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How did you guys start writing? Need inspiration from others

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by ChronoSam, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. ChronoSam

    ChronoSam Acolyte

    I'm new here in the community, and have always been a fan of fantasy storytelling, and now want to write a story in the genre, maybe the first of several as it seems the more I brainstorm about the ideas I would like to explore the more I see it's probable a single story cannot cover it all.

    I currently have some panic you may say on knowing how to start. The part of the process I'm currently on is worldbuilding with a little bit of story development. I have always admired how Tolkien created his Middle Earth world, I consider him to be the best example on worldbuilding, as he created a world so vivid and deep that he could create stories in which the world is as important as are the characters, and you basically can't have one without the other. Another modern example of a world that does this is The Last Airbender, where the world and it's story and rules on how magic and goverment work are fundamental to the story and creates a rich experience that is super satisfying to discover as the story unfolds.

    So, since this are so intrinsically connected: How does one know where to start? With the story of the characters and then creating the world around or creating the world and it's rules first to then create the character's storties? Or, maybe it is a mixed connected process as it seems to be for me at this moment with my story?

    How did you guys started your process? I'd love to hear from others how was it for you, from inception to first draft and even finished product.
  2. Mel Syreth

    Mel Syreth Scribe

    Here's a fun fact you might want to know about your first work: You will delete it.
    It's going to be so bad... you'll either nuke it off the face of the Internet or keep it hidden in some closet somewhere and laugh awkwardly when looking at its direction.

    Other than that, I can only recommend making an attempt at writing fan fiction. Sure it has a bad rep but for a stepping stone and a look at how the character dynamics and world synergy works (as everything is connected with everything), and to see what genre and style you're comfortable with, it is the perfect option. You are given all the tools, you only need to work with them. Start with small stories with established characters keeping as authentic to the source material as possible. Once you get the hang of it, you can add your own characters and get a little bit crazy. Once you've got that down and understand what makes a good world and story, then you can set sail towards creating one of your very own.

    Worked like a charm for me, and since you already have something you fawn over, you could give it a shot as well.
    Malik, artsyChica and Chessie2 like this.
  3. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    I started writing by just doing it. Over the years I have honed my craft and continued learning about how to improve as a storyteller. It's really that simple but it takes a long time. Your whole life. There are no shortcuts.
  4. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

    Begin at the beginning, continue until you get to the end, and then stop.

    But seriously, we start with characters and then through their lens create the world around them. Chessie is right, writing is a marathon, not a sprint. A marathon with intense homework requirements. What I would recommend is to do what you're already doing: read widely and write down the sparks of ideas as they flare. Then, you get to work. It's both the simplest and most complicated thing in the world, and only you can answer this question because we all have different processes for creation. Good luck!
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Couldn't agree more with the above quotes.

    For me, i started writing by simply jumping in and doing it--very badly I might add. Lots of terrible short stories over many years until one day I threw caution to the wind and started in on one very large and tremendously awful first novel.

    As for process, I never start with elaborately developed worlds. I may have the seed of a world, and then based on that, I'll find a character with a problem. Sometimes I'll have a character with a problem, and I'll build a world around them. Once I have both these things, I start developing the plot, and the three things start feeding off one another.

    Some like to world build deep and wide. Me, I world build just wide and deep enough to tell my story. I've tried building deep and wide, and most of the time I just end up forgetting most of it and making things up on the fly that are way better.

    Sometimes, an idea for a world may come to me, and I'll make lots and lots of notes about it. But what I found works best is before I start writing the story within that world, I'll read over all the notes, and then, I'll never look at them again. I tend to remember all the good stuff, and if I can't remember it, well, it probably wasn't all that good to begin with.

    But that's just the way I work. You'll have to find out what works best for you, and the only way to do that is to write and fail a whole lot.
  6. A word of advice: It doesn't matter where you start. Start anywhere that you think is close to the beginning, or don't; start at the end, if you want. If the worldbuilding part is scary, don't think big just yet. Start with something little. Just start. And write. And don't stop.

    Try to, if not write every day, open your document and look at it every day. Getting shit on the page is very manual. It gets done word by word. Lots of the words will be very dull and pedestrian. It's more like shoveling gravel than explosions of magical inspiration dust sometimes. Just do it.

    Trust your story. It will evolve, but it knows what it's supposed to be. As you write you will start to see what the story could be. You may already see that if it's lived in your head for a while. Don't get discouraged by what's on the page. Keep going. Keep on keepin' on.

    Then you will be done. It will suck. I cannot describe to you how much it will suck. You will hate it. You will not want to reread it because it's so bad. This is universal, expected, and okay. Put it in a box and seal the box. Open it again in six months to a year, or don't. You may just want to go into a new story. Either way is fine.

    Writing is just like everything else. You learn to do it by practicing. You suck at first, and then you slowly start to get better.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    In a sense I started writing without the main characters... stories for characters to populate in a D&D campaign back in grade school, heh heh. But, that is kind of a cheat.

    When it comes to epic fantasy, I’ve never started anything with a character. Ever. It’s a mish mash of story and world that begins everything, so far. An event, a piece of history, requires a certain type of character and they come into being.

    There are non-epic fantasy stories in my head which started with a certain character, I think two screenplays I wrote more or less began with a character. But either than those, story is the driver of creation. Characters will change a story, but they don’t really start it for me.
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Worldbuilding is an obsession unto itself. It can provide a setting, and suggest story ideas...but no matter how much worldbuilding you do, it'll always be lacking when it comes to the actual writing.

    Suggestion: DO NOT start with page one of your epic fantasy. Instead, look over your worldbuilding notes, pick an event, then imagine being a character at that event. Then write a short story from that characters POV.

    As to the writing itself:

    1 - Plop butt in front of computer, typewriter, or notebook.
    2 - Grunt. (some say this step is optional)
    3 - Write, and do not stop until you are AT LEAST in the middle of the second page. At this stage you are not concerned about lovely turns of phrase or grammar or any of that. You are putting out words.

    The measures of progress:

    1 - The first page - just getting started.

    2 - The first chapter. A LOT of people knock off here. Take a peek at the 'Showcase' sometime - quite a few Chapter One's, not so many Chapter two's.

    3 - Chapter three/four - call it 8000-10,000 words in. Another common quitting point. Yes, you've set things up...but there is so, so, much more to write.

    4 - The 'muddy middle' - something on the order of 35,000 - 40,000 words. The characters suck. The plot sucks. Ideas that once seemed great suck. And muddy plot holes big enough to lose an ocean liner are everywhere. Best advice - ignore all that, sit down, and write. Maybe reorganize the absolute worst stuff.

    5 - Almost there. Just a few more chapters. Just a few thousand more words. Except it seems impossible to complete. You write and write and its still...just a few thousand more words.

    Then, when your done with all that, you get to go back over it a second time to fix the literary abominations you created. Entire chapters and characters are liable to vanish. You'll need to add thousands of words to fill the plot holes. And once you go through it a second time...well, then, you go through it again (though that's usually much quicker as the major issues are fixed.)

    Much, much better to start out with short stories.
    Mel Syreth and DragonOfTheAerie like this.
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    Doing good right until the short stories ting, heh heh.

  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    A novice writer can pound out the rough draft for a 5000 word short story in a week, do some editing, and have something readable. Ten days or so, start to finish. Bonus: 'I completed something!'

    Same novice is likely to take well over a year attempting the rough draft of a 100,000 word novel. Odds are very high, due largely to inexperience, that said rough draft will die long before completion. Frustration sets in.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    I can agree and disagree with that. You can also write a hundred shorts and still abandon a novel because it’s just a different animal. Basic writing skills should improve, but, individual results will vary. They can also be used to enter the market, getting published or what have you.

    Personal opinion: The superior route for the thrill of the finish is screenwriting, and it will also teach long form structure (with much shorter word counts) and hone dialogue skills better any other writing discipline. It also does a helluva job at breaking down stories to their cleanest form.

    If I were 18 again, I would do this: I would study the hell out screenwriting and all that entails, with story, structure, and dialogue, and at the same time, I would start a novel and write the first chapter or two. Maybe even the first chapter of every POV character I expect to need. I’d stuff them into a drawer, and read them months later while still studying screenwriting. I’d rewrite those chapters over and over and over with months in between while also working out the story and subplots with the things I was learning in Screenwriting. I would also Write the Ending! If the endng doesn’t work, make it work or start something else. And I’d be studying books such as: Self-editing for Fiction Writers, and the Emotional Craft of Fiction, while throwing in some other good stuff. In screenwriting, I’d be looking at Dialogue with McKee, and Save the Cat, as well as other fun stuff. As I hone those chapters, I’d expand them toward a complete novel, all the while improving until at the end, I had a complete novel that after 6 months in the sock drawer makes me say, “that’s good.”

    Within a few years, I’d be where it took me waaayyy too long to be now, heh heh.
    Chessie2, Malik and A. E. Lowan like this.
  12. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Although I lean more towards writers learning to write novels by writing novels, and writing shorts by writing shorts, your response here holds an important truth. We can only learn by actually writing and trying out different forms/styles of the craft. As someone who has tried writing a play in the past it was the toughest thing I attempted to write, which is why I write novels instead lol.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    Oddly enough, screenwriting at UCLA was more valuable than any other writing course I ever took.

    Learning how to write better dialogue via screenplays is a no brainer... most everything is dialogue, and much of the story is told via spoken word.

    But, it's also what you could call an intensive workshop on story structure, and there really isn't a difference between the root structure of the novel and screenplay. People dress up structure with lots of names and tags, but it's all the same when you get down to it. In the script you get to see the roots, instead of getting lost in the bush. The experience will not teach you how to write a novel, but it will teach you how to write a story, and do so in a faster, more manageable format. Learning to tell a story by writing 100k word novels is a slog, 100-120 page scripts streamlines this process. A young writer might knock out 100k in a year, and have to sort through all that mess to find the issues. A script can be knocked out in a week or two, a month if slow, and story issues will stand out in such a bare bone telling.

    Oh! And people you know will be much more willing to read a bad 100 page script and tell you what's wrong, than to read a bad 100k novel and tell you what's wrong, heh heh.

    On the flip side, shorts don't really teach one how to tell a novel's story. And, screenplays have a serious mushy middle problem just like novels, shorts won't tend to have this issue to learn to overcome in the same way.

    ThinkerX and Chessie2 like this.
  14. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    I was worldbuilding and plotting long before I knew those words. As a kid I spent most of my free time making maps and creating countries, writing and drawing comics, and coming up with far-fetched worlds. I remember having an obsession over micronations as a kid and a desire to make my own, which may have been my first concrete step into worldbuilding, but the first time I actually wrote a story was around the time Skyrim came out. For whatever reason, a minor place in that world called "valtheim towers" inspired me to write a story about bandits building a veritable city on a bridge. Seeing as that was 7 years ago, I must have been 14 and the story surely was a heap of garbage, but I've never stopped writing since then. One day, I may even kick the worldbuilding fever long enough to write a book. A man can dream ;)
  15. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I've seen more than a few movies (and television episodes back when I had television) that suffered from extremely poor writing. Most recent example being the last 'Star Wars' flick - plot, logic, and character issues throughout. Entertaining, but badly flawed.

    That said, when I write, to me each scene is a sort of 'mental movie clip.' My outlines are lists of these clips. Sequence issues are my bane - individual clips often migrate from one chapter to another during the rewrites, or get 'reshot.'

    The thing with short stories is that you are writing an entire story from start to finish in far, far less time than with novels. It lets the novice author explore character and setting without getting bogged down in a larger tale.

    Confession time: Currently I have five novels in the 3rd draft stage, one undergoing a rewrite, and two more that are rough drafts. Of these, half are a mere 60-65,000 words, and would be substantially shorter (50-55,000 words) were it not for the short stories merged in with the rest - used as prologues and flashbacks. Even the longer ones just barely top 90,000 words. My more recent stories have been in the 20,000-30,000 word range, a length I find preferable - maybe a month for the first draft, and much, much quicker going with the rewrites. I find that novella length tales suit my writing style much better than novels - I can still develop good characters, explore the setting, and incorporate nifty plot twists.

    I note that many of the old line fantasy/SF pulp novels were in the 45,000 - 55,000 word range. Norton's original 'Witch World' books, the individual tomes of LeGuin's 'Earthsea,' and no few others.
  16. Malik

    Malik Archmage

    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  17. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    20-40k is more novella range these days, not shorts. In 20-40k you can put together a story. Most real shorts don’t have time to do that. I released a novella which goes with Eve of Snows a while back, which also has one of my few “shorts” in it... but! I don’t really consider it a short because it’s not intended to stand alone.

  18. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I should have been clearer: 20-40 K is novella range. Three of my last five stories have been of this length, and of the remaining two, one was 14K. I did write quite a pile of short stories, many of them to flesh out the world(s).
  19. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Sage

    How did I start writing? Well, when I was little ( pre-literate) I would draw pictures, and ask adults to write down the words to my illustrations. Then, when I could truly write for myself (fastforward a decade or so) it was mostly an extension of academic assignments. In middle and high school, I accidentally started writing novellas with things like vocabulary assignments.

    I've written some novel ideas, very sparse outlines mostly, just to get ideas out of my head. It was always a "well, if I have time, I'll come back to these ideas" type thing. Until more recently. Now, I'm *making time*, as best I can, to write.

    I've been a sci-fi, horror, mystery, and fantasy inclined person my whole life. Writing is a creative outlet for me that is totally different from my visually-creative and fabrication endeavors. Mostly, because I'm at a point in my life where writing is something small, tidy (lol) and clean/compact. I don't have what I need to do and expand the visual work I want to create... so writing has allowed me to channel my energies *somewhere*.

    As for my process... well... I'm a waypoint writer. I have characters, a loose worldbuilding that they are to occupy, and key events in the plot. After that, it's a coddiwomple. Then, lots of editing, rearranging scenes, etc. I work on thematic elements, and then go back and add more and more layers of details to my satisfaction. And, I think visually, like a movie being projected in my head. The details are so easy to imagine and recall, that I don't spend a lot of time focusing on them in the first couple of drafts.

    And, importantly, there are very few details or ideas too sacred not be revisioned or adjusted. I don't care if I spent 2 nights drafting a compelling conversation when a MUCH better idea comes along, that earlier work can get sectioned off, edited, or axed if need be.

    It's enjoyable because I'm flexible and forgiving with myself through the first drafts. I'm first and foremost, writing for myself. I'm not turning this into a homework assignment mentality. No one else may ever read it; I don't particularly worry about it being profitable or commercially publishable. Not right now, anyway. ( I always like to remind people that The Lord of the Rings would have likely been rejected by modern publishing standards, and Harry Potter was also rejected numerous times and almost not published at all. )

    So, be creative, and give yourself the freedom to fail. If you write and start to doubt your work to where you're unable to finish, that's also ok. Think of it as learning to ride a bicycle. You're going to go down --and hard-- a few times, maybe crash more than you care to admit until you get used to it. It's a strange combination of movements and thought processes that will eventually propel you forward. You still have to steer and like direction you're going, but it isn't anything to be apprehensive about.
  20. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

    The thing that really made a big difference for me was doing NaNoWriMo for the first time. I changed from writing random scenes whenever ideas struck and never having the self discipline to finish anything to spending a good 1-2 hours a day on my writing six days a week. It taught me a lot about myself as a writer, but the biggest and most beneficial lesson was simply that I was completely capable of writing a project that long if I made it a high enough priority. The flailing mess that it was also inspired my fascination for story structure and writing craft, which was another big step.

    As for my process, I'm still experimenting, so it's different with every project. I think that my natural inclinations lean towards discovery writing, but I'm currently working on an outline for the book I'm writing right now, so go figure. One thing that's been pretty consistent though is the need to write linearly. For me, the story builds as I'm writing it, and if I write a scene without knowing every piece of the context that came before it, I'll usually have to change or tweak it, if not replace it completely.

    As for where to start, people will say you have to begin with the antagonist, or with the worldbuilding, or the theme, or any number of other things, but I see writers starting in all these places and they all seem equally capable (or not capable, if your that type of person) of writing good stories, so I doubt it matters much. I usually start with a character concept, since those are the ideas of mine I find the most compelling, but you can totally start with with world building if that's what's most interesting to you.

    The one thing to keep in mind no matter where you start, though, is conflict. It exists pretty much everywhere in storytelling, and it's the glue that holds everything together. Unless your worldbuilding/characters/whatever have conflict, there won't really be any story about them to tell. So look for the conflict in everything.

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