Saturday, November 19, 2011

First things First

Today I spent some time with an aspiring writer overwhelmed by the idea of beginning a book, let alone writing the whole thing. She considered our meeting a God moment since she'd been praying about what to do with the stories that had been rattling around in her head for years.

She'd bought the right books, even signed up for a conference aboard a cruise ship with Karen Kingsbury this coming March. But still she was overwhelmed and unsure of what to do about all those stories. We had a great time talking. I shared a few experieces along my journey to publication and did what I could to encourage her. But other than a pep talk and reassurance that she was doing what God designed her to do, she needed something concrete that would help her get that story out of her head and onto the paper.

My advice for the very first thing to do was join some online writing groups and connect with other writers. During the next few months while waiting for her cruise I suggested she get those characters out of her head and give them life of their own. Take notes, organize plot lines, sketch a few characters, and don't edit, regardless of how strong the desire to do so.

All she had ever done was think about her stories. She'd never written the first word. Sometimes the first word is the most intimidating. We've all been there. That blinking cursor mocks and the voices in our heads tell us we don't know what we're doing so why even bother. But we have to ignore the negative voices, surround ourselves with encouragers who've been where we strive to go.

Happy writing, Janet. I wish you all the success in the world.

What about everyone else? What advice would you give a fledgling writer who doesn't know where to begin? What first thing would you do first? Please share so others may grow and be encouraged in their walk?


Janalyn Voigt, author of novel books said...

I'd add that reading good fiction is the best teacher. To learn about good books being released today, she can visit great sites like ACFW's Fiction Finder: and my own Novel Books site at

Molly Noble Bull said...

Tell your friend to read my article "Openings Are Invitations," just below your article, Teresa. It gives a lot of info for beginners and advance writers.

Lillian Duncan said...

I'd tell her to write the story down in whatever way she wants just to get it finished and out of her head. The only way to become a writer is to write. She shouldn't worry about technique at this point--just write the story.

Linda Glaz said...

Write, write, write, and then never give up. If God has given you the talent and the drive, then develop it and never ever quit!

cbalmony said...

Teresa, your advice was great. Join the groups. God led me to ACFW and I have been forever grateful. While there, I saw a course recommending the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson, googled it and used that to bring my idea to life. It grew from there. The method is available for free online. However, I did go a step further and actually bought his software. For me, it was an excellent investment. That's my recommendation and I'm stickin' with it!

Teresa Slack said...

Thanks, everyone for your words of wisdom. Can you believe I didn't even think to tell her to read what she wants to write. She's a big Karen Kingsbury fan. And she bought a copy of all my books. Sigh. Hope that does her some good. Thanks again and keep that advice coming.

Suzanne said...

I call the first step a brain-dump. Just get everything that's been rattling around in the brain into the computer or out on paper. Then that's what I use as a narrative outline to guide me as I write the novel.

Beth K. Vogt said...

I'd tell her to take a deep breath and go for the fun. Is there a scene from her story that would be fun to write down? No pressure, no wondering, "Is this good or not?" Just write it down.
And then sit down and realize: I wrote something. And no grammar police showed up. No editor with an oversized red pen showed up.
Write something, enjoy it.
I'm also thinking trying something smaller than a writers cruise for a first-time conference would be good--even if it's a local ACFW group or a one day workshop. Something to dip her toe into the writing world a bit before jumping on board a cruise ship and sailing away.

Yvonne Anderson said...

She's looking at a huge investment of time and energy (and money, assuming she goes to conferences and things), and she'd better make sure it's what the Lord wants her to do.

But once she knows that, I agree with Lil, Linda, Suzanne and Beth: just get started. Don't worry about how good it is at first. She'll learn and improve as she goes. But unless she's actually writing, and doing it seriously, she's not going to accomplish anything.

Carol Hamilton said...

Excellent advice, ladies.
Janet may find it easier to pretend she's telling the story to someone. She can write it as she would say it.

Teresa Slack said...

Suzanne, love the brain dump. Helps you keep track of what's needed & what ends up being not that important. Great advice, Beth, Yvonne, & Carol. We've got to actually write something. I did tell her not to talk to her family and everyone she knows about it. Takes away our momentum if all we do is sit and talk instead of writing. Thanks to everyone. Great advice & plenty to talk about concerning writing discipline and the lack thereof.