How to Start Writing a Story


To a creative writer, the blank page or screen is either an open invitation or an intimidating deterrent. If your eyes glaze over as you struggle to begin, before you know it the small time you've allowed yourself to start that story has come and gone. Try laying some groundwork and prodding yourself with prompts to get going and stay motivated on your writing project.

Things You'll Need

  • A germ of an idea
  • Discipline
  • Lack of criticism - protect the artist child
  • Pen and paper, typewriter, or computer
  • Outline the plot. There's a reason why your English teacher made you write outlines. They help get your thoughts organized. Jot down the basic elements of your story -- characters, setting, plot points and conclusion -- to give you an idea of where to begin. Don't worry if these elements change multiple times before the story is complete.

  • Move your pen. Write a few stream-of-consciousness pages first thing every morning, as Julia Cameron recommends in her book "The Artist's Way." Free writing without goal, purpose or judgment gets the wheels rolling and can be the first step in starting a story.

  • Identify your main character's dilemma or problem. You don't have to spell it out for your reader, but you do have to have a clear idea of it yourself.

  • Start with a scene in your head. Write it down and explore it fully/ Even if it gets edited out later, it gives you a starting place from which you can move backward or forward.

  • Open the story with a hook, a first line that draws the reader in. In some way, it contains the entire story within its few words. Look to the classics, such as Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" and Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," for ideas on crafting a first line that compels the reader to follow you on the journey.

  • Don't edit yourself as you are writing your first draft. Your words aren't hammered in steel. You wrote them -- you can change them any time you like.

Tips & Warnings

  • Set aside a time to write
  • Establish a writing routine to prepare yourself mentally
  • Writing is addictive - some believe there may be a cure in our lifetime, but I certainly hope not.

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  • "The Handbook of Creative Writing"; Steven Earnshaw; 2007
  • "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity"; Julia Cameron; 2002
  • Photo Credit Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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