How Do I Get Started? My Version

How Do I Get Started? My Version
March 28, 2016 No Comments » For Authors, Writing Advice Nancy E Miller


istock_helpI’ve read several different professionals opinions on how to get started on a story.  The all basically boil down to ‘Just Write’.  The closest suggestion that fit my needs was using ‘The Snowflake Method’ by Randy Ingermanson buy even that sounded complicated. So I adapted his method to fit my needs. I do heartily recommend reading his book.  It is informative and it gets the point across without boring you to death.

So this is what is working for me on this current book.  First off, remember to stay loose.  Don’t overthink it.  This is not a formal outline and it will be changed around and molded as you go.  This is just the recipe, not the finished meal.

Recipe for Story Du Jour:

Gather together all the ingredients: Imagination, Creativity, and Concentration.

Write down in one sentence (it can be a long one) the general idea you have been carrying around in your head.  Just throw it down on the page.  No expectations, no grammar checking.

Now take that one sentence and expand it into five or six (okay, maybe seven) paragraphs. Keep it general…very few specifics.  That will come later.  You just want the ideas you have been carrying around down on paper.

  1. How do you see the story starting? What is the goal?  What is at stake? Inciting incident (What started the whole thing between the characters?)
  2. What is the first obstacle that really hits your characters?  Personal and/or Antagonist related.
  3. What is the second obstacle faced by your characters? How does it drive the story forward?
  4. And the third obstacle….this should be driving the tension even higher.
  5. What is the final good guy/bad guy standoff?  Who wins?
  6. How does the story tie up?  What have the characters learned?


You just created a brief informal synopsis. Don’t worry about titles and first lines yet.  You are going to use the synopsis and expand it.

Take the first sentence and write it at the top of a page.  Now list all the things underneath about characters and backstory your need to tell the reader. (Don’t worry about character sketches…you know who they are…Fill out a basic sketch later just to keep facts straight but the reader doesn’t need to know your lead character has toe fungus on his right big toe unless it pertains to the story.)  Who or what is the Antagonist?  What does your Protagonist want?

Now the second sentence…new page…sentence at top.  What is the Antagonist upset about?  What is his/hers/its goal? What is the first head to head confrontation…or event that increases the tension?  Write down things cast of characters will have to face, personal or environmental.

Third sentence/third page: Almost halfway through the book.  What should the reader already know?  Go back and fill in on the prior two pages.  Now determine where the characters are going and what the next confrontation/crisis will be and how to lead up to it. What will build the tension? Have there been set backs?

Fourth sentence/fourth sentence:  This part should be about building the tension. Self-doubt?  Injuries?  What will move the story forward, give your characters human foibles, and what is your antagonist up to?  There can be smaller obstacles addressed as you go along on all the pages.  Personal issues?  I usually have a concurrent personal plot line running along with the general plot line.

Fifth page/sentence:  It all comes together in a Clash of the Antagonist and Protagonist.  This is where they fail or succeed.  What is your climax?  Remember, this is just a loose idea you will add to later.  An idea page.  It can be changed.  You might not even know yet how they will get to the end but you should know what the ending will be.  Who wins?

Sixth page: This is the shortest part of the story…the wrap-up.  Who is still alive? What did they learn? How do they feel?  Is it Happily Ever After or does the protagonist have yet more to learn about himself in the future?

So there it is.  If you want to turn it into a formal outline, you can. Character sketches? Sure.  Plot twists? Bring ‘em on!  If you just want to jump in and start writing, be my guest.  Go back and add to your pages as needed.  That will help to keep facts and continuity straight.  These pages are your memory.

There you have it.

Good luck. I hope it helps. From now on I intend on sending a link to this with each question I get about How Do I Start?



Nancy E Miller Nancy E. Miller, romantic suspense author of Shark Bait and Crystal Unicorns, lives near St. Louis with her husband and three dogs, pygmy goats, chickens and a cranky rooster named Ketchup. Her degree is in Psychology and Sociology. She has worked in education and mental health as a case manager and crisis counselor.

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