How many times have we all thought ‘I would love to write’ but didn’t know where to start, how to do it, or even what to do with it once we had written it?
Over the next few weeks I would like to help you to embark upon the journey of writing your first short story, novel or memoir. And with regards to what to do with it – why not enter the t4w short story competition?
As with most new projects or hobbies you will need some tools – a writing toolkit. Unfortunately this doesn’t give you an excuse to go out any buy the latest super-duper computer, but should make use of what you probably already have.
Firstly, you need that most precious of resources: time. This is sometimes the most difficult to find, but try to set aside at least 20 minutes a day. Experiment with early morning, afternoon or even night owl hours, then set yourself a timer for as long as you can spare, and write.
But what to write on?
Some people enjoy the freedom of writing long-hand with pen and paper, and this technique does have its merits – with word processing there is a much greater temptation to delete whole chunks in a fit of pique. So perhaps give long-hand a go to start with; experiment with pens, pencils, different colours and thicknesses. Also consider what you are writing on – do you like lined paper, blank, scrap bits of paper or a nice new notepad?
It is all well and good talking about writing, but we still need something to write about, which brings us onto inspiration. That elusive idea that wakes us at 4am but has disappeared by the time the alarm clock goes off. This is why you need a notepad with you at all times. Use it to write down any ideas, not always full sentences, perhaps just the name of a character, a snippet of a conversation overheard, an idea inspired by a beautiful picture in a magazine.
Aim to write three to five new ideas in your jotter each day. I write down all sorts – an interesting street name, a turn of phrase, the way someone screwed their eyes up while concentrating on talking over a problem with a friend. All these things can become the foundation of your inspiration.
So you now have your writing tools, you have found time to write and even a few inspirational ideas – but the blank piece of paper in front of you can still be daunting. So… just start writing! It could be anything – a quick synopsis of your day (writing a diary or blog is a great way of getting into the habit of writing regularly) or maybe picking one of your inspiration ideas and writing a paragraph about it. At this stage don’t worry about having a plot, storyline or characters, just concentrate on getting some words down on paper.
You will find that you have many favourite words that keep cropping up. In order to expand your vocabulary have a go at the following exercise: Write out the alphabet running down the left-hand side of the page. Against each letter write the first word that comes into your mind, then do the exercise again every day but use a different word each time. This is a great warm-up exercise to do at the beginning of your 20 minute writing slot with that daunting blank page in front of you.
The other important piece of advice is to read! And read lots. The best way to be a good writer is to read other people’s writing. This might be magazine articles, short stories, novels, autobiographies or any number of different genres. Try something new – if you usually enjoy ‘how to’ style books or chick-lit try reading one of the classics or a comedy; if you usually read lengthy crime novels or serials try some magazine short stories. Experiment with your reading.
Next time we will move on to types and styles of writing, including different genres and plots. In the mean time consider what your favourite book is, and then think why you like it so much. Is it the story, the location, the style it is written in or the characters?
Until then…happy writing!