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Asword&shield

New Member
Forgive me if this is the wrong place for this.

I have never wrote ANYTHING apart from stuff in school, that was a good 15 years ago and was pretty standard childish writing. I've always loved fantasy and ancient history, and thankfully am a relatively creative person. I have all these ideas swimming around my mind about worlds and characters. Recently I said screw it, I'll write a story. But here is my problem...I have no idea if it is any good, or if it still sounds like the writing I would do in class when I was younger.

I would love any help, on getting started writing, how do I know it is decent writing? I have all these ideas but not really any "story" as such, it is more just the characters I have, no real end goal. What do I need to look out for when I write? I have a thousand questions, so any "top tips" whether it be on character development and the story or just "dont use too many adverbs". ANYTHING would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance, apologies if that makes little sense.
 

Gallio

Minstrel
The best approach, I think, is to write as much of it down as you can, then reread and rewrite. Repeat until you have a story or book.

Disclaimer: I very much need to take this advice myself :) .
 

Not_Alice

Dreamer
You have ideas, that's already the best start you can possibly have. There are people who'll tell you that you need to know your entire story, your end goal, before you sit down and write it. I'm scared of those people. I start all my stories with just a basic idea, and everything tends to always work out differently than planned anyway, because a few pages in the characters will step forward, claim the story, and run away with it. There are also people who'll tell you that you can't let your characters do that, that you are the master of your story, that the characters aren't real people. I'm scared of those people, too.
Long story short, start writing. Make it up as you go along. When you think you're finished, put it aside for a while, come back to it, and realize there's still work to do. Drag a notebook everywhere for random ideas, because you won't still remember them when you get home. Let other people read your stuff, and let them dish out all the criticism they have. Hate them for a few days. Slowly realize that they have a point. Rework it all again. Rinse, repeat.
 
Welcome Asword&Shield,

Get involved in the discussion over on the other threads and you could also start a thread of your own with some questions you might have about an idea or an outline for a story ~ whilst I agree that having ideas does not a story or prose make, as the above comment, it’s the place you need to start. So just start writing and see where those ideas take you.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
Writing is like anything else that requires skill. Your first attempts are going to be flawed, and to get better you're going to have to practise.

One thing every writer has to do is set reasonable expectations. If someone wanted to pick up baseball, no one would expect them to be able to perform at a high level on the fist try, right? I've seen a lot of aspiring writers expect too much of themselves, and they're crushed when they can't meet the unreasonable expectations. Ideas are the raw materials which we work with, but we have to learn how to assemble them into a story proper. Give a master chef and a schlub off the street, who's never cooked anything in their lives, the same ingredients, one is going to make something tasty. The other is probably going to butcher things quite bad.

If you want to write, then write. Make your mistakes and learn from them. As you write and encounter problems, you'll figure a way through, or you'll get stuck and you'll have to find resources from which to learn. It's like taking a class in college. There's a theory portion to the subject and there's a practical, hands-on portion. For me, for theory, I read a lot of writing books, specifically about structure. But IMHO, before anyone should dive into theory, they should just write, and like I said, make mistakes, and accumulate questions, because it's not quite as useful to read a book filled with answers before you have the questions.

Hopefully this makes sense. It's kind of late where I am, so I"m not exactly working on a full charge.
 

Karlin

Troubadour
You have ideas, that's already the best start you can possibly have. There are people who'll tell you that you need to know your entire story, your end goal, before you sit down and write it. I'm scared of those people. I start all my stories with just a basic idea, and everything tends to always work out differently than planned anyway, because a few pages in the characters will step forward, claim the story, and run away with it. There are also people who'll tell you that you can't let your characters do that, that you are the master of your story, that the characters aren't real people. I'm scared of those people, too.
Long story short, start writing. Make it up as you go along. When you think you're finished, put it aside for a while, come back to it, and realize there's still work to do. Drag a notebook everywhere for random ideas, because you won't still remember them when you get home. Let other people read your stuff, and let them dish out all the criticism they have. Hate them for a few days. Slowly realize that they have a point. Rework it all again. Rinse, repeat.
I totally agree. Nearly everything I've written started as a "what if...?" And I've nearly always been unsure of myself ."Is this any good? Am I wasting my time?" Well, it might not be that good, but it will get better over time. Write a chapter or two, see how it feels. Friends and family are usually Not So Good for serious criticism, but they are Very Good at encouragement.

I'm writing a novel now...I sent the first few chapters to family, and got back "what happens next?" - which is great, they were hooked. The problem was my answer "um, I don't know yet..." I'm halfway through, and have a better idea of where it is going, but I'm still not quite sure how it will end.
 

Joe McM

Minstrel
I’d suggest just going for it and enjoying it. Set aside any judgment. When I started writing my novel I decided to write what would be fun. After I completed one, I moved onto another idea that would be fun. Each led to inspiration after inspiration. I ended up writing 50 pages or so of material that I would later piece together into parts of my novel. It was a blast. Then I started noting other people’s story structures, tone, style, and experiences their characters had. But a key piece for me was to have fun. Good luck.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
I would love any help, on getting started writing, how do I know it is decent writing? I have all these ideas but not really any "story" as such, it is more just the characters I have, no real end goal. What do I need to look out for when I write? I have a thousand questions, so any "top tips" whether it be on character development and the story or just "dont use too many adverbs". ANYTHING would be appreciated.

Okay, so here's my suggestion for Day 1.

- Designate a writing space. Set it up to be minimally distracting.
- Look at your schedule. Box out clear times to write. Commit. Protect those times.
- Get to know the concept of a Call to Action, which is the heart of a story's first act. Figure out what that means for your story.
- Lay on your back, close your eyes, and try some visual streaming: Try to picture the characters, the scenery, see if you can hear them. Let yourself get excited about what you find. If this doesn't work for you, so be it, but if it does it can extremely insightful.

Day 2: Start writing. At first, try not to make any corrections or self-edits. Just focus on getting words to the page. After you get a basic habit going, it's okay to read-and-edit for basic things like clarity and flow, and scene structure. For me, I prefer to open a writing session by briefly editing the section before it.

The main thing is to figure out enough to get started, and then focus on building the habit, your writing process. Once you've got your process going, so that it's not an abysmal chore to get yourself in that seat and typing, that's when you start to focus on always learning a bit more, getting a little better, and hammering in specific moments in that story that need the extra attention.
 

Mad Swede

Auror
From my own experiences. Just settle down and write. Doesn't matter where, doesn't matter when. Don't edit, don't read it back, just write. The most important thing is to get something down on paper. You can always sort out your writing space, schedules, editing routines etc later. The key is to start writing, because until you've done that you won't know how and when you write best.
 

Demesnedenoir

Myth Weaver
Since writing all the time is damned near impossible, I'll add to learn the structure of story, nothing complicated, 3-act structure is the basis for everything long form no matter how it's dressed up. I'll also add that editing isn't a bad thing so long as you're improving. I would argue that you will learn more by editing than by writing, except of course, you need to write it to edit it. Also! Go and read excerpts from people's WIP. Reading finished and polished books won't find the obvious errors you'll be looking for in your work, but it's often easier to see flaws in other people's work than your own.

A couple of books: self editing for fiction writers & the first 5 pages are good books.

From my own experiences. Just settle down and write. Doesn't matter where, doesn't matter when. Don't edit, don't read it back, just write. The most important thing is to get something down on paper. You can always sort out your writing space, schedules, editing routines etc later. The key is to start writing, because until you've done that you won't know how and when you write best.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
So to build a little more on my previous post, there is actual scientific research on the best way to learn and practice new skills. That research suggests to do roughly the following:

- Start with scheduling and make a commitment
- Setup what you need for the project
- Focus on a reasonable, small end-goal (i.e., get through Act 1)
- Learn just enough to self-correct as you go**
- Avoid the hardest barriers that make people quit for the first three or so sessions***
- Practice like crazy

**What that means for writing is hard to say, as there is definitely a drafting process and a separate editing process. I chose to interpret it as learning enough to build your story towards the call to action. YMMV.

***I took this to mean editing, and getting disheartened because you feel like your stuff is junk; again, YMMV.

Anyways, that's for learning a new skill quickly.

There's additional research on long-term goal setting. It suggests to put minimal weight on actual goals, and focus instead on mastering and enjoying the day-to-day process that will get you there. For example, if you want to write a book in a year, you do some math and it comes to a chapter every 2 weeks, you figure that's 500 words per day for each of 10 days... well, now forget the year, forget the two weeks, and focus on doing 500 words per day.

Maybe you can kind of track "I'm on day 8 of 10 for this chapter." But do not get held up by a "next-Friday" deadline goal because things come up, you'll miss days, and that two-week chapter goal might in practice mean starting on a Thursday and ending on a Tuesday morning three weeks later. If you focus on that Friday goal, it'll be a much bigger setback when you miss it.
 
There are 3 things every (beginning) writer should realize:
- The first and most important is that everyone is different, and that everyone's process is different. What works for 1 person will not work or will not work perfectly for another. So, take everything said here (and elsewhere) as a suggestion, not as an absolute. Try different things, keep what works, discard what doesn't/.
- Writing is a skill. Like Penpilot mentioned, your first pages are going to be flawed. That's the case for everyone. Even the masters of the craft started out sucking. They just started early enough to have forgotten that part... The good news here is that you will never learn as much about writing as when you write your first novel. So write it.
- A novel contains a lot of words. May sound obvious. But until you start writing, you don't realize how many words 50.000 or 100.000 actually is. And that it's not just the flashy action scenes, but also the slow character moments, and the connections between A and B. This also means it takes time. If you write 500 words an hour (a decent speed for a beginning writer), then a 50.000 word novel will take 100 hours to write. That's 3 months of writing 1 hour a day for every day. Not to discourage you, but it's good to realize.

As for how to begin, I think I started the right way (for my first completed novel that is). Like you, I had an idea for a few scenes of a story that sounded fun and exciting. I did a few things. I made a public commitment to writing the tale. Just me telling my wife "I'm going to do this". This showed to myself that I was serious about it.

Then I started tracking my daily word count. I set a target (500 words a day), and kept a simple excel list for each day of the month. This helped me see my progress. As mentioned, writing takes a lot of time. When you're in the middle, there is little difference between going from 25.353 words to 30.498 words or something like that. It will just feel like you're slogging allong and not making any progress. By instead focussing on just getting the next 500 words in, I can see I'm always moving forward.

With these 2 things in place, I simply sat down to write. I learned that for me having an idea is not enough. I wrote those first few scenes I had in my head and then I hit a roadblock. My mind went blank and asked "okay, what happens next?" So I sat down to plot out the story. Nothing major, just a sentence or two per chapter. This gave me a roadmap and let me continue forward. I think this is for most people the best approach. But it doesn't work for everyone.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Honestly, at this stage the best advice is short, sweet, and pretty general: Write. Begin at the beginning, continue until you get to the end, and then stop. One word after another, that's how it's done. It doesn't have to be Earth shattering, and it really doesn't have to be good. It just has to be. And you'll find as you write more and more, and as you read and read and read not only books on writing but the stories you love - and even the stories you hate - that you'll slowly start to like the sound of your paper voice and you'll keep going. You'll find yourself, and it's going to be awesome. It doesn't even need to be fancy or complicated. "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." Just write.
 
The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. Put no expectations on yourself and for god's sake don't hope to make a career from it. Not yet.

Treat writing as a hobby - as something you enjoy and just do it for it's own sake. You'll definitely improve and find your voice if you just focus on learning the craft. The real art can come later and if you do just happen to be good at it, you'll find your audience.
 
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