I was recently chatting with someone new, discussing what we do and what not and she said that she hopes to be able to tell her own story someday, where should she start? That’s a great question, but I didn’t realize at first that it was. You see, as someone who has always been a writer, I’ve got my Winnie the Pooh diary from back in the day to prove it, it never occurred to me how to get started because I’ve just done it. So this is the advice that I gave her, “You just do it.” 🤷♀️
Now that I have had some time to contemplate the question, my answer is no different, in order to begin writing you have to simply sit down and write. But, I can do better to explain it!
In order to write anything, like I said, you simply have to carve out the time or maybe just seize it. (I wrote my maid of honor speech immediately after I had crafted it in my head in savasana, on my yoga mat, in the middle of the horticultural center in Fairmount Park on a Sunday afternoon.) It occurs whenever you are able to put pen to paper, fingers to keys or thumbs to touchscreen. That is all that is required of you. I know it sounds simple and straightforward but it’s also, at the same time, incredibly difficult.
If you’re thinking about writing, then you already have an idea of what you want to accomplish, take time, take whatever materials or mode you choose to do the writing and just do it. That’s because that’s all that is required of the writer in this process, because, enter stage right after you have amassed words on paper…
It’s your editor’s job to make the story cohesive, to question what you have written as, hopefully many, readers will soon be doing it and organize it into a brilliant package. Now, I’m not saying that he or she does all the work, this is the writer’s baby, but think of your editor as Rafiki providing probing questions and, yes, the conk on the head that is sometimes necessary in this, perhaps, grueling process. And, if you’re reading this and thinking, “Shannon, I’m a layperson who asked you where to start writing, I’m not thinking about an editor,” to that I say, you are your first, and perhaps only (though I do NOT recommend that), editor.
As the writer, you get it down on paper, akin to starting a new project, you make sure you have all the raw materials laid out before you. Then, and only then, with your editor hat on, you go through, moving things around like pieces of a puzzle, asking questions and checking for inconsistencies, among other things.
As an example using the Adam WIP, I have changed the role of various kids in the story. At one point all of them belonged to Linda, Adam’s sister, but I now think that Sam should have some nephews by blood too. This is a consistency point that I’ll notice and check when I’m editing but not something I should concern myself with too much right now. It’s a tangential point to the story. I need to find out what happens between Adam and Sam and get it down on paper. I’m the writer at this stage in the process.
As an aside regarding the editor role, as I said this should not only be you. You know what’s happening in the piece, wrote it and read it. Even if you tried your best, read it 50 times and pulled every mind trick in the world, your brain is going read over things because you’re too close to it. That said, this doesn’t have to be an official someone. It can be your best friend, your mom, your 8th grade English teacher who you still keep in touch with. This person also doesn’t have to be a grammar person. You can have your best friend, who struggles to put a sentence together in a text message, read the piece because she’s willing and will ask you the question, “How many kids does Linda have?” when she notices this inconsistency and a copyeditor, someone who will read through your prose, flag sentences that are not sentences and highlight misused homophones. Simply put they can be multiple people.
So, you see, to begin writing, it’s that simple and that difficult, you take the idea that’s in your head and allow yourself the time and space to write it. Depending on your style you might work best by writing out an outline or sketching out a framework for what you’re about to write, or just diving right into it, see the links to previous posts for more on how to do those things, but, again all that’s required of you as a writer is that you write.
P.S. Is this a feature you like? Send me your questions firstname.lastname@example.org! I’m happy to help.