—Tom Clancy, WD
So often I hear writers (aspiring writers) rambling on about 'technique' and other shit that sounds all very clever. Seriously, just write the story. Being too clever for one's own good, is a real thing.
You can spend years pissing around with words and never getting to the place where those words tell a story, but crikey I bet they sound pretty and make ever such a nice pattern on the paper/screen.
Write the story.
In the end, the only thing that matters is the story ... not how many clever techniques you use or how many adverbs you can cram into a sentence or how awesome it is to do away with punctuation (which by the way, it is not at all awesome, it's infuriating.) or by deciding to forgo capital letters (again, don't. There's a very good reason why not: you can help your uncle jack off a horse or you can help your Uncle Jack off a horse).
Writing a story is just not that hard.
You sit down and you write.
You keep writing until those magic little words appear that say 'the end' and then you stop.
It's simply a matter of one word after another until you are done.
The question I am often asked is "How do I start?" ... I don't know how you will start YOUR novel, but I tend to start with a question in mind. That question stays with me until the end, and hopefully, by then, I can answer it.
The next most common question is 'Where do I start?" ... apparently saying 'the Beginning' is not super helpful.
I start somewhere that makes the reader want to know more. I start the story in the best possible place to allow the reader to meet my main character and get a sense of who she is and why they should care about her. It also needs to be a place that moves quickly into action or tension and the story itself.
I thought so.
Sometimes the beginning gets tweaked a lot, and sometimes it doesn't, once the story is written. Nothing is set in stone. Beginnings can change later and often do.
This is the beginning of Metabyte:
“Your phone!” Harley hollered. The opening bars of ‘Wanted dead or alive’ rang out.
“Coming,” I called back.
Something flew at me when I stepped into the living room. My fingers snatched the object from mid-air.
I swiped my finger across the bottom of the screen. “Problem?”
“Potentially,” Kurt replied. “I’ll pick you up in thirty.”
“And the problem is?”
“Two dead bodies.”
Awesome. Nothing like a bit of death to add color to the normal evening at home that stretched in front of me. My eyes rolled.
“See you soon.”
I hung up, noted the time on my phone screen. My night at home, struggling with Holly’s story idea was almost over. A little voice inside my head hollered, ‘Woo hoo!’
It originally started in a different place - this scene came later within the chapter. We just switched things around a bit.
This is the beginning of Crashbyte (the 10th Byte and my current WIP)
Morning slithered under the bathroom door, spreading across the carpet like a flood. Mitch’s breathing changed. His arm moved. I knew without looking he was checking his watch. I also knew my alarm was about to pierce the air and neither of us was ready for that.
The alarm started just as my phone rang. The combined noise rising to a crescendo before crashing over me. I grabbed the phone from the nightstand interrupting the alarm as I swept my finger across the screen.
“Good morning Henderson,” I said, hoping I sounded more awake than I felt.
“Less good more morning,” Kurt replied. His voice became background noise as Mitch threw the covers off and climbed out of bed. He leaned down and kissed me. I watched him walk across the floor to the bathroom. As he opened the door light rained down on him. His summer tan almost glowed.
“Iverson, are you hearing me?” Kurt sounded irritated.
My attention swung to the phone call.
“Sorry. Say again.”
“I need you in Rockbridge County.”
“Henderson where exactly are you?”
“Stonewall Jackson hospital, Lexington.”
I really must’ve missed everything he’d said.
- this is the original opening for Crashbyte but it may change later or not. I kinda like it so we'll see. :)
The thing here is, don't overthink it. Just write the story and sort out the fiddly stuff later. :)
You know that great idea you have for a story? Yeah, that one.
It won't write itself. At some point, you'll need to assemble those thoughts and write them. If you ever want to say you're a writer.
It's one of those pesky things in life, you can't claim to be a writer without having written.
Now, go, write.
Make words into sentences that tell a story even if it's only you who reads it.
The big thing here, the thing I want you to take away from this post ... less talk more action.
Spending four years telling people you want to write a book will not get you any closer to the end of that book.
Spending four years creating in-depth character bios complete with pictures is not writing a book.
One other thing: you should be able to tell someone what your story is about in two or three sentences. If you can't, you have bigger problems to solve than putting your bum in a chair and fingers on a keyboard.