Recently I got a question from a friend about writing: how do you start writing? How do you begin a story?
I love that question because it’s something I hardly ever think about. Not because writing comes easy (it doesn’t), but because it’s worth analyzing. How does one begin to write?
The snarky individual would say, “Well, just start writing.” But it’s never that simple. I’ve had ideas and fun premises popping in and out of my head since the age of thirteen. Most of those ideas never got jotted down. And the ideas that did get jotted down almost never made it into a story. Why?
Well, because I think writing is kinda like falling in love.
Like people and places we fall in love with, ideas are similar. I may have a cool, fresh idea but if I haven’t fallen in love with it enough, I can’t create characters. Or, alternatively, if I fall in love with a character I have inside my head but have nowhere to put them, I can’t write the plot of a story.
I think it differs for everyone, but for me I need to create a character that I love. And it’s not always my main character. Sometimes it’s a sidekick, or a fun character who pops in and out of my main character’s life. But once I fall in love with a character within the universe of the idea I have, then the writing can begin.
That doesn’t always mean I’ll finish. Sometimes I’ll start writing and realize the story has no legs, that the idea/ premise I have is just too big or too small for what I want to do. Or I fall out of love with the story. So I tuck my characters away and start thinking about writing something else.
The wonderful thing about writing is that it’s never wasted. Like practicing a musical instrument for hours inside your room, it hones your skills even if no one is around to appreciate it. I’ve created novels that will never be published, and some that may never be read.
And that’s okay. Above all else, writing should be enjoyable in and of itself. And if it’s not, if someone is trying to write only in order to achieve a specific goal, I’ve found they tend to burn out quickly.
Like everything in life, in order to do something over and over again, you have to be in love it. You have to commit to it, even when it hurts or isn’t going the way you’d hoped it would.
Just like love, actually.