for every negative review I've gotten for Reckless Magic, I've had like 50(I have no idea if that's the right ratio but it's a ton and I might be under-estimating.) emails/comments/messages/posts/reviews telling me how much they RELATE to Eden. How they feel like they know her and want to be real-life friends with her. They saw something in her that they believed was real and that translated into a love for the series. 

And maybe it's not her denseness per se, maybe it's her other attributes, but the point is she's realistic because she comes from an authentic place. 

She comes from me. 

The popularity of that series has NOTHING to do with my skill, talent or expertise. In fact... we could easily make a point that those are my worst written books. As far as actual skill goes... I'm kind of embarrassed of those books. I look at my writing and I'm like WHAT WAS I THINKING!!! 

I will always and forever love that story, I just know so much more now. I've gotten better by default, by doing this every day for five years. 

The point is, the success of your story is not all about your infallible skill or brilliant plot line. It's all about how you craft your stories and develop your characters. 

Be real. Be authentic. Write the characters you will believe in to your death bed. And make them as flawed and imperfect as you are.

And finally. Write one word at a time.  

If you ask me how to start your story? That is the simplest answer I can give you.

Open a blank Word doc.  At the very top of the page, write Chapter One.

There you go, you just started your story. 

There are amazing programs out there if you research. I just downloaded the trial version of Scrivener and it seems to be an author's best friend. Plus it's only $40. There's all kinds of books out there. How-To Guides. Blogs like this one. 

But what you need to do is forget all of that. Forget it. Just open a Word Doc and start writing.

And even more importantly... Get off the internet. GET AWAY FROM IT.

Stop wasting your life on Facebook and Buzzfeed and Twitter and Reddit and the million other sites out there constructed just to distract you from your goals and dreams. 

Stop researching. Stop thinking. Stop holding yourself back. 

You don't even need a title. That can all come later!! And don't worry, not even one time, about if you're doing it right. 

None of that matters until you've actually finished the story. Then you can edit and re-edit and edit some more until you go blind. Then you can look at the entire structure of the story and all the little nuances and find your title naturally. 

You'll need to outline and work out a story arc, but that can all come LATER. The first thing you need to do is write Chapter One. 

Figure out the story you're going to write. Just pick ONE idea and go from there. Get to know your leading character. Give her/him a name and a hair color and start writing. (And don't, for the love of all that's holy, create a Pinterest page and spend a thousand hours "pinning" the perfect actress to play her. Write her first, as naturally and organically as possible. THEN find an actress to match your character. After you've published. After you have a fan base who cares enough to look at your Pinterest page. Not the other way around.) Put actual words down so that you have committed to writing a book. 

That's where you start. Right there. 

You're going to want to do more work once you get into the meat of the story. (For more info about that, check out this Eight Point Story Arc Blog) And it will need about a thousand edits. But the important thing is that you are officially writing your first book. You started it!!!! Your goal is now attainable. It's just about thirty chapters away. 

Which in the grand scheme of life, is not that far at all.

See what happens. Don't be afraid of it and don't let fear hold you back.

Books happen One word at a time. Turn that word into one sentence. And that one sentence into onne paragraph. And keep doing that, paragraph after paragraph until then. And if you've already written Chapter One at the top of your page, that's TWO whole words!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!

Congratulations. You're writing a book!!!!!!!!!! So keep writing. And keep writing. And never stop writing until it's finished. 

It's really as simple as that. 


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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for answering my question Rachel! I feel like I have a great story, I just need to write it out. You're right, even if it ends up terrible at least I'll have it out of my system and on paper! I'm starting nursing school next week so I'm not sure how much time I will have to write between classes and lab and clinicals, but that's okay. I feel like as long as I start, I can keep going. BTW, you should totally write about the space pony, it sounds hilarious. Lol.