As 2021 begins, many of us set new goals. Some of these can be academic: wanting to maintain good grades, wanting to get a certain test score, or wanting to learn something new. But New Year’s resolutions can also be personal, they force us to reflect about ourselves and grow as a person.
Wanting to write is an example of one of these goals, and an extremely personal hobby. There is no “one way” or “correct way” to write. Of course, there are things that everyone should do, such as spell things correctly or use correct grammar, but in terms of style and topic, writing gives you a lot of freedom.
It can often be hard to know how to start writing, especially when writing creatively. Sure, we can all follow the formulas for essays in our English classes. But having to craft a world and create original characters can feel very daunting. We here at Robin’s Nest want to give you some tips and ideas to get started writing the novel/short story/poem of your dreams!
There is a saying that there are two types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters are the people who outline everything and have every stage of their story planned and thought out before they write it. Pantsers, on the other hand, are the people who may not plan out everything and instead just sit down and write and see where the story takes them. In reality, though, we are all a little of each. It is useful to have some sort of plan for your story, but it is also important to develop storylines organically.
Before you begin writing your story, it may be a good idea to sit down and plan out these things:
- What genre/category is your story?
- What is the world like in which your story takes place?
- Who is the protagonist, or main character, and what do they want? Why is it important that they get what they want? What about them would make a reader root for that character?
- What is standing in the way of your protagonist that will prevent them from getting what they want? What tactics will they use to defeat their enemy (whether the “enemy” is another character, an event, or the protagonist themself)?
These are important questions to ask yourself about your story as they will ultimately help you see if you have enough ideas for a complete story.
If you’re stuck trying to figure out an idea, try to think of a story that you’ve always wanted to read but could never find. Is there something about your background that is rarely explored in literature? Is there a fantasy world from your imagination that you always wished you could live in? Is there something about yourself that is hard to say out loud, but easier to write about in fiction? These can all make compelling story ideas. And remember: there is nothing wrong with writing a fictional story that is deeply personal. If you care about your characters and your plot because you relate to them, that will be reflected to the reader. It is usually pretty easy to tell if an author truly cares about the topics they are writing about. If they do, the story can have more of an emotional impact.
Once you have a bit of a plan, it is time to start writing! It is useful to start your story chronologically, so the exposition is the first thing you write. However, here are some tips and reminders for writing your first scene:
- First lines are important. There are some classic first lines in literature that automatically connect us to a book. For example, the first line of Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous lines in literature. Don’t worry if your first line isn’t perfect at first. You can always change it.
- Don’t automatically throw your reader into the action. Give the reader some time to connect with the characters and understand the world before you start the plot.
- Show, don’t tell. This is the classic writing tip, but it’s true. It can be hard to see the difference between the two, but once you do, your writing will improve tremendously. Here’s an example of show versus tell in a conversation that explains a family tradition:
- Telling: “I have to go to our annual New Year’s Party.” I said. It has been a tradition for my entire life. Every year we would have our New Year’s Eve Party. It would always be at my mom’s house because she had a large backyard, but my dad’s family would come too.
- Showing: “I have to go to the New Year’s Party” I said.
“You still do that?” she asked, “Is it still at your mom’s?”
“Of course,” I replied, “It’s tradition.”
These tips will help you get started. And once you get started, you can just continue on with your story and write what you’ve always wanted to write!
Remember that, while there are many tips for writing, ultimately it’s up to you to write. No one else can write the story in your head. There comes a point where you have to take all of the tips and ideas from other people and just let yourself write. Don’t worry about not writing well at first, writing will get easier and you will begin to write better over time. Just write and allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.
And who knows, maybe we’ll be reading your book next!
This article was written by Ruby Barenberg, a writer for Robin’s Nest. Ruby is a current sophomore at Lubbock High School where, outside of volunteering for Robin’s Nest Tutoring, she participates in academic decathlon, math and science UIL, and Model UN. She also runs a book blog.
This article was edited by Helen Xie, an editor for Robin’s Nest. Helen is currently a sophomore at Lubbock High School and is involved in many extracurriculars in addition to volunteer work, including Model UN and Robotics.