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How to Get Started With Your Writing Project

Pick up the pen...let's get started!

We all have a story to tell. We may not all be William Shakespeare or Stephen King, but we can all write. Every author leans on a team of editors (covered in our April posting) to sharpen our thoughts into interesting and inspiring prose. But so many people never even pick up the pen (or keyboard). This month's Write On! post will help you get started by addressing the most common questions aspiring writers have:

  • Why write?

  • What to write?

  • How to write?

  • When to write?

  • Where to write?

  • Who to write to?

In the January Write On! post, we covered common writing themes which will pop up throughout our year of writing. To get started, we will especially lean on the themes of Purpose, Passion, Real Expectations, and Target Audience. You may want to quickly scan January's posting for more details on each.

Why Write?

Many of you have been drawn to writing. Perhaps you feel you have a story to tell? Do you read a lot and it sparks ideas in your head? Maybe you've enjoyed journaling or jotting down short stories? Perhaps you were on the school newspaper in high school and want to rekindle that sense of creativity and pride? Or maybe you feel you can help people by sharing your own experiences and ideas?

People write for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes the motivation is more entrepreneurial, and that is quite okay. Many will write to generate money or as a calling card for their business. Their book may provide credibility for their company or a roadmap for their clients.

However, even if you are writing with money and business in mind, explore the passion. Writing is typically a very solitary and drawn-out process. Most writers don't finish projects because they don't know their purpose AND passion. What is yours?

What to Write?

So you want to write. You understand your "Why" and it's motivating you to get started, but perhaps you don't really know exactly what to write. Some have a story in their head or a business they are trying to promote, but oftentimes people have many ideas swirling around in their heads. How do you decide what to write?

Jot down all the ideas that you've thought about. Maybe it's a memoir or nonfiction book about something you know or are curious about. Maybe it's a sci-fi adventure or a fictional story that sprouted from your own daydreaming or life experiences. Write them all down. You may eventually write about all of them, but many writers get stuck trying to figure out which ONE to get started on. Look at the list. Which one(s) do you focus on most? Which seems more exciting or interesting to you now?

Oftentimes we write about stories or genres that we read about. It makes sense because it provides us with a bit of grounding and a reference point. So which ideas fit that mold?

If you are down to a few ideas, write a couple of pages of each. I like to write a "Letter to the Reader' about why I want to write about that topic, what I hope to accomplish, and what are key points or storylines to explore. But you may wish to just write part of the story for each of your few shortlist ideas. These pages may never be part of your book, but this exercise will help you flush out your ideas and more importantly help you discover which you have more energy and passion for now. Keep the others on your list for later.

How to Write - Plotter or Pantser?

You may opt to develop a bit of an outline for your story or nonfiction book. As a very structured person, I definitely do this before I get started. People that rely on that structure are often called "plotters" while those that just write without an outline are "pantsers" - they write from the seat of their pants. Either style is fine. If you tend to be more organized and find you NEED that organization in your life, you're likely a plotter so go with that. Brainstorm the arc of the story or the structure of the business or self-help topic you are going to write about. However, whether pantser or plotter, give yourself the flexibili