Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Beginning Your Story

#1 Don't ask me.
It took me less than half a semester to realize that an English Lit major or even a Creative Writing major and I were not going to be BFF's. Bored the crap out of me.
I can tell you nothing of the technical workings of plot structure or character development or any such thing. This used to make me feel inferior, but honestly, were the classics written by people who had studied all the technical terms we only recently created? A story is a story. And, the only training I have received in professional writing involved AP Style, Headlines, Hooks, Leads, Nut Graphs and such. There is a ginormous difference between learning to write journalistically and learning to write creatively. When it comes to my creative writing, I am self-taught. It's what I did instead of having friends.
Also, I am not professionally published and have sold only 5 books this month. So. That doesn't exactly make me the writing professional you would want to ask for advice. The only success I can claim are the few reader reviews for Filter.

#2 Ask yourself, "Does what I'm planning to write closely resemble any other popular fiction?"
 If it does, scrap it. Tell your own story. Don't be a bandwagoner. (I also make up words.) Also, don't try so hard to be original that you just don't make any sense or come across as pretentious. 

#3 Let the story tell itself.
You may have your idea in mind for what you want your story to be, but chances are (if your characters are strong enough), your story will take on a life of its own. I scrapped the original first 80 pages of Filter  because my characters were rebelling.

#4 Go in understanding you will have to rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite.
The final version of your story is sure to be vastly different than your first go at it. Accept that you will write junk as you get to know your characters and work out the kinks.

#5 Read it Out Loud
This is something I have always done because I like the sound of my own voice. And it is something they taught in my journalism classes. Reading your writing aloud helps you catch those oddball sentences that look great but sound horrible.

That's really all the advice I have. Sorry. As a child I spent a lot of time day dreaming and eventually I started writing out my day dreams, honing them until they were exactly the stories I wanted them to be. And, of course, as a very young girl (think: 10 years old) they often involved some version of me solving mysteries and brushing off the hottest guy around because I had better things to do. That's just the truth of it.

I do always start with one central character and then spin the story out from there.


  1. Love this! Good sound advice. And hey, you may have only sold 5 books this month, but I think you will be selling many more in the future. :)

  2. Angie, I just now saw this comment. You're too sweet. Thanks for the encouragement!