Tips on starting a project, big or small

There are lots of different ways to write, some people sit and write without a great deal of planning, they let the story lead them, let it evolve naturally. Some do a little bit of planning, they get a rough idea what’s going to happen and then let the story tell them the rest. Others (like me) plan the hell out of a story before they write the first word.

With any project, there is a level of commitment, but for a large project you need to be motivated, resilient (to overcome challenges) and have at least some time management skills. While writing a short story is a particular skill, and while some of the skills gained when writing longer stories can be transferred to short ones, some skills can only be honed and developed by writing short stories.

I know writers who can pen novels long enough to hold open fire doors and keep you gripped from page one right through to page one thousand and one, who then struggle to write a story three thousand five hundred words long.

With that in mind, I want to share my best tips for writing projects both big and small.

Tip 1: Start small

If this is your first foray into writing I would recommend starting with a short project, maybe not even a full-blown project, try some super shorts or an exercise or two first. Practice, practice, practice makes perfect. That’s not to say small stories are easier than long ones; many writers find them a lot harder, you have to cram a lot into a very small space. But it can be less daunting to begin if you know you’re only aiming for a few thousand words if that.

Tip 2: Set yourself goals

If this is a big project, then break it down. I usually break things down chapter by chapter; this gives you little goals. You’re much more likely to see the project through and succeed if you have little victories, targets that you can reach. If you’re working on a short project, then give yourself a deadline. You’re far more likely to finish if you’ve got a deadline looming.

I always have a feeling of satisfaction when I reach a goal. Even if my goal was a chapter a week I still get the same feeling of satisfaction as I know I’ve made progress and I know when I can expect to finish the project and feel that step closer.

Tip 3: Writing communities on and off-line are awesome

People in these communities will know what you’re going through; they will understand the frustrations and the fierce joy, they will be great sounding boards for ideas, and may even read things through for you and offer opinions. I would not have been able to finish my first project if it wasn’t for the help and support of the people on the Wordcloud.

Tip 4: Persistence will be key to victory

There will be days when you don’t want to write. There will be times when you encounter a block in your plot. These may seem insurmountable at the time but if you are persistent, keep chip, chip chipping away and you’ll get there in the end.

ENJOY IT. This is the most important tip; writing is a passion if you aren’t passionate about what you’re writing how you can expect people to want to read it? Write what you love, write what you know, and enjoy yourself.

Tip 5: Make every sentence count

Regardless of whether you are writing a long or short story you need to make every word count.

Write your story the way you want in the first draft, pour the words onto the page. But then in the editing phase, you need to focus and ask yourself really, what does this sentence bring to the story? Would the story work without it? If the answer is yes, then cut it. Be brutal, the shorter and more punchy your story the more successful it will be.

Tip 6: Keep it simple

Do we need to know Frank the Butcher’s detailed back story? Does it advance your main character’s story at all? Does the main character’s trip see Frank the Butcher advance the plot? Do we even need to go into town?

If the answer is no then cut it, cut the back story, cut the town, cut Frank.

Tip 7: Research

This doesn’t involve any writing. It includes reading. You’ll want to read as many short stories as possible, read as many magazines as possible (especially if you plan on submitting to them). Learn your genre, learn the style, and see what goes in and what has (probably) been cut. See how simple these stories are, how they stay focused and direct. The more short stories you read, the more you will pick up and soon this will become second nature to you.

Bonus Tip: Have faith in yourself.

You can do this. Starting off by saying “I can’t” is admitting defeat before you’ve even begun. I’ve spent the whole of this year reading and writing short stories and not once did I say I could not do it (I might have thought it at one or two points). What I write now compared to what I was putting out at the start of the year is much better. So even if you think you can’t try anyway, you’ll soon see with practice we can all become experts of the short story.

In conclusion

In conclusion, start small and build up your stamina, set yourself goals, break the goals down so that they are realistic and reasonable. Writing communities are great sources of support and inspiration. Hang in there, persistence is key, and if you hang in there, then you will reach the end. Lastly, enjoy it, this is a fun exercise so try and keep it that way.

Believe in yourself and in what you are writing.

Those are my top tips for starting a big writing project, but I’m interested in hearing any of your tips and tricks, so please let me know!

Katie Marie wrote a Book. A big one and a couple of little ones. Check them out!


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