The hardest part of a first draft for me – you too? – is getting started. The second hardest part is hitting a wall or being stuck. Here are eight tips for writing the first or next paragraph, page, or chapter that helps me to keep it moving.
1. What is your story?
To get started, jot down what your story is about. You need only a few words, and the notes are just for you.
Examples: Power grid goes down; counterfeit drugs; smuggling; murder and a second murder.
2. Who is your main character?
Name, age, what does he or she look like? What are their good points? Bad points?
Example: Maggie, 20’s, short, slender, dyed gray hair. Smart. Literal. Lies.
3. When and where does your story take place?
Current or future? Real or fantasy world? Urban or rural location?
4. Who is your main character going to talk to?
Give your main character someone or something to talk and react to – a dog, person, dragon, or other.
5. What happens next?
Keep the plot moving, but not necessarily in a straight line! When something bad happens, how does the main character fix it? When the main character does fix a problem, what happens to make it go wrong?
6. Make up the story as you go along.
Many people work well with an outline, but others don’t. Outline or no outline, the purpose of the first draft is to get the story out of your head. Fix the holes later.
7. When you are stuck, take a break.
Do something active or go outside. Run, plant a garden, pull weeds, play tennis, or watch birds. Take a walk and think about chickens. Or goat yoga.
8. Superstuck? Cantaloupe.
If you’re superstuck and can’t think of a word or what happens next, type a code word that wouldn’t appear in your story. I use cantaloupe. And move on. Go back days later and search for cantaloupe. You’ll either forget where you were going and fill in something else, or you’ll fill in what you were trying to think of in the first place. Either way, you win.
Your turn – What helps you get started or unstuck with writing?