first time writer

Question: I have always been told I write well no matter what I am writing about. I would like to write a fiction book but I do not know where to start or how to get a story going. So, my question is even though I write well, what do I do to get started and do I only write about stuff I know or have experienced in my life? Thank You.

Answer: Ideally, you start with an idea for a story -- an idea that grabs you by the collar and demands to be written. It doesn't have to be based on your own experience (otherwise no one would write fantasy or science fiction) but it should be based on your own emotions and interests. You want an idea that you feel so strongly about that you are willing to spend several months if not years turning it into a finished work.

While you are waiting for such an idea to strike you, there's a lot you can do to "prime the pump" -- to prepare yourself to recognize the idea when it comes and to clear the channel so the story can come through you.

At the very least you should...

a. Read a lot. Read whatever sort of fiction you like, and read a variety. This improves your awareness of what good writing and storytelling look like.

b. Write a lot. Set aside time each week (each day if you are serious) to write. You can use writing prompts or exercises as starting places. Even if you just start with very brief stories or character sketches, writing "practice stories" helps you build your writing skills. Some of these stories may turn into publishable pieces, after a few revisions.

c. Consider taking a course in creative writing or joining a local writer's group. This can give you motivation and be a learning opportunity. An alternative is to read sites like this or go to your library and thumb through books on writing.

Best of luck.

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