New story of an experienced author or first story of a new author?
Which ever way you look at it, writing a new story or a first story is daunting.
You can google “how to write a story” or “how to write a fictional story” and find a bunch of articles.
The last link looked pretty helpful. You might want to give that last link a good read 🙂
But, in general, I’ve found writing advice on how to start a story to be very…general. Ask why, study people, write something you want to read, read books in your genre, and basically just go and do it.
Basically, if you want to write a story, just go and write it, what are you waiting for? No one is going to shun you and you are your worst critic, remember that.
A lot of writing advice I’ve seen, don’t really get into the details or examples (except for that last article there by The Creative Penn. She’s pretty good).
And, it’s not because they are lazy or they just want to look legit. There is a very good reason they are being general (which not many of them actually address).
That is, there is no true method for you to write your story.
There Is No One True Method
People don’t like to admit controversial things, but I’m not afraid. And newbies need to know even if it might scare them away.
If you’re not scared that means you are in it for the challenge 🙂
You gotta understand that there IS no true method to writing your story.
Yes, there is a way to structure a story. Stories all follow a similar story-telling structure which you can learn.
Yes, there are character profiles available online for you to fill out to understand your character more.
Yes, there are topics to consider when creating a fantasy world. Lists you can find online.
Yes, there are lists of questions you should answer when crafting a magic system (here’s one I found most helpful).
But in the end, there is no one way to write a story because all stories are slightly different in their own way and writing them can involve different steps.
The only thing some experienced writer can do to give advice on how to start a new story is say how they start a new story.
I recently started a new story. So let me give me as an example on two ways you can start a new story.
How I Started A New Story
In the Case of a Retelling
1. What do I want to write now?
Because I did a retelling of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, I wanted to do one with another book in the public domain.
2. Has it been done before?
Because retelling books of Alice, Wonderland, and the Queens have been done before like heck, I wanted to see how much a retelling of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” had been done before and if so, what kinds of stories?
So I searched around for any retelling of the book.
I confirmed not many have tried to tackle it, and if they did, not many have succeeded. The only retelling that did succeed a lot was the musical “Wicked” and that’s not even a book.
3. How to be different?
You can’t write the exact same kind of story that people have seen a bazillion times. But, you can put your own spin on it and then write the exact same story.
I have my previous retelling project as an example of what it means to put my own spin on a story that’s been written or retold before.
While everyone has a new Alice or an older Alice or an equivalent Alice as the main character, I have Eryn and she doesn’t even know Alice or look like Alice for that matter.
All the characters are inspired by the original more or less. So it’s like a retelling and a spin-off, but not completely. It’s more like I’m writing a story that refers to the original.
That’s my spin: just use the original as inspiration
4. Research the Oz World
Oh my god. If you look at the Wiki pages for Oz, they are extensive. EX-TEN-SIVE!
Not only did I realize L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen books taking place in Oz, but I realized he did not organize his notes for Oz and Wikipedia was confused. L. Frank Baum was, apparently, known for tons of inconsistencies throughout his books. Many authors, after his death, tried to tie up all the loose ends.
Many of those authors did not really succeed and the story started to divert from the original too much.
Some retelling movies were made and they were creepy, weird, or both.
5. The Decision
I could try to use all fourteen books (and fail with trying to tie the loose ends like most retelling books of Oz) or, choose one book and use that as inspiration for the overall plot while using a few other Ozian characters and subplots for inspiration from other Oz books here and there to fill out the story.
I decided on the latter.
I could tell the former would be an utter fail for me. Especially because I had never even heard of the other thirteen Oz books, and there were just too many characters involved.
6. Establish the Character Equivalents and Oz Country Equivalents
Wrote down main characters, some secondaries, and some notable places in my word doc of notes.
If I won’t use Dorothy, than who? And what will be the equivalent character for the Scarecrow?
By the way, Oz, according to Baum, has four countries with the Emerald City in the middle. I will be honest with you. I didn’t like the names of the countries 😛
Sorry, Baum. I just can’t say “Munchkin Country” without sounding like “Mun Chicken Country” or “Winkie Country” and take it seriously.
7. Decide on What to Keep and What to Discard
Wrote them all down in my word doc of notes.
Apart from the fact that some time in Chapter 2 or 3 there will be a mention of Oz, I wanted to have other things that people familiar with the original would immediately recognize.
Like Toto, or the tornado taking someone to a different world, a big lion, Munchkins, or Winged Monkeys, etc.
I also wanted it to not be a complete retelling so I discarded the original plot altogether. No silver slippers or house crashing on a witch and killing her.
8. Story Outline Template
Wrote them all down in my word doc of notes.
This is where my famous Story Outline Template comes in at last.
I did do a brief one outlining to almost the end. Anything missing in details in my notes, I went back to add.
9. Start With a Compelling Scene
It’s gets me going if I start with a compelling scene.
MC struggling with a magic spell in front of her entire class.
is more compelling then
MC walking down the road with her friends or MC listening to the teacher.
10. Write the Story
I keep referring back to my notes, add or delete things when new ideas pop into my head, or even create whole new characters. My notes are extremely flexible in that sense.
Conclusion: So that was ten steps on how I wrote a new story that is a retelling. Because this is a retelling, the research for the story took a few extra steps than if it wasn’t.
In the Case of a Story that is Not a Retelling
1. What do I want to write now?
It’s important to me to enjoy what I write otherwise, I will not be able to write it at all.
So, what do I want to write about? What adventures do I want to have? What characters do I want to explore? What genres do I want to try out?
2. How to be unique?
Not “different” because I’m not comparing myself to anyone, but unique and put my own spin on it.
3. Establish Characters and a few Notable Places
Main characters, some secondaries, and some notable places, write them all down in a word doc.
4. Story Outline Template
Write it all down in a word doc.
5. Start with a Compelling Scene
6. Write the Story
Conclusion: So, it takes me about six steps to start a new story that is not a retelling.
Keep in mind the 10 steps or the 6 steps are just ways in which I start a new story. They might not even work for you. You might have to add or subtract steps, adjusting them until they work for you.
It certainly took me a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for me.
And I have failed at times.
Based on my own personal experience, I have advice for those of you who are writing a story for the first time.
Advice Based on My Experiences
How to Start Writing a Story for the First Time
0. Find and join writer’s groups
Either Facebook or join Wattpad if you don’t have Facebook.
It’s good to surround yourselves with like-minded people. You can help each other out.
1. What do I want to write about?
Don’t you have stories in your head? Don’t be afraid to write them.
2. Establish characters and some notable places
As much as you feel like. No one’s telling you to figure everything out from the get-go if you don’t want to.
3. Start with a compelling scene
Action is a good place. And dialogue. Ask yourself why this is happening and answer it through your writing.
4. Just try writing the story
Sometimes you don’t know until you try and there’s no harm in writing a story. Just write and experiment. Enjoy the experience. Have fun. Writing is fun. Enjoy yourself 🙂
So, is there a method then? It seems like I’m contradicting myself. I say there is no method to writing stories and then I give you advice.
The thing is, this advice is based on my own personal experiences meaning that it’s catered to me.
This method works for me.
Will it work for you?
Maybe and maybe not.
Keep that in mind.
In the end, once you have tried all kinds of things to see what works best for you, you will come up with a method that works for you the best.
A large portion of writing a story is editing your draft. But what does it mean to edit? How do you do that? Read this article if you want to know how to edit your story besides fixing all the grammar and spelling.
Need help establishing your fantasy species? Check out my species wiki template. Remember, write it as if you are explaining it to someone 🙂
Being a good writer also means accepting critique. Read this article to learn how to be critiqued gracefully. It’s very important if you want your story to be the best version it can be and if you want grow as a writer.