“Start a novel is like opening a door on a misty landscape; you can see very little, but you can smell the earth and feel the wind blowing.”Iris Murdoch
Writing a book—or a short story—is very much a challenging process, especially if attempting it for the first time.
Generally, any story starts with an idea. Whether it’s a dream, a writing prompt, an image, a film, a song, something generates that spark of inspiration that begs to be written. Naturally, of course, any of us want to go after it immediately regardless of where it leads us.
Now, there are differences in how we go about preparing to write that story idea. Anyone some time in the writing community will probably be familiar with the terms plotter and panster. Or maybe even planster. For those that don’t, here’s a brief definition of each.
Plotter – someone who meticulously plots out their story idea, takes notes for world-building, possibly has written their own language out for it if their story is fantasy
Panster – someone who makes everything up as they go along
Planster – a combination of both
I personally am a planster, with varying degrees depending on which story I’m working on. I cannot be a plotter to save my life and pansting didn’t work out. I ended up abandoning most stories because I couldn’t figure out where to go. So, while pansting worked out for some, I’m now a planster. Generally I have an idea or vague outline of where the story’s supposed to go, and then make up everything else as I go along. That’s the process that works for me, but I would highly suggest everyone try out different styles to find out what works best for them.
One of the hardest things when writing out that first draft is being able to keep going once we’ve run out of creative inspiration and the newness of the idea wears off. While I’m going to talk about motivation while writing in a later post, I just want to say that you should try to figure out what process works best for you with a little project before attempting a full-blown novel and burning out half-way.
With me, when I was still pansting, I started writing a sea fantasy novel and got stuck after chapter 10 because I didn’t know where I wanted to go with it. I ended up writing out an outline and tackling it afresh. Did I stick to the outline? Not entirely. There were many points that I changed my mind about. But that’s not the point. The point is that it worked to have an outline or an idea of where I wanted the story to end up. But I know that this process doesn’t work for everyone and for some people, they need the ability to make everything up. Others require a detailed plot. The important thing is to find out what works best for you so that story, even in its raw diamond form, has a chance to exist.
Other ideas for those embarking on a writing adventure is to create a playlist that encases your story’s mood, or create mood boards on Pinterest, create character art if that’s your thing, just simple things that help bring your story to life in more than just mere words. This is also a great idea if you ever lose interest while writing your story.
Another great tip is to find friends who are also writers or who care about your story and to talk to them about your story, find accountability partners, or people to do word sprints with. Having a community, whatever size, that cares about your story as much as you do is such an important thing and I cannot understate how encouraging it is. I would not have accomplished any of the writing that I have without friends who read my writing and who were excited about it, and though my friends are too busy to read it now these days, I cannot thank them enough for encouraging me in their comments when they had time.
As I bring this brief post to a close, I hope some of you found this helpful. No story exists without a beginning and in some senses, it’s crucial to start it off right in order to prevent losing interest and abandoning it. Let me know if you have any questions or comments below and I look forward to hearing from you!