1. Saynosin
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    Saynosin New Member

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    Where do I start?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Saynosin, Apr 20, 2009.

    Well here I am, my first attempt at a creative writing piece. I have had no prior training or any type of help on this sort of thing and I was wondering where to start to get this project going. I have a general idea of what my story will be about but I don't know how to start this off.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The best thing to do is to start writing.
     
  3. Saynosin
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    Saynosin New Member

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    I mean should I begin with character development or should I work on the world before I put the inhabitants etc
     
  4. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    You will probably have to discover your own way. Why not start writing the piece and see where it goes? You'll run into problems, sure, but nobody can tell you exactly what method is going to work best for you. Some people do outlines or character worksheets while others don't.
     
  5. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    You might want to try this:

    Take a part of your story that you have firmly in your mind. You're going to write that part of the story. It doesn't have to be polished, you just have to write it. Try and write around 500 to 1000 words. Now go away and do it...

    Right, when you get back from that little exercise you will have some idea of what bits you found difficult. If you found the plotting difficult, if it was hard to know which part of the story came next or where you might go from the end of your first piece then you might want to pay more attention to plot.

    If, on the other hand, you found writing dialogue difficult or your characters didn't seam to have a voice that you could easily write then you might want to spend more time on the characters.

    Of course, it is possible you found both parts of the process hard. In this instance I would have a look at what inspires you most about your story, plot or character. Keep building the momentum until you have something you have to write.

    For now, I wouldn't worry too much about the world that it is in. It is as well that you have a loose idea of your settings but allowing a world to grow with your story will help reveal it at a nicer pace.

    I think a mistake that a lot of 'cub' writers make is that they concentrate so hard on developing their world that they don't write a story.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Everyone has his or her own approach. I usually begin with a character, but I don't define that character in great detail. I form the same kind of first impression of the character as you would when meeting a person for the first time.

    Then I put that character into a scene or a minor conflict. That may or may not become the opening scene of the story. For one thing, the decision of what scene actually begins the story tends to come much later in the process. For another, there may have been a scene that sparked inspriration for the story in the first place.

    Putting the character into the situation and letting him or her work through it hellps define the character a bit more. The decisions the character makes, good or bad, begin to shape the character.

    As the story begins to grow, you will need to introduce plots that drive the characters along the storyline. The storyline is a chronological series of events. Plots are the forces that move characters along a storyline.

    A plot consists of an actor, a goal, a motivation, and an opposition. As a simple example, Phil is hungry. He has been lost in the woods for three days now, and didn't pack any snacks wen he started out. Phil is the actor, finding food is his goal, feeling weak from hunger is his motivation, and his inexperience in finding food in the wild is the opposition.

    That plot may be a very small part of the overall story, but it puts stresses on the character and drives events. A story typically has a central plot, which need not be apparent from the beginning, but it defines the main track of the story. There can be several related plots that more or less coincide to define the story. For instance, the main plots may be a character's survival in a disaster AND that chat character triumphing over her own low self esteem. Both plots may be equally "central" to the story, but because the goals, motivations, and oppositions differ, they are distinct plots.

    Keeping a conscious awareness of the plots helps you get the story moving again when it seems to be stuck. Much of the time, the story gets stuck because one or more of the characters needs a good push. Add a complication, or increase the stakes on an existing plot, and you can get the story moving again.

    Hopefully this will give you some ideas to get your own process going.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I usually start writing even if I don't have a specific place or characters in mind. They usually come to me as I write which is why I suggested you write a little and see where your piece is headed. You can always take the advice already posted and use outlines, etc.
     
  8. That Silly Welsh Guy
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    That Silly Welsh Guy Senior Member

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    I agree with the [pstersx that have suggested you should just start writing for the sake of writing, and then see what develops. And then, whichever aspects of the writing that you found hardest to write from 'off the cuff' so to sepak should be the aspects you should try and tackle first in your novel/story planning - perhaps you'll find you're yourself drawing up an outline of where you want the story to move to if you have a general idea, or if you have a synopsis already drawn up but found the characters lacking substance then it'll be the characters that you'll start to develop firstly. Of course, if you don't have a very general, vauge and basic, raw story idea to begin with - then you'll best advised to start there because everything flows from there :)
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    My initial response is always the condescending 'Start with a word, and then put another after, and another, and another, and another, and continue until you are finished'.

    But I'd say if you don't know where to start then just set a scene and start from there, even if it is just to inspire yourself, you can always rewrite.
     
  10. thegearheart
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    thegearheart Member

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    I think this is awesome advice, and it's how I usually start my stories. Just get to it and see what happens!
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people like to do world building and character sketches first. I don't. It's more fun for me to figure it out as I go along. Of course in revisions, you write it as if you always knew everything. The fact that you're even asking this question suggests that you probably worrying a lot more than you need to. Some peple write their first novels without even consciously deciding to do so. They just write a story that keeps getting longer and longer until they realize that what they have it long enough to be a novel.

    So here's how to start: Tell yourself to relax and have fun.
     
  12. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    thats a realy good way to put it Rei, i might try that for myself
     
  13. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    "I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking." - Albert Einstein
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I would start with reading at least one book on writing like Between the Lines.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but I would avoid "How to write: books like the Plague.
     
  16. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Cog, all the advice you ever give is found in the book I mentioned. You obviously learned what is written in a good how to write book, so why shouldn't others also learn that same information?
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Firstly, I'm with Cog on this one (shock!), all the writing books I've read are awful and, in the context of contemporary fiction, almost immediately outdated. The only real way to learn to write well is to read a lot and practise.

    As to how I go about writing, I usually start with some vague idea then write what i can of a plot summary. Also, I write this by hand so that as I'm writing I have time to think about what I'm writing and then as I'm doing that new ideas will come to me and I'll amend things and add bits so that by the time I finish I have a page full of ideas. I can't do that typing though, sometimes I feel like I type faster than I think...

    When it comes to the actual writing, its probably not the kind of thing that will work for everyone but I like to write just one or two sentences at a time and get them perfect. For instance I find it hard to start writing something if the first sentence isn't absolutely perfect (there are many pieces where I've thrown away perfectly good ideas simply because I can't get the opening right (and since that's what's gonna hook people/publishers, why go on if you can't get it right?)).

    That said, if it's your very first time and you're just getting used to the idea of 'writing', just sit down and start with a good first line and then just let go and see what emerges.

    But really, the importance of reading cannot be understated. Its painfully obvious if a writer is ill-read - look around this site and you'll see both sides of the coin I'm sure.
     
  18. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that they type faster than their brain can handle.. I definitely prefer to hand-write everything so that I don't miss any of the nuances I can get when I'm really thinking about a story.

    And the best advice I can think to give is to read a lot and just write. The more you read, the better you will write...I've never met a single good writer who wasn't an avid reader and a lover of words.

    ~Lynn
     
  19. lessa
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    lessa Contributing Member

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    when I write I usually use a prop for my characters.
    writing children's stories makes this much easier.
    I have a house with children's toys in just about every room.
    If one catches my eye I take him down off the shelf and place him
    by my desk.
    He may sit there a day or two with me talking to him. I know this sounds
    kind of strange but the story develops and when I have a start of one I
    sit down at the computer and write it.
    Missy Bear's first story came about from a stuffed bear I bought one christmas
    and a walk my husband and I took in the bush.

    Billy Dozer came from years ago when I looked down into the park and saw some
    toy construction equipment left by kids there over night.

    So sit down and write what you think of. Anything that would go with the story.
    Then go over it and make the changes you think will help get your story into some ones
    Imagination. Then go over it and make it so the grammar spelling and sentences are correct.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you consider Strunk and White's The Elements of Style and similar grammar. punctuation, and usage guides to be "How to write" books, you are corrext. I refer to those as authoritative sources, along with dictionaries. But the majority of writing advice books require a solid knowledge of good vs poor writing going in, to distinguish good advice from personal preferences from absolute rubbish.

    In my opinion, most of these booksd do more harm than good for new writers. They would do far better reading a wide variety of fiction.

    Read a book more than once. Read it the first time for the story and to decide whether it was an enjoyable read. Then read it a second time to understand where the writing works, where it doesn;t, and why. After a while, you begin see patterns - writing habits that make the story work well, and those that drive you nuts or bore you to sleep.

    Don't only reread the books you loved. Reread the garbage too/ That will teach you far more quickly about what approaches are most frought with peril.

    We often get members arguing in favor of some technique that are generally considered poor practice. They argue that famous author Suchandsuch uses it beautifully, but they fail to consider the thousands of ither books that fall flat with the technique, even excluding those that never make it to publication at all.

    Even the How To books will work better after that kind of practice, because you will find yourself thinking, yes, that can work in situation X, but it's invariably awful in situation Y. Or you will find that you sort of agree in principle with a suggestion, but the author of the How To book expressed it in a misleading way.

    It will always come down to critical reading. Until you can see for yourself what is good writing, and what is not, all the How To books in the world will be as useless as a programming language specification is to a non-programmer.
     
  21. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I'd have to agree with Cog's last post. If you can't see why something works and why it doesn't for yourself then a how-to book isn't going to be any help at all and may actually end up making things worse.

    ~Lynn
     
  22. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Then why do people keep sharing advice from the good how to write books? All the good advice Maia, Cog, and everyone gives is found in a good book like Between the Lines. They obviously learned from somewhere.

    They could have learned this from trial and error, experience, school, study, a how to write book, etc.

    Every beginner should learn the information maia knows, and the fastest way to do that is by reading a book like Between the Lines.

    Perhaps someone could offer a valid argument why they shouldn't.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    With all due respect, that is exactly what I did.
     
  24. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Architectus, Cog did explain why a new writer shouldn't use books like that. Look at the bottom of the 2nd page.

    The Elements of Style by White and the other guy (whose name I can never remember) is a classic on how to write well...it's even required reading for the AP english classes I took in high school. But it won't do anyone any good to read it if they don't understand at a base level what good writing feels like. It's almost instinctual, I think.

    ~Lynn
     
  25. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    My appologies. I didn’t see this post. Sometimes the site doesn’t give me an email when a new post in made. When I clicked the email it took me to page three, so I figured page 2 was filled.

    Well, a good how to write book, such as Between the Lines, offers all the advice objectively like a professor teaching a class. If there is more than one valid way of approaching something, the professor explains them all.

    For example: The advice you give on POV. Is that valid advice beginners should follow? I think it is, and that is the kind of advice found in this book.

    She talks about the weaknesses and strengths in different ideas, and the different views on them. She gives examples that contradict each other from well written novels, so one can see what works when and why.

    She talks about the importance of foreshadowing, what it is used for and why, and why it works. She gives many examples of foreshadowing. A writer might read and read and never figure out on his own exactly what foreshadowing is.

    I recently watched this movie based on a Nora Roberts novel called High Noon. The plot was ruined because she didn’t use foreshadowing. She’s a well known author, so just how could she forget something so important?

    The whole time she sets up this one cop making us believe he is the killer, then bam, take that, it is someone we never heard about, from a case she messed up on that we never heard about. Maybe she got lazy. Maybe she never read a book like Between the Lines that explains exactly why her story failed. If she had followed the advice of foreshadowing, she would have had the MC dwell on that case in the beginning of the novel. Flash back to it a few times. Talk about it with a friend or something. That way when the real killer is revealed, we go OH!

    She talks about the importance of back story. How it helps round out a character. She talks about the different ways established authors have used back story. I don’t think she ever says this is the right way, and this is the wrong way, but rather she says these are ways that have worked. She even encourages experimenting. But back story is important. A writer might read and read and never realize how important back story can be. But when it is explained and examples are given, it is hard not to see the importance.

    She explains how important conflict is to plot. How MC(s) need a desire(s).

    I could go on, but all this advice is advice you and Maia have given to people since I’ve been here. I see the advice in a post, and I am like, hey, that’s in Between the Lines.

    You know most if not all the knowledge in the book. I think they should as well.

    And because she gives all the valid ways something works, a new writer wouldn’t have to worry about getting bad information. She sticks to advice on foreshadowing, back story, conflict, etc, that has worked. And she is objective.

    Whew, that was a mouthful, sorry about that.


    The author of Between the Lines is a stranger to me. I get nothing from promoting her book. :p
     

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