Writing Doesn’t Happen without a Start

Writers love to write, but they often can’t agree on how to get started–so they don’t. Instead, they spend precious time debating the best way to start writing. Here are the three main ideas they consider.

  1. Write with the audience in mind. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, you won’t know what to write.
  2. Write with the vision/goal in mind. If you don’t know why you’re writing something, you won’t know what to write.
  3. Write with the muse leading you. If you don’t let the muse lead you, you won’t know what to write.

While each of these ideas has merit, none of them is the one answer to getting started once you sit down to write. For example, fiction writers differ from nonfiction writers in audience, vision, and even in where the muse takes them.

I’ve written both fiction and nonfiction and fiction is much more difficult for me. I’m not good at creating a whole world and the people in it, then controlling what they do when. I’m much better at nonfiction writing.

In writing nonfiction, I do think about the audience and constantly ask these questions when deciding what to include and what to discard.

  • What is the reader looking for on this topic?
  • What can I offer to meet the reader’s desire for information?
  • What’s commonly known about my topic already?
  • What’s interesting/exciting about my topic?
  • What’s frustrating readers about my topic?
  • What’s boring about my topic?

One writing instructor I had once asked this question, “Who do you write for–yourself or the reader?” Since I was pursuing a career as a freelance writer at the time, I mentally responded, “The decision-maker,” meaning the editor with the power to decide to accept my query or not. The reality, however, is the decision-maker accepted articles the reader would want to read, so I focused on writing for the reader.

I read a lot of fiction for pleasure and find I most enjoy fiction that feels like it’s written for me, the reader. By that, I mean it addresses questions pertaining to how I might feel about the characters or their relationships or their conflicts. It addresses questions pertaining to my expectations on  plot twists. It even addresses timing, details, and what I visualize from the words I read.

What point am I trying to make in this post? Instead of spinning your wheels trying to figure out how to get started writing, place the seat of your pants on the seat of your chair and start writing what you would like to read. Writers are readers, so the idea should be easy to implement. If you write what you would like to read, chances are you’re also writing what your reader wants to read.

Avoid the trap of debating whether you visualize the reader, the goal, or simply let the muse lead you. The one thing each of these ideas has in common is you writing something you’d like to read yourself. But you can’t do that if you don’t get started!

Happy writing!


2 Responses to Writing Doesn’t Happen without a Start

  1. That’s good advice. Write what you’d like to read.
    In a workshop I took last fall, the facilitator told us to think about the audience only after the second or third draft.
    The first draft if to get the story down.
    Thanks for this post.

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