Welcome to the first installment of Writing Tutorial Thursdays. With these tutorials, I hope to help answer some of your most nagging writing questions; from how to write a great main character to what makes a great setting. (If you have any requests, let me know and I’ll be happy to come up with a tutorial just for you.) Today’s tutorial is all about beginnings.
Writing Tutorial: How Do I Begin?
Disclaimer: The information presented herein is based on what I, personally, have learned in my educational and professional careers. This tutorial is simply meant to offer some helpful tips.
INTRODUCTION: So you have the raddest idea for a novel. Sweet. Okay, how do you start writing one? Have no fear; I’m here to help you get started.
1) There are many ways (and none of them is the “right way”) to begin a novel. Many authors will tell you that a story just “comes to them.” (It does for me.) If that seems insane to you, a good way to start the creative juices flowing is to brainstorm. Create a mind map. Throw all your ideas about your story onto paper. This way you can get everything out into the open.
2) Be sure you have all elements needed for your novel. I am talking about fiction novels, so that means, specifically, character, plot and setting. You can also add in other details such as, genre, theme, point of view, length, etc. Get out your mind map and organize your thoughts into categories:
- secondary characters
3) Create a killer opening line. The biggest, most important sentence you will write in your novel is the first one. It is what needs to hook your reader and keep them holding on. To write a great opener, here are some things to remember. I’ve used all of these in past stories.
- Jump in. Start in the middle of action or dialogue. This creates a sense of urgency and creates excitement for your reader.
- Be eccentric. Nobody says you have to write exactly like everyone else. You just have to get peoples’ attention. If that means opening with a 10-line sentence, then so be it. Just make sure it’s AMAZING…and not a run-on.
- State it. Nothing grabs someone’s attention like stating a fact. It “slaps you in the face,” so to speak. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a great example: “It was a pleasure to burn.” Genius.
4) Let it flow. In the beginning, you have so many ideas you just can’t stop writing… So, don’t! Seriously, just keep writing. Let your ideas flow, no matter how weird they sound. Even if everything is jumbled on paper, write it down. You should see the scrawled handwriting in my notebooks when I first start working on something. But that’s part of the idea! The editing process comes later. The point in the beginning is to get it all down.
5) Don’t stop. Sometimes the dreaded writer’s block sneaks in. Don’t be discouraged. The best advice I can give you (that I’ve been given countless times) is to keep writing! It might seem like there’s “nothing in the tank,” but you mustn’t give up. Force yourself to sit at your computer, or open up that journal, and write. Even if it’s just to jot down a few ideas, write!
These are some ways that help me get started writing a novel, or even a short story. Hopefully they’ll help you, too. Do you have any other suggestions? Questions? Let me know!
Don’t forget: the way to better writing is by practicing!
Sweet! Looking forward to more entries.
I love the eccentric approach to an opening line. “Man is an endangered species,” from Battlefield Earth always stays with me. “When it happens, this is what happens: I shoot myself,” from Charles Yu’s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” is also great. (The follow-up both clarifies and intrigues: “Not, you know, my self self. My future self. He steps out of a time machine, introduces himself as Charles Yu. What else am I supposed to do? I kill him. I kill my own future.”)