How to write a story

Everyone has a story to tell. It may be their life story or a story that appeared in a dream or a story of things they’ve observed in every day life. A story can be non-fiction or fiction, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But not everyone tells that story. Maybe it’s because…

They don’t want to or they don’t have the time to or they don’t know how to begin or they don’t think it’s worth it or they don’t think they have anything to say.

If you don’t want to, fair enough. If you don’t have the time to write, maybe try to make time – if writing has been something that you’ve always wanted to do, wake up that hour earlier and use that time to write. If you don’t know how to begin, don’t worry, we’ll go over that in just a second. If you don’t think it’s worth it, well, you won’t know until you’ve tried. Everyone deserves to have a voice and to have their stories heard if they want it to be. If you don’t think you have anything to say, just look around you — life offers so many ideas for stories. Don’t let excuses stop you from writing that story. So, let me ask you.

Are you ready to start writing that story? Let’s begin!

Tools

Get your tools ready so that you have everything you need to write the story. Have you got a pen? or a pencil? Do you have some paper? or a laptop that’s charged up? Microsoft Word with a new document? or Notepad? If you want to write a book, then maybe using a writing software will help you, especially to organize your story and keep track of where you’re up to; I would recommend yWriter5 – a free downloadable software that I use myself.

The Concept – the story idea

Next, think about what you want to write about. I find that there are three approaches to this:

  1. Just write and see where it takes you — go with the flow — free writing.
  2. Plot, organise, plan — outlining.
  3. A little bit of both: outline the basics, then just write.

If you have ever participated in NaNoWriMo, or if you want to, a good way to meet the challenge is by following option number 3. Have a basic idea of what is going to happen in the story: beginning, middle, end and then just write and see what happens. Of course, every individual is different and different options will suit them the best, why not try all three and see which works best for you?

Here are some things to think about. Will your story be fiction or non-fiction? Are you writing a short-story, a memoir, a novel? Who are the main characters?

If you are really stuck, you can use a random idea generator – even for your character appearances and names or you could use writing prompts to practice your writing. They provide you with a starting sentence and you use your imagination to finish off the story.

Try the what if … method e.g. what if a boy was a wizard (guess what that story is).

Try combining contrasting or very different ideas e.g. vampires and humans.

Try looking around you and using the first thing you see in your story e.g. a watch.

Try thinking about the most poignant moments in your life and write about what it was like.

Try going on Google images and creating a story from the images that you see.

Try keeping an idea journal, writing down little things that could be used in a story — like the stories that appear in your dreams, write them down before you forget them.

Planning

If you’re writing a novel, or short story. Planning isn’t a bad idea. You could write a summary of what happens in each chapter of your story. Think about how many characters you want in your story, or rather, how many characters need to be in the story. What do they look like? What are they like? What do they like? Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist? Who are the side characters? Where is your story set: both time and location. Is it set in this world? or another world? If it’s another world — what are the rules of that world? Do they follow the laws of physics? Is it like the human world? What makes it different?

You could start by writing one sentence to describe your story e.g.  four children discover a world within a wardrobe. Then expand the description to a paragraph. Then expand each paragraph to a page. Try writing a synopsis of the story if that helps, or a blurb.

There are many basic plot structures too for stories: you might have heard of the three-act structure, or the four pillars of writing. I can’t fit more extensive details in this one post, but if you like a more structured approach in planning a story – research plot structure.

Conflict

Conflict is the driving force of a story. Without it, the writing is more of a description rather than a story. Conflict can be micro and/or macro; and it is found in every story. The conflict between a boy and an evil lord, the conflict between a girl and a dystopian society, the conflict between a man and his inner demons. What is the main conflict in your story?

Write

One of the hardest parts of writing a story, can actually be physically writing – although it shouldn’t be. The planning and outlining can turn into a procrastination tool that stops you from actually putting that pen to paper, or those fingers to the keyboard. If this is really the case, just type the first words that come into your head or even the first letters. Keep going for 15 minutes. Stop then read what you’ve produced.

If you are serious about writing, then realize that writing is a skill and a skill takes patience and practice. To master a skill requires dedication, and respect: meaning that you should strive to continually learn about the craft and practice it.

I know I still have a long way to go with my writing, but I’m trying. I’m writing. In this post I’ve only touched the surface of writing a story, there’s so much more to know out there. But the most important point in writing a story, is the act of writing itself. It’s easy to make excuses to put it off, but writing often, even if just 100 words a day adds up by the time you get to the end of the year: 365 x 100 = 36 500 words – the upper ends of a novella. Of course you can change this word count to whatever suits you, if you’re up for 1000 words each day, go for it: 365 x 1000 = 365, 000 words – 3 novels.

Good luck!

TLR

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2 thoughts on “How to write a story

  1. Hey, an absolutely brilliant post, it really has motivated me and I am prepared to transfer that idea from my head onto paper. Really Thank you!

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