There’s a lot of advice people give when it comes to writing. Questions on how to structure, how to develop character and how to create a chilling atmosphere are often thrown about, for example. Being a writer, I suppose, the first bit of advice I always wanted had nothing to do with these subjects. It was how to take the first step. How do I write? A lot of people have their take on how to write, how to physically sit down and churn out the words, and while the following advice is the same, it’s how I’ve always seen things.
Whether it’s a play, a novel, a poem, a blog post, a death threat, it’s important to follow one rule to get you started: write something down. Like the title, throw up your Alphabetti Spaghetti you’ve eaten for lunch right onto the page. By that I mean just write, just start and don’t stop. It won’t always be coherent (especially if you take the throwing up literally) and it might be awful. But what I found is that it is far easier to edit something than create something. I find it easier to play with something, move it around, add and take stuff once it’s down on the page.
I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) a few years ago. People all over the world take part in writing 50,000 words in the 30 day window. It works out to about 1,700 words a day. Daunting at first but if you follow through, you end up with your very own novel! If anyone like me did it for the first time last year, chances are it’ll be shit. Utter shit. Complete bollocks. There are sure to be awful characters, bad lines, repeated events, continuity errors, spellnig errors, repeated events and bad jokes. But that’s okay. That’s good. Now you’ve got something to edit. I can’t wait to go back to my own piece (after I’ve given it some breathing room) and play with it, tighten it up, give it some polish, maybe even a German, too!
So far, for me, it has never failed. Just get it all down. Trying to write a play? Just write it. What would your character say if he walked into a room? Nothing? Fill that room with inflatable animals, now what? Whatever it takes, get your writing down. Just follow the characters, see what they do, see what comes natural. Writing poetry? How about summer berry eyes? You change it later if you don’t like it! Novels? Of course, let Arnold Blundy Bodderminerum have a vasectomy! In your death threats? Put disembowel for now, we can look up nastier things whilst we debate writing in blood or not!
Again, to sit down and press the first key onto the blank Word document takes some discipline – I don’t rely on motivation because it comes and goes – but that step is the hardest. You’ll feel better once the first few sentences pour out.
To clarify, this wasn’t originally my own idea. It’s been translated a thousand times and this is how I interpreted it: throwing up Alphabetti Spaghetti onto the page. If that makes sense for at least one person, that’d be good. That’d be good.