By Renee Stevens
Have you thought about writing your first story, but it seems a little daunting? Don't worry, every new author has been there at one point or another. Thankfully, you're part of a great community that has plenty of authors willing to share their knowledge, and/or what they wished they'd known when they first started. Today we've got both Aditus, who is going to tell how he started out, and Graeme who is going to share a little advice on planning out your story. Hope this helps!
I can tell how I did it. I read a lot of stories and comments first, to get a feel of GA. Then I answered a prompt or two. The response was amazing and I felt motivated. Next I tried the anthologies. I think short stories are a good start for a new author, you get to know people and some of them even might offer help. Multi chapter stories need a lot of time, energy and motivation. If the author doesn't finish them, readers get disappointed and might not read another story of the same author. Another beautiful thing about GA is that people are always willing to support you. Find an editor, and/or a beta reader and all will be well.
Every writer is a new author at some point in time, so what do I know now that I wished I'd known when I started? There is a lot more than can fit into one blog entry, so I'll concentrate on one part of writing only, and that's planning.
The two best pieces of advice I received in this area are related. They are:
Know how you want the story to end. It doesn't have to be in detail, but does the boy get the boy? Does the team win the competition? Does the homophobe turn over a new leaf, or does he remain a villain to the end? Always keep in mind what's going to happen in the next chapter when you're writing the current one.
Both of these recommendations have the same purpose: to keep the writing direction focused. All too often a new author writes themselves into a corner. They want something to happen, but what they've written stops that from happening. By keeping in mind what's going to happen in the future (either the short-term future for the next chapter, or the longer-term future for the end of the story), an author is aided to keep the story moving in the direction they want. This doesn't prevent an author from writing themselves into a corner, but it helps reduce the risk. It also helps stop the where-does-the-story-go-now syndrome, where an author writes until they run out of ideas, without finishing what they started.
It's okay if you don't follow this advice, because some authors don't. There are many authors who start with a situation, and then write until the ending presents itself. Stephen King, for example, has said that he doesn't know how a story will end when he starts. However, authors that do this are usually experienced, with a full toolbox of options and techniques to allow them to progress a story to a satisfactory conclusion. That's not something that comes easily to most writers, so please at least consider having an ending in mind when you start.
It's also okay if you change your mind during the writing. While some authors will write the ending of a story first, and then write towards that ending, others will have a general concept in mind for the ending, or even multiple options with the decision as to which ending they go for not being known until closer to the ending. This happened to me with my Leopards Leap novel. Right up to the last few chapters, I didn't know exactly what was going to happen to one of the main characters. I had a number of options that I had to choose from, each with their pros and cons. That persisted right up until I had no choice but to make a decision and write up one of the options.
Another way of looking at this approach is to view the writing of a story as a journey. You start at one point and you look to where you want to go. That may lead directly to the final destination, or it may be to a significant point in the story, a bridge or a fork in the road. Once you've set your sights on that destination, you then put your head down and start walking the road towards where you want to go, looking up from time-to-time to make sure you don't lose your way. The more often you look up, the less likely you are to wander off the path...but there's nothing wrong with a short side trek to see that beautiful waterfall off to the side as long as you return to the path afterwards.
In short, know where you're going with your story. The better you understand where you want to go, both in the short-term and the long-term, the less chance you'll lose your way.
Good luck, and have fun finding your way to the ending you want!