Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Starting to write

Hello everyone, let's see if I can manage to get this week's blog post up before midnight.  Just two weeks until the They Do anthology comes out, and really rather excited about that!

This is going to be quite a short post, as this time I'm looking at the process of starting to write.  I tend to find this quite difficult - I have everything plotted out, my characters down, my world plotted down to the smallest of details, and then it comes to time to write, and I get stuck.

The story exists in my head, but it's not on paper yet.  A lot of people just get stuck at this point, but it is important to get past it - so you have a permanent record of all your hard work, a story that you can actually read, and lend to others.

For a start, I'd recommend having a plan, knowing what you are going to do before you start to write.  Knowing where you are going is helpful, because it means you know what's coming next.  Not everyone feels that way, but I like having a brief idea at least.

Then, start writing.  It doesn't matter if the first few paragraphs don't flow, if the sentences are jumbled or you miss something you meant to include - this is the very start of your first draft.  You need to get words down, then you can edit it later - think of it like making a sculpture.  You need to get the clay in a big block - that's the plan, the idea, the spark, call it what you will.  Now, you need to get the rough shape carved out.  First drafts are, at least in my experience, often complete and utter rubbish.  That doesn't matter.  What matters is that by the time it's finished, you have a block of words set up, that you can use.  Later drafts and reworking, that's your chance to carve in the detail, to add the refinement, to turn your blob into a beautiful piece of artwork.

It doesn't matter if it isn't good, as long as it is there.  You can make it good later.  As long as it exists, then you can work on it.  If it doesn't exist, or if it's just perfect in your head, then you can't improve it.  Don't expect too much of a first draft.  First drafts are always going to be bad.  But it's a starting point.

Now, other than simply getting the words down, you want to start somewhere interesting - you can always revise what you're working on later, but when it does come to reading it, you want people to be gripped from the first page.  If they aren't, they will just pick up something else.

So where do you start?
Have something happening.  People don't want to wade through page after page of meaningless description before they get the key information - which characters matter, what to do they do, what is going on.

This doesn't necessarily mean you have to start in the middle of a fight scene.  Just start with something interesting, that shows how your character interacts with the world around him - it could even be them eating breakfast, if you do it in a way that pulls the reader in.

Here's an attempt at exactly that, pulling in my poor regular to these blog posts, Argen.

Argen stared at the bowl in front of him, poking the unappetizing grey goo inside it with the bottom of his spoon, then lifted his head to glance over at Vairel, who was devouring his breakfast as though he hadn't eaten in weeks.
"I'm not letting you cook again." He told him coldly, shoving the bowl in the direction of the half-elf.  Vairel simply hummed in amusement, emptying his own bowl and shoving it back to Argen to clean.

Argen stood, flinching slightly as the yellowing bruise on his shoulder sent a spike of pain the length of his spine.  His breath caught, and Vairel looked up, dark blue eyes wide with concern.
"How is it?"
"I'm healing." Argen spat, walking over to the sink and immersing the bowl in the icy water there, hissing at the chill to his skin.  "Forget about it."

Vairel opened his mouth to say something else, then thought better of it and turned his attention back to the food before him.

So... not perfect by a long way, and if I was including this in something, I would revise it a lot, but it shows you the characters, and how they interact.  It's a start.   If you can't think of how to start, try a variety of options, or just write short scenes with the characters to get a feel for them, and then maybe use one of them as a starting point.  Good luck.

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