General Writing and Grammar Help/Where to start?!

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Question
I want to write a novel about a fictional story but I don't know where to start. Do I just start writing without thinking only making sure the story still relates to the general idea? Do I plot and plan out everything and then start writing? (this doesn't work so well for me because I never get to the actual writing part)

I have no clue where to begin from. I have my two lead characters and the story's main conflict. When I think of writing other chapters just based of the idea, the story would be as short as a get well card. Are there any tips for getting started actually producing the idea?

Answer
Hi Jamille,

I'm very sorry for the late reply. I've been extremely busy lately. But, I wanted to make sure that I provided you with a quality answer to your question.

This is always a very tricky questions for people. Writing is definitely an art form and it takes practice. It also takes an understanding of your own personal habits and limitations, which you seem like you might have.

The first steps of a story don't always materialize the same way with every story, but the primary parts are the plot, the characters, and the message.

Some stories will start out with characters that you've developed, others will start with plots. A few will sometimes start with a general message (IE: I want to write a story about the horrors of slavery). The message is one of the most-often overlooked basic components in a story. Every story has a message, but it's not always immediately apparent. The message is usually subtle and working in the background affecting how you interperet the events that you've just read about; it provides a context and a reason.

Characters are another area where people often under-develop their stories. Your primary characters should have a very deep development. You should know everything about your characters; how did they get to where they are? What motivates them? What are their fears? What is their political and social ideology? How would they react in given situations? What do they hold dear physically, emotionally, and conceptually? Where are they going? How will they get there? You will probably know things about your character that will never make it into your book, but your character needs to be real. If your character does something that's out of character, you need to be able to explain why. Also, make sure that your characters aren't perfect. Your good guys should have flaws or even be a little bad; your bad guys should have some good traits. Your readers should be able to relate to your characters on an emotional level.

The plot is equally critical. What's the conflict? Who's the conflict? WHY is the conflict? How did the conflict start? How will the conflict resolve? You don't necessarily have to have everything planned out, but make some basic notes. I'm working on a 9-part sci-fi series that all intertwines and I have a rough outline for all of my books. Each chapter has a one or two sentence blurb that reminds me what the general premise of the chapter is. It's not set in stone and I can change it up as I go, but it's like a road map that keeps me going in the right direction. It helps prevent "writer's block". I do know several authors that don't do this, so it's by no means a "must". But you have to have some way of organizing your thoughts that make sense TO YOU. For me, many of my books and chapters have plot twists. Events that happened earlier that were seemingly insignificant play a major role later. I keep detailed notes to make sure that everything is consistent. I'm also a stickler for realism, so that helps there too.

Start by answer the basic questions I've outlined here; who, where, what, why, how, etc. and then when you feel like you know the characters and the general situation, just start writing.

I hope that helps. If you have other questions please let me know.

Kind Regards,
-Johnathan  

General Writing and Grammar Help

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Johnathan Clayborn

Expertise

I can answer a broad range of questions about both academic and creative writing. I can answer questions about APA format, research and references, essay structure and more. I am particularly helpful in the areas of character development, storyline development, etc. and I can provide authors with an array of tools to help them organize their work.

Experience

I minored in English for my Bachelor's degree. I have also written several books and I run a small publishing company (before you ask, we're not accepting submissions at this time). I have written both fiction and non-fiction books and I have been published in newspapers and written articles for major internet websites.

Organizations
Alpha Chi, Psi Chi, Kappa Delta Pi, APA

Education/Credentials
MS, Educational Psychology, BS Psychology (English minor)

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