Because I’m a terrible person, I completely forgot about a question I was asked on Twitter over a month ago. So, to Jack, I’m very sorry.
I figured there’s no time like the present. Jack’s question was about starting to write. Now the following tips will work for me, and they might work for you, but don’t take them as gospel. Each person needs to find their own way of writing, and what works for me might not work for you.
With that said, here are my tips for getting started (for this list, I’m going to assume people already have their story idea and characters, because that’s a whole separate list).
Have An Outline
I know some people don’t like to have a plot worked out before they start writing, they like to wing it. These people are crazy. I’ve done it myself, I’ve sat down with only a barebones idea and started writing, and for me it just means everything takes five times longer to finish.
From about book 3, I realised I need to have an idea of where I’m going. I like to know what I’m going to be doing that particular session of writing. So, I have an outline of the chapter, or chapters, that I’ll be working on.
The outline isn’t overly deep, mostly because I tend to add or remove things as needed, but it gives me something to get started with. I see it sort of like a sandbox Videogame. If someone hands me a game and says, “This is a sandbox game. You can do anything you like.” I’m more likely to just run around and see what I can break, or if I can get that car to jump off that ramp I saw twenty minutes ago. I’m unfocused. But if someone hands me the same game and says, “This is a sandbox game. But here are the story missions.” I’m more likely to at least have a plan what I’m going to do. I might run around blowing stuff up for half hour, but I have an end goal.
I find it similar with writing. My outline for work gives me enough to get on with (usually how the chapter will end, start and anything major that needs to happen), but how I get from the beginning to the end is entirely up to my own imagination.
I know it sounds obvious, but wherever it is you’re going to be writing, make sure you’re comfortable. Make sure you have a drink or some snacks (if needed), because you don’t want to have to get up and leave to get a drink when you’re in the middle of something important.
Personally, I can’t listen to music with words while I’m writing. So, I use soundtracks. I have a collection of movie and videogame soundtracks that I put on when starting, something to get me into the mood of what I’m working on. So, for action scenes, I use the Dredd soundtrack, or Mass Effect. Something like that. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes I just want quiet, but I find music can help set the scene.
Let Yourself Start
At some point, you just have to get on with it. The hardest bit of starting is the start. Yes, I know that isn’t helpful, but it’s true. Get over that first sentence, or paragraph and you’ll have a much easier time of it. And you’re never going to get over it, if you don’t sit down and actually start writing. It might be awful, it might be the shittiest writing ever committed to page, it doesn’t matter, because it’s something. It’s something to get those creative thoughts flowing, and it’s something to build on.
STAY AWAY FROM THE INTERNET
Seriously, if you’re going to try writing, going online, “just to check something,” is not going to help you. There are programmes that will remove all connection to anything not the page you’re writing on. If you need them, then go right ahead. I find it helps to have a ten minute break every hour to check FB, Twitter, my email, or whatever. Sometimes, that doesn’t work out, but it all depends how deeply in the moment of writing I am.
So, there are some ideas. Hopefully some of them will help. And if they don’t, hopefully some of them will lead you to those that do.