A big, heartfelt, hug to all of you fellow writers who tuned in today, right here, at Gay Authors! Welcome to a new brand new flurry of writing articles that I hope will be useful to all of you who are already massively talented in everything that you do, but are ambitious enough to still search for an added edge wherever you can find one! And also for those of you who are looking for that little 'push' that might get you started on your first project!
Honestly, I'm no expert on any of this stuff. Trust me, I make more mistakes than most, and I've probably had more failures than triumphs while trying to teach myself how to do this right. But I study my craft with a passion, I've learned my lessons well, and I've been around long enough to feel comfortable about sharing my personal experiences with you guys in a place where I can interact with my beloved peers. It has been more than 20 years now, and if something I say in these articles can inspire a few more of you to have the same kind of long lasting success that I have stumbled into (Mostly by accident, I assure you!), then I think it'll be worth it.
So, welcome back for 2021! Go out there and do it better than I did! It's awesome to talk to you again!
I'd like to kick things off with a very simple, and yet very challenging, part of the writing process. And that is, simply...getting started. If this is going to be your time to tackle that project that's been keeping you awake at night, then I hope this article will give you the much needed push towards getting in the trenches and putting things in motion. It doesn't have to be your first rodeo. You might have a bunch of completed stories out there already...but might be hesitating on your next outing. This might be good for you guys too. Every story has to start somewhere, after all.
There's a famous quote that says, "You don't have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great." And those words ring true with everything that you do in life, but even more so when it comes to doing anything creative. Ideas are wonderful! They're these amazing little sparks of inspiration that come and go at random, and they make you feel good about your particular brand of genius. It's such an amazing feeling, entertaining the thoughts in your head. They're portable, they're lightweight, and they cost you absolutely nothing to produce. So, why not enjoy them for all they're worth when they come around, right?
However, those thoughts don't mean a whole hell of a lot without the deeds and the efforts that you need to pour into them to make them a reality. Let's be honest, there is an entire internet full of people who think they have the greatest story ever told floating around in back of their minds...but most never let those ideas get any further than that. They don't type a single word. And many that DO type it out, they're too nervous to ever let anybody else read it. Well...what was the point, then? If those stories are never told and are never made available for the rest of us to read...then the writer's head is exactly where those stories stay. And you just can't take any credit for that. That story ultimately dies with you, ya know? Way it goes. And it's a loss for all of us for never having heard your voice, or the story that you had to tell. True or not true.
So...you have to constantly be asking yourself..."What am I waiting for?" Even if you're already writing another story at the moment, and have another idea in the back of your mind...same question applies. What are you waiting for? And I mean that...literally, say it in your head or even out loud to yourself if need to...but verbalize it. You never know what kind of energy you've got waiting to be unleashed until you dive into it and start writing something that other people can respond and relate to. Right?
They're not real stories until you actually commit to typing them out and letting other people read them. Pure and simple. I think that was something that I had to struggle with the most as a writer in the beginning. The idea that the hundreds, thousands, millions, of ideas in my head...were somehow being seen as a valid currency with readers who are only able to see the final product once it's finished and published on the screen for them to read. They can't see what I do behind the scenes. They don't view the stories the same way that I do. I can write and write and write, night and day, take whole notebooks full of notes, and think about a story and its characters all day long, planning and plotting and putting together what I was hoping would be one of the greatest stories that I've ever written. But, until I actually sit down and type it out on this keyboard, edit it, and then release it to the public? That story doesn't exist to them. It's still all in my head. And I had to learn to get around my own perspective by trying to see things from my readers' point of view. They can't read the story that I haven't told yet. They don't have the 'inside info' on what happens next like I do. And when I short change them or leave them on a cliffhanger for an extended period of time...I can expect some backlash for that. Fair enough. Aggravated replies, accepted. I couldn't see it for the longest time because I felt like I was writing for hours and hours every single day of my life until I was literally falling asleep at my keyboard...but I've kind of become more aware of it now, and I want to correct that problem as far as my story releases are concerned.
As I've always said in the past, the writer/reader interaction is a symbiotic relationship. We need each other to thrive. We need to trust and respect one another to have the art of writing grow and evolve the way it should. There's no other way. Readers need our creative output, and writers need their responsive input. We both have a job to do here. But that means taking the first leap of faith...and actually getting started on your story without the promise of any response at all in the end.
It sounds simple...but it really isn't.
There's a certain anxiety that comes with starting a new project. At least, for me there is. It can be a highly intimidating practice to write a brand new story from scratch. Don't pretend that you don't feel it in your gut every now and then. You WANT to get started...but there's this hesitation, right? You have to think up better names for your characters, or you have to take more notes, or you're not sure what your first sentence will be, or you think you need more time to plan, or your life is too busy at the moment. Maybe after the holidays. Maybe after the Summer break. Hell, maybe six days after the apocalypse! Hehehe! There will never be a 'right time' to write. Trust me. There will always be something else in the way. This is where your personal discipline has to come into play. And if this is your first story...it's going to take some time to build that discipline from the ground up.
When it comes to getting started on your first or on your newest story...here are five steps that I've learned to keep close to my heart and implement in my writing process after years and years of trying to get my shit together. LOTS of practice is the only way to get good at it, after all.
The first step? Get rid of the excuses. Every last one of them. Hehehe, even if you have to do it 100 times a day...just keep brushing them off of your shoulder, pick a specific time and place that you want to write...and stick to it. Make a point of making it happen! Treat it like a job interview. Don't pretend to forget about it, don't postpone it or reschedule, don't be late for the time you set for yourself. If you say that you're going to sit down and write something at 10 PM...start booting up your laptop at 9:55 and get your programs together. Don't give yourself an emergency exit that'll allow you to put it off for another day or two. Just force yourself to do it.
It will feel like some sort of bothersome chore at first, I know...but that's only in the beginning. Once you begin to make it a habit, and actually have a few paragraphs typed out, or even just a few sentences under your belt...that anxiety that you were previously experiencing will begin to melt away. And a sense of excitement will begin to build in its place. To the point where you'll be eager to get back behind that keyboard and pick up where you left off every day after work, or school, or whatever. STOP telling yourself that you don't have the time. Yes, you do. You have the same number of hours in a single day that Michael Jackson, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Bruce Lee, Bill Gates, and Beyonce, had. Hehehe, so if they can do something worthy of greatness in that amount of time...you can too.
Think of it like consuming food. Nobody says, "I'd eat dinner if only I could find the time." Trust me, when you get hungry enough...you'll find the time. It's not like, "I'm starving...but let me finish binge watching this Netflix show first!" Lame excuse! Writing is no different. When I started out, it wasn't just because I wanted to write something. It was because I HAD to write something. I was restless and bothered by just thinking about it and not making it happen. If you can find that kind of hunger for your own brilliant ideas, then writing it out is merely a formality at the end of the day. So...yeah, make the time, and get started. Make it a priority.
Second step? Get rid of the idea that you don't have a story to tell. That's ridiculous. I'm going to assume that if you're reading this article right now, you've already got ideas rolling around in your head, and you're just looking for that little nudge to get the ball rolling. If you're waiting on a vote of confidence or some kind of official permission to speak your mind, consider this your green light. Go for it. It'll be awesome. Trust me.
Everybody has a story to tell. Not some people, not a few talented people, not even MOST people. EVERYBODY! That includes you. Try this very basic exercise when you get a chance. Go through your social media accounts, or your cell phone pics, or even an old photo album at your house. Pictures are excellent at capturing a few single moments in time, but that's not the only appeal of the photos you save. Look at those old pics of yourself, even if they're just from a few weeks ago. Study them. What do you see? There's a story there. A story that you have to tell yourself to connect you with the boy/girl in the picture, right? Maybe you're holding up a fish you caught while camping as a kid, maybe you're sharing a piece of birthday cake with a friend, maybe it's you getting dressed up for your first junior high school dance, or it's you in a hospital bed with your leg in a cast. Whatever it is, you're not just looking at a two dimensional picture without meaning or context. There's a colorful story behind that particular image. There were events that led up to it, and events that followed it. You know the history behind that picture...but your readers don't. Share it with them. That, alone, is an entire story just waiting to be told...and you can beef it up or manipulate the details of that tale to say anything that you want it to say. How fun is that?
So...imagine what you would say if somebody saw a picture of you as a kid, covered in dirt and holding a muddy frog in your hands by a small pond, all while smiling for the camera. What happened there? LOL! Ask yourself the questions that someone who had never seen that picture before might ask. Why are you covered in dirt? What's with the frog? How old were you? Where were you when this happened? Think of how you would tell them that story...then write it down. You already know how. Give us a peek into your life and tell the story with whatever words you have at your disposal. Congrats, you're (technically) an author now.
Then, imagine being able to go back in time and spice things up with your own details, tweak and bend the story to make it more entertaining for an already intrigued audience, and maybe even altering the events to make yourself (the main character) the valiant hero of your own story. Embellish to your heart's content, and enjoy it. You weren't covered in dirt...it was the blood of your slaughtered enemies. And that wasn't a frog, but a baby DRAGON! Hehehe, whatever. That's all storytelling is. You do it all the time, you just don't recognize it. Even if someone asks you, "What did you do this weekend?"...you have to tell a visually descriptive 'story' in order to answer that question. Getting started on your first project isn't much different. Tell your truth. Everybody's got one...what's yours?
Step number three? ERASE your 'comparison' mentality. It will only make you paranoid, hinder your progress, and give you more excuses to stop writing in the long run. It's natural for any creative mind to be competitive and want to outdo, or at least be in league with, its peers when putting a project together. But you have to always keep in mind that you could never tell another author's story the way they told it. And they can't ever tell your story the way that you tell it. You're not on an equal playing field to clash with one another, whether you believe it or not. Don't read this person's story or that person's story and think to yourself, "I could never do that." Yes. Yes, you can. Read your favorite authors, figure out what you like and don't like about their writing, and use that as a guide for your inspiration to craft your own story and invent your own style.
When it comes to art, there is no comparison. There's always your story and theirs. That's all it is. Write from the heart. Expose your personal secrets and your deepest insecurities in your writing, then hide them behind the 'fiction'. You're being given the chance to say what most people are afraid to say in their daily lives. You have a platform to put your true emotions on display for the whole world to see, but you can do it from the safety of having it just be a story, and nothing more. Take your personal weaknesses and make them your strengths in your fiction. It will touch your readers on a much deeper level than you could ever imagine.
Step four...don't overwhelm yourself. Easier said than done, I know...but it's important to keep your expectations in check. If you try to go into writing your first story thinking that it has to be the biggest, most popular, most amazing, piece of online literature that has ever been read by human kind...you'll never write it. Don't get too far ahead of yourself. It's awesome that you're ambitious, and I applaud you for wanting to give it your all...but you have to be realistic about this sort of thing. There's a difference between being ambitious about the effort you're willing to put in, and being ambitious about how your story will be received by others after it's completed. I definitely think that you should go all out and try to make your writing as powerful and as mesmerizing as you possibly can. Strive to do your best at all times. Make that your focus. The process of creating something great is a long one, but extremely rewarding in the end. However, if you go into this constantly thinking about how much you want it to be the most engrossing classic on the entire internet within the first two weeks, where you'll be showered with praise and worship until the end of time? That can end up being more intimidating than inspiring. And, ultimately, disappointing as a result. How can you sit down at a keyboard and spill your emotions out in an honest and effective way when you're so focused on how other people will read and embrace it later? If they read and embrace it at all. How is it ever going to be good enough for a judgemental audience that you haven't even reached out to yet?
That mentality will stall and obstruct your creativity in a major way. Don't focus on what other people will think later. Totally lose yourself in the creative process instead. When your project is finished, THEN you can decide whether you want to edit certain parts of it or make it more 'reader friendly'. Until then, concentrate on what you want to say and how you want to say it. My most popular stories ever are the ones that I started writing many years ago. Unpracticed, no real discipline, no experience, no real expectations for any of them to ever be a big deal. But the heart was there. I had nothing to lose by giving it a try, and wasn't focused on having anything to gain by doing so. It's not a viral video on TikTok or Youtube. That won't happen overnight, you'll have to work for it. But that's not a deterrent. Sometimes, a raw passion for the process will take you to places that skill and popular acclaim can't. Use that. And get your story out there while it's still a special part of who you are.
And the last step? Step number five? SHARE your work! Now, this can be the scary part. I know. Trust me, I've been there and done that. And it doesn't get much easier with time. But I truly think it's a necessary part of the process, and one that will help you out in the future. Even if you don't make your stuff completely 'public' right away, where anybody can read it...find a smaller audience of readers that you can share it with so that they can give you some feedback on all of your hard work and maybe ask some questions or offer some advice. It can be an online forum, or a selected group of beta readers, or maybe just a close friend or two. But you can't just write and write and not share it with anybody and never feel like you're making any kind of real progress with it. Like I said...your story doesn't really exist unless you share it with other people. And that's something that takes trial and error and confidence. You have to build up the courage to let people see what you've done. Not just for recognition or 'fame'...but to prove to yourself that your writing can be appreciated by the people you wrote it for. That it can be validated by other writers as well. You can't be your own critic, because you're too attached to the project to be unbiased in your judgement of it. Relax your tight choke hold on the story for a few moments, and show people what you've got to offer. They may REALLY love what you've written! And, worse case scenario, they'll give you some comments and ideas that will help you to make your next story even better than the first. So, again...what are you waiting for?
I know that this last part can be frightening for many people who are bearing their souls for the first time online, and just worry about being attacked or criticized for their work. To claim that the internet is the safest place to go and avoid haters and trolls of every breed would be an outright lie. But it really is a rite of passage for anybody who wants to become a writer. Even if it's just as a hobby. You have to have faith in your talent. And the only way to have faith is to build it up, one brick at a time. The only way to do that...is to take a deep breath, puff your chest out, and go show the world what you've got.
Anyway, that's my take on getting started on writing a new story! Think about the stories that you have to tell, plot them out, and just sit down and write it. Share it with the rest of us. GayAuthors is an AMAZING place, full of talented authors and forums like this one for all of us to talk to our fellow writers and share our experiences with one another. Join up and become a part of the family.
You have a story to tell. So tell it. Get moving! ::Cracks The Whip::
Take care! And I'll seezya soon!