Developing the skill to write stories has been a huge chunk of my life. Fiction writing has helped me to find escape when facing emotionally challenging situations. It’s also enabled me to enjoy other forms of storytelling, such as writing and drawing my own comics. Making fiction may seem like a gift, but really it’s a skill that anyone can learn. I learned the basics of how to write stories when I was four, and those foundations that I learned back then still power my writing today.
Are you trying to learn how to write fiction or would like to get back into writing fiction, but don’t know where to start? Here are some lessons from my elementary school-aged self on how to get started with writing fiction, and these are things that I still find helpful today.
Write Life Events Like They are Stories
The first multi-page story I ever wrote was for my kindergarten teacher. It was a little make-shift, handwritten book about my first trip to Disney World. The story had a beginning, middle and end. By the time I was 6, I started keeping a journal, writing stories about my life.
Life events are not fiction, but writing about moments and events in your life is a good way to start understanding the structure of a fiction story. Fiction usually covers a noteworthy moment of a character’s life. There’s who they were before, what they experienced, and who they became after. The same applies to writing events about your life. And these events can be the simplest things.
Writing about a new personal experience is a good place to start. When writing, think about the following:
What were your preconceived ideas about this new thing/event?
Why did you have those expectations?
What happened as you went into this new experience?
What challenges did you face?
How did it make you feel?
Did your preconceived ideas change by the end or did they stay the same?
And most importantly, what did you learn and did it change you? If you stayed the same, why?
That there, is the basics of a story. You can find storytelling frameworks in the life you are already living.
When writing moments from your life, it’s best if you don’t fuss over grammar and write with whatever words that come to you. The more you write unedited, the more you start to hear you in your writing--your writer’s voice. If you make a mistake, just cross it out and keep going, telling the story of that moment in your life. It’s your story anyways. Write it the way you want to.
Read Fiction and Imitate What You Like
I read a lot of books when I was four. Most of them were picture books with talking animals and fairy-tales with princesses. So guess what kinds of stories I started writing? I wrote stories with talking animals and princesses. And they were illustrated, like picture books.
Think back to the stories that you’ve read and find a fictional character that appeals to you. Then either write a moment from their life or make up a character that is similar to them and write about them. Use the questions in the previous section to explore the life moment you are creating for this fictional character.
Create Your Own Library
It’s the writer’s dream to see their stories in print. For me, I get a lot of satisfaction from creating print collections of what I’ve written. When I was little, I enjoyed making handmade books out of my stories, and I still have a love for zines and handmade publications.
When I was teenager, I would spend hours flipping through my binders full of stories. I always looked forward to finishing another story so that I could add it to my personal collection. Those binders were a visual reminder of how much storytelling meant to me. I enjoyed my stories even if no one else was reading them.
Having a printed collection of stories either in a binder or stapled into little books is the most motivating thing. You can see the progress that you’ve made in your writing skills, and it creates an appetite for the future. And eventually, you will create something that can move beyond your personal bookshelf.
Finish Story and Repeat
Having the desire to fill my shelves with my own handmade books made me a prolific writer. I was always writing stories and it was rare for me to not finish what I was writing because unfinished stories cannot be added to my library. Unfinished work does not go on the shelf.
The lesson here is to write a lot and try to finish what you can. I don’t recommend slogging through a story that you hate, but if it’s just an okay story, go ahead and try to finish it up. I’ve learned the most about writing fiction from writing new stories, not rehashing and editing old stuff that I longer have any feelings for. You will learn the most if you keep writing and finishing new stories.
If you repeatedly stop after writing just the first half of your story, you will only get good at writing the first half of stories. If you repeatedly write up to the middle, your writing experience will stop at that point. But if you write stories to the end over and over again, you will learn how to write complete stories with endings.
I hope this was helpful for anyone who’s trying to get their feet wet in writing fiction. It does take a lot of work, but it is so worth it. And you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.
So any thoughts? Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear what you think!