By Lonnie Cruse
Recently at lunch with a large group of women I was stopped in mid-bite by a lady who was asked a question about the many places she'd lived outside of the U.S. She began describing her life style while she lived in those various places. I was fascinated.
After she'd told us several interesting anecdotes about living overseas and raising a family while so far away from home, I suggested she write a book about it. If nothing else, for her four children, some of whom were too young to form memories of their own during the experiences. She said she wouldn't know where to begin. I told her to begin at the beginning, at the first paragraph. It might sound simplistic or smart-aleky, but I meant it, and someone else seconded my suggestion.
That's what it takes to write a book, simply beginning at the beginning. And that's true whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. Get the idea in your head and start writing it down. Of course, using a computer is MUCH easier than using a pen or pencil. With the computer you can buzz along, and if you think of something you should have put between chapter three and chapter four, you simply go there and begin, or copy and paste if necessary. You can move whole paragraphs or entire chapters, if need be. Where was I? Yeah, beginning at the beginning.
Sometimes we have so many ideas in our heads, we don't know how we'll get them all down. So we panic. Other times we have the beginning of an idea and if we're lucky, the ending, but no clue how we'll fill the two to three hundred empty pages in between. So we panic. The trick is to just start writing. If you are afraid of forgetting something important, jot down some reminder words on a paper and keep the paper in a safe place. Then continue writing until you get to the point where you need those reminders. If you are afraid of running out of ideas, just start writing. Chances are good the rest of the story is hidden somewhere up high in your brain, just out of reach, like a high shelf. Or like the liquid in a funnel, unable to move down through the spout until the whatever is filling said spout drops out and the stuff on top can move down. You'll be amazed at how that happens.
You've gotten a good start, ideas are falling onto the page, now what? If you need help, line up your reminder words in order to see if that brings out more. Ask yourself questions. What really happened next, if you are writing non-fiction about your own or someone else's life. If you're writing fiction, what should happen to your characters next, logically? Then write it. And keep on writing it.
What about all those mistakes you'll make? Spelling, punctuation, typos, etc? AFTER you've finished the first draft, get someone who is also a writer or who understands the basics of writing to read it for you. Someone to help catch errors, ask questions if you've left gaps, or to get you to explain/clarify a cloudy issue. Then fix the errors, fill the gaps, and clarify any cloudy areas, because your readers WILL catch any unfixed errors, won't be able to fill in gaps for themselves, and won't be able to ask you any unanswered questions, and you don't want to leave them wondering. Just don't let your critiquer talk you into changing your style of writing to her style of writing or make you change your dream. This your story, fiction or non, tell it your way, within reason.
Once it's written, make it available to your target audience either by handing it over to the family if it's just for them, or submitting it to agents and/or publishers if you want the world to read it.
Don't tell yourself you can't write. You can write. Or you can learn how. There are tons of classes, locally and online available to you. Tell your story. The world wants to read good stories. Really.