On Writing: How to Start

Is there an actual process to start writing? I never know what or where to start. Do I create the characters first or make an outline? Or does it even matter?

My first, instinctive response is that the best way to start will be different for everyone. In fact, it’s often different for every story. But what I find the most powerful is thinking—and putting those thoughts on paper.  

No matter who you are, or what kind of brain you have, if you don’t write the ideas down, you’re going to forget them.  

Sometimes greatness comes at the most unexpected times.

Think—then write those thoughts down.

Remember that those thoughts don’t have to be a record-shattering or totally complete. Just get what’s in your head out so you can go back later. 

Character First or Plot First? 

Sometimes, for me, the characters have popped up in my head and I made a story for them. Other times, I’ve had a question that I crafted into a story.  The story might start in either place, but in either situation, you can follow where your idea leads you. If you don’t know the characters, start fleshing out the idea. If you’ve conjured a character, start fleshing that character out.

This works because a lot of the power in a story is in the “why.” 

  • Why are you drawn to this idea?  
  • Why do you love this character (or hate them)?  
  • Why do you want to know the answer to this question?

If you can burrow down to the why, sometimes writing the story becomes easier because you have the motivation to figure it out. 

So, no. It doesn’t matter exactly where you start.  

The important thing is just that you start

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