How to start writing a story

I should know how to do this. I have started many stories and even finished a few; but I have just spent all day acting like it was my first time. Then I realised that for every new story it is a first time: a first time for that voice and those characters. And it takes me a while to get comfortable with them (or to realise that I will never be comfortable with them and that they need to be chucked in the recycling).

The way I write is not the way you are told to write on the many websites I perused today, while not writing. I need to find my narrator’s voice very early on in the process. If I don’t have it, I find it difficult to go on; often I can’t get past the first paragraph. One of the better sites I found, told me it might take 150 pages to find my voice. As someone who has never written over 40 pages, this is mind blowing.

So today I followed the advice that said to leave my conscious mind and self judgement behind and just write anything. That lasted a paragraph because I am not an out-of-body-experience writer. For me writing is playing; I need to keep my head in the game.

I have my two main characters in my mind, but cannot work out how to access their story, so I followed the advice that said to just start at any point in your story and write from there and with that I wrote 3 different starting paragraphs, none of which tickled my fancy. I am aiming to write this story in the third person, and I have always found these more difficult to write than a first person story. Nothing I had put down so far, was the right pitch.

In the end, the advice that I did find useful was surprisingly about plot. I do not consider myself a plotty kind of writer. I like character and voice; I like playing around with words and amusing myself, and I consider plot to be something that tends to progress naturally out of these things. I don’t like to look too far ahead; if I create characters that are strong enough, they tend to take the story where they want it to go, which is often a surprising place for all of us.

But, that said, when I stopped for a moment and sketched the plot in my mind, I knew where this story had to begin. Who knew that plotting could be useful, at such an early stage? It is something I generally turn to later in the process, once I have a grip on what my characters’ motives are.

So now I am a page in, a cracking pace for me, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. That has to be a good sign.

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