How to start writing

Illustrative purpose only

Natasja Engholm
"The scariest moment is always just before you start."
Stephen King,  American author
The Times of Oman's Literary and Poetry contest is up and running. For those of you who want to participate, but have yet to come up with an idea and need tips for writing and structuring, we offer you a small training section running over the next couple of months. Today's article focuses on how to start with the writing process. So there you are:

Sitting in front of your computer. The paper is blank, and so is your mind. Getting anything down on that paper seems like climbing Mount Everest. You have the greatest idea since Harry Potter, so why can you not put it into words? Below, we offer you some tips on how you get through the first tough phases of the writing process.

Outline the basics
Creating a raw sketch of the content of your story will force you to create a consistent story from start to end. It will also help you in the process of thinking about your idea as a whole. That does not mean that the story cannot be changed, but if you do not stay focussed on the goal, you might end up taking unnecessary detours.
Concentrate on writing

Lock yourself in your room. Set the alarm clock for two hours and turn off your mobile phone and internet. Make sure that you are not distracted. Maybe you will start the writing process and maybe you will stare at the blank paper for all of two hours. It does not matter. Next day you repeat the process until you reach a breaking point and feel you have a good grip on the story.

Lower your standards
Most writers feel like they have to write a script worth an Oscar from start to end in one long stretch. Reality is not like that. Reality is often that you write, you delete, you write again, you go back, you edit, you correct, you delete again. You jump between paragraphs; you write down ideas as they pop up, you write down the perfect sentence for your ending before you even started the beginning. There are no rules when it comes to writing, and the end result will not be judged by anyone else, until you say it is perfect.

Write headlines
If you like a more structured approach to your writing process you can try to divide your story into little chapters. It does not necessarily have to be chapters in the finished story, but you can use headlines as a guideline for the major events in your plot.

Define the angle
The angle is roughly the story boiled down to one sentence. As a rule of thumb, you can find the angle by using this sentence: I want to tell my readers that….(here you put in your angle). And to find your arguments you can continue by saying: I want to tell this, because… (here you give your reasons for telling the story). This way you make sure that your story is clear and does not go into too many different directions. Just a side note: if you are writing poetry or a short story, your angle and arguments do not have to be as sharp as when you are writing non-fiction.

Sleep on it
And what do you do if you get stuck either in front of the blank paper or in the middle of the story? You sleep on it. Tomorrow is another story.


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