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In the Beginning – Where to Start

So you have a story idea in your head and want to publish it. That takes guts. Talent helps, but guts are what’s needed first. Lots of ‘em. But use them sparingly in your story, unless it’s an action one, then go ahead.

First, though, you have to ask yourself a question nobody really cares about except you and the occasional bookstore geek: am I an author, or a writer? I’ve always considered myself a writer because surely an author is some lofty title my poor writing skills could never achieve. Then I got to thinking: what if I was an author? What if being an author was being a storyteller, a dream-maker to the masses? What if I had just enough ego to believe I was more than a writer, and was something else? That’s when I realized that anyone with their own story, be it fictional or true, can be an author.

And that’s what you can become, too, and all the for the low-low price of $2,000! Just kidding. I’ll give it out for free. You just have to provide the courage to write and get your story out there. Not an easy task, but if I can do it anyone can do it!

Besides courage, though, you need a few other things, too. I’ve compiled a snazy list of a few of those useful things that I found along my journey to becoming an author.

Creating the Book

Before any aspiring author can begin to write, you must first have a story idea. Even an outline, a scene, or a character will work. Need some inspiration? Look to the world around you. The people you know, the TV shows you watch, even the neighbor’s angry barking dog might lead to a dog caper idea.

Where do I get my ideas, you don’t ask? I get a lot of my inspiration from dreams and reading. Lots of reading. Oh, and movies. Mostly the old ones, but I’ve got some new favorites that help me along. Just remember, a nugget of inspiration can grow into a behemoth of a tale, so don’t leave home without that idea!

Now that you’ve got the story idea, how do you write it? There’s a bunch of ways to jot down your ideas. Even the old-fashioned favorite of pencil-and-pad will still work. However, you might not have the best handwriting in the world, so here’s a couple of more modern ways to get your story written:

  • Word: a perennial favorite of the starter author, it’s default accessibility on most computers makes it a good beginning tool.
  • OpenOffice: a free and easy-to-use writing program for those authors with an empty wallet and no Word on their computer. The functions are similar to Word, and it has the advantage that it can import Word documents that you can edit.
  • Scrivener: I’d recommend this program simply because it helps you turn your finished typings into neat little online files so people can read what you wrote.
  • WordPerfect: an old favorite that I used to use, it came with an ancient Dell laptop that has since gone to Lappy Heaven. It has few bells and whistles, but plenty of writing power.
  • Notepad++: heck, even Notepad would work, though the lack of some basic paragraph structures could be frustrating. The fancier version is Notepad++, a free program which even comes with a spell checker.

Now that you’ve found your story idea and a program (or the trusty pencil-and-pad), it’s time to start the most difficult part of your journey to being a author. For many people, finding the time and space to jot down your dream-making. Why space, you ask? Have you ever tried to write in the middle of a railroad station? It’s like trying to play water polo in the desert. Your space should be a place where distractions are nonexistent. That especially includes the internet.

Time may also be a scarce resource for you, but don’t despair! Even a few sentences a day can grow into a mountain of a novel! Just keep plugging at it, refining your word choices and your characterizations. Also, ask yourself one question: am I a pantster, or a plotter?

You’re probably thinking I’ve gone off-topic into an ink-and-clothing story vein. Not so! Pantsers and plotters are different paths to author glory! They’re ways a person molds their ideas into a tapestry of stories. For example, a pantser writes things by the seat of their pants, meaning they have no defined plot and only their imagination leads them to the end of the tale. Plotters, meanwhile, are obsessed with outlines. They need the whole story drawn out before they’ll get to the gritty work of filling out the conversations, descriptions, and the in-between work. Heck, maybe you’re a mix of both! A few scattered scenes there, a dabble of an outline here, and you’ve got yourself a story!

Now that you know what you’re going to write, how you’re going to write, and with what, the next step is to get to it! The easiest way for many people is to set goals for yourself. Write so many words over the day, or write non-stop for fifteen minutes and take a break for fifteen minutes, and rinse and repeat. Treat it like a job, but if the story doesn’t catch your imagination you can try a plot change, or even a new story.

A great motivator is NaNoWriMo (or just NANO). NANO is short for National Novel Writing Month. That comes around every November like Santa Clause, but earlier and without all the gifts. The only gift you can receive is the one you earn, and that’s to reach the mile marker of writing your own novel. That’s fifty thousand words of desperation, nonsense, and maybe a few good sentences. The aim is not to write a good story, but just to write.

Now what are you waiting for? Get out there and write, and stay tuned for more installments in my Writing Tips series!

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Mac Flynn
Mac Flynn