Like any endeavor, writing a work of fiction requires learning how to manage those nagging self-doubts each time you sit at a computer and think to yourself, "I can't write!"
Writers are notorious for getting stuck in their own heads which often causes them to give up. Starting a work of fiction whether it's a novel or short story is just as important as finishing it. This is part of the writer's journey! These eight tried and true steps will give you the footwork you need to write a story from start to finish.
Pre-plan your characters, plot and conflict
While many writers prefer to just jump in to pump their creative juices, it's better to have a preliminary idea of what your characters' drives and motivations and how they can create a stronger story. Don't let the outlining and research be an excuse for not writing! Remember, you can always go back to outlining and research. In fact, they might inform the story as you write.
Revise with patience
Many short story writers and novelists know that the key to finishing a story is by constantly revising. It is rare for a writer to get the story right the first time. Each round of revisions results in further clarity. Issues can come up in a revision that can pull your story in an unexpectedly different direction which can complicate the process. Stay patient. The story will eventually unfold.
Consult a Good Editor in Your Genre
Writers need the tough love of an editor in their genre to know those fatal fiction flaws that can save them valuable time from getting stuck in their own head. A good editor can also detect problems become they start taking over the story. Some editors are also writing coaches who can hold you accountable to finish your story.
Humor Your Story
All new writers start out by getting easily attached to their work, publishing goals, dreams, characters that don't want to behave and even maybe to the reactions by your family who are constantly questioning your motives. Write for writing's sake. Maybe even surprise yourself by adding a bit of humor into your story that will tickle your readers. Twist the plot unexpectedly. The learning curve may be high for you as a writer, but you don't have to take your characters seriously.
Learn to Walk Away from Your Writing
Sometimes we become too close to the story and the characters. We get stuck in our own heads. We incessantly wonder if the reader will find the story relatable and whether the characters believable. If you're one of these people, stop and just take a break from your computer so you can get a fresh perspective and build momentum.
Seek the Support of a Writing Group
Writers need the company of other writers and especially writers who have a trained ear for story. All writers can thrive when they receive constructive feedback designed to help them reach the finish line. The key is to join the right writer groups whose members have also been published in the genre of fiction.
Published writers? Well, you may not want to think about publishing your story now, but one day, you just might and it's good to know from a published fiction writer, what works best. Believe me, they are readers too, and they know.
Celebrate Your Success
Each time you finish a round of revisions or write a new chapter, get out and celebrate your success. Writing is tough! Celebrating your success can be small and inexpensive as watching a movie or treating yourself to a spa day or a family trip. Think of it as a way to come back to the writing desk rejuvenated and energized.
Study Fiction by the Masters
Stephen King once famously said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." Bottom line -- Writers must learn the art of characterization, the timing of plot, conflict build-up and to show what's at stake with the characters. The masters have been there. They know how it's done. Study from them without rushing to finish your story. Learn how to craft the kind of story you're aching to write. When you take the time, the gems of your story will begin to emerge.
So there you have it -- eight tried and tested tips to help you start and finish your work of fiction. Now, publishing? Well, that's another animal that one might argue, is even harder than the actual writing itself. Now go write!