Congratulations! You have finally taken the leap. You are in front of your monitor and keyboard/or pen and notebook, fingers poised ready to bring to the world this wonderful prose that will awaken memories, make readers sit up and be spellbound, turning each page till they hit the end and wish the book would never end.
It's the kind of story we as authors always dream we could write.
But starting the story is the hardest part. Where do you start? Which point in your life story do you pick that will be the most gripping? Do you start from birth and go linear? Do you start with the now and flashback? Or do you start with the incident that will be the central idea of the book?
There is no right or wrong way to do this. Your first draft is where I suggest that you get it all down first. If you are a beginner or even someone who has had some experience in writing, but unsure what is the best way to start, have a look at the pointers below. They may help you to structure your chapters. However, remember this is your first draft.
- Pick a starting point - It doesn't really matter where you start your manuscript. So long as the words flow, it is immaterial at this stage where you start the story. Do whatever feels comfortable and right for you. If you think it would be easier just to start at the beginning, do so. Don’t worry about structure and theme right now. The most important thing is to get the words down on the page.
- Once you have written a few pages, you will see how your thoughts are flowing. I would suggest that this is the time you set aside a blank sheet of paper or a new document and make bullet points of the things you would like to cover in your memoir. This is more like a memory trigger. This page will always be work in progress because you can add and delete points as you go along.
- Finding your voice - for beginners I would suggest that write as you speak or think. That is what comes naturally to you. Do not at this stage try to use literary devices. You can always go back and change things when you edit. Your natural voice is what your readers will enjoy most. It is also how words will flow most easily for you.
- Quality of writing - just remember this - the first draft always sucks! So don’t go too hard on yourself. Don’t keep checking and rechecking, don’t bury yourself in a thesaurus. Don’t bother doing all your research now. If there is something you are writing about that needs some authentication, mark it with an asterisk or highlighter so that you can go back to it later. Your first draft is just that - the first draft. It is where you give everything you have in you - good, bad and ugly. All the refining comes in later drafts and edits.
Remember, the first draft is for your eyes only. No one needs to ever see it but you.
Perfect prose rarely ever happens in your first draft. As Hemingway once said, ‘ the first draft of anything is shit.’ And let me illuminate you - the first draft is always going to be hard. 🙂
The trick is to sit down in front of a blank page and just write. Write whatever comes into your head. Even if it is a sack full of rubbish about pigs rears and toe rings on buffaloes. Just write.
If you are finding it particularly hard, start with describing an incident. Any incident. Anything that jumps at you. It doesn’t matter if it is totally unrelated to your story. It is just to get the ink flowing and your mind ticking. You can always cut later.
Write about the feelings you had from a certain incident. What led up to it? What was the result?
Write about your last holiday
Write about the argument you had with your partner. How did it make you feel?
Write about giving your dog a shampoo.
You get it.
Just get your fingers tapping on that keyboard or scratching on your notebook.