There are three things every writer needs to get started
And you’ll be surprised to learn that the “Big Three” do not include talent, plot, good spelling habits, or even a computer. Mind you, those are definitely essentials if you want to be a successful writer, but just to get yourself writing, they actually aren’t that important.
Doesn’t that sound funny – writing without a goal of being necessarily successful at it? Sure it does, but think about it for a moment: if all you ever do is try to be successful at writing or to write the next great American novel, you’ll never get started. You’ll hear yourself coming up with all sorts of excuses for not writing because it “wouldn’t be as good as King’s next thriller,” or “no one is going to buy my book at the same level as the Potter books.” All those types of responses are programmed into our heads from Kindergarten on and they are mighty difficult to stop. They are designed to keep us safe, and we are at our safest place when we don’t ever start.
So, refocus – don’t set out to prove you are great to the world. Believe that you can be, WILL BE, successful and great, but based on the satisfaction of the person you are writing for. Based on the lessons you are about to learn. You must, therefore, write for that person.
Write for exactly one person: YOU.
This is not the time to think about whether or not an editor is going to buy what you’ve sent her. Don’t bother with pleasing your 3rd Grade English teacher. Please yourself. Focus on writing something you will enjoy reading. Start with the scene that’s been gnawing at your brain and you want to read once you’ve written it. Be kind to yourself. If you are making comparisons or trying to write for some editor out there, you’ll trip on every word. But if you’re having fun, enjoying the process, and not worried one bit about some silly outside reader, you’ll develop a habit or two that gets the work done. Sure, later you will need to revamp your plot for clarity with a general audience, or grammar check everything, or reorganize chapters to make your work sellable: but for now, the goal is to get you writing.
A Writing Ritual
Oh yes, you heard me right. A Writing Ritual. Do you start your day with coffee, the morning news, and a shower? That’s a ritual. Do you rap on the desk three times before turning on your computer? That’s a ritual too. Do you turn on your computer first thing? Yup: ritual. We thrive on our rituals because they are comfortable and repeatable. We do them unconsciously and consciously. This, oh my writing friend, is going to be a conscious decision. Design yourself a ritual. Mine? I have a writing tiara when I need extra ju-ju. Otherwise, my ritual is pouring a cup of tea, turning on my notebook, setting my favorite pen on my writing journal, and opening the current word document. I find that when I break from that routine, I have to work harder to get my mind onto the page. So – create a ritual that is easy to repeat, remember, and revamp when you see the need. Remember: nothing is written in stone. You are entirely welcome to update your rituals as necessary.
An Elevator Speech
Are you like me and drive your family nuts by constantly telling them the plot of your latest story – only it’s so complicated it takes a half hour just to set up the basic storyline? Oh, how I have been there! The best advice I ever got on the subject was to develop an “Elevator Speech:” a 30-second fast hit description. But why would you want one if you’re not at the point of selling your story – because you are in a way – you are selling it to yourself. When you create a down and dirty version of your story you will see a few distracting flaws. Distracting flaws are details that may be interesting or important to the story, but have no meaning outside your story thus you get hung up on them. They hold you up from purely writing. Plus, we really do want some cheers from our family and friends early in the process, and we will get those if we keep it all short and sweet. Fill in the following statement: My story is about ___________, who is a ____________, and needs to do __________ before __________ happens. Clean and neat. The Volcano Lady elevator speech: My story is about a Victorian lady, who is a geologist, and needs to perfect her Volcano Eruption Prediction Model before more people die in volcanic disasters she thinks can be foretold; however there are mad men who see profit in her model and want it before she can give it away to the world. Simple. Give that a try.
Remember to write for yourself before anyone else. Better still: just write.