Writers’ Quick Start Guide

Welcome to your writing quick start guide! This page is designed to get you putting words on paper now. Like any quick start guide, this one offers a short and sweet path to setting and pursuing your individual writing goals. The idea for this guide was inspired by the number of folks I meet who are interested in writing, but don’t know where–or how–to start. Whether you used to write creative fiction and want to get back into it, or you’ve never penned a story since English class but have a great idea for a novel, this guide is designed to get you on your way!

Step 1: Test the Waters

  • 1.a. Sprints. This is where I suggest you start if you’re coming in cold. Set a timer for five, ten, or fifteen minutes, and just let yourself write. Don’t take your pen from the paper, your hands from the keyboard, or stop talking into your voice-to-text until the timer goes off. The topic doesn’t matter: journaling, sketching out a character for that novel you always wanted to write, a writing prompt, winning that argument you lost with your boss that day, WHAT you write doesn’t matter, as long as you write! Even after you get further along in your writing journey, sprints can be a great way to warmup for the day’s writing.
  • 1.b. Writing Prompts. Stuck for an idea? Try a writing prompt! Read the prompt, give yourself a minute to mull it over, then throw your timer back on, this time for thirty minutes. Again, no matter what writing technology you’re using, don’t stop until you get to the end. I particularly enjoy this list of SFF writing prompts: http://ejkwritingspot.blogspot.com/2010/09/master-list-of-my-speculative-fiction.html
  • 1.c. Naming the World by Bret Anthony Johnston. Once you feel more comfortable, this book is an excellent resource to start honing your craft. This anthology contains writing exercises collected from creative writing instructors and professors, authors, and editors. I’m already on my second copy of this book, and refer to it often when I’m playing with an idea or two.

Step 2: Sight the Buoy

  • 2.a. 20BooksTo50K® Facebook Group. There are many options available to authors these days, and this group is the number one place to find indie authors who are working to run an author business. If you want to see what it looks like to plan and manage a career as a serious indie author, I recommend you go and lurk here, and read some of the excellent resources, starting with the learning modules. Even if you haven’t yet thought of something you want to write and publish, this group can give you an idea of the goals you can shoot for.
  • 2.b. Jane Friedman. Of all the resources for authors out there on the Web, Jane Friedman’s blog and website are by far the richest, most in-depth and relevant. I also highly recommend subscribing to her newsletters, to stay on top of the latest industry news.
  • 2.c. TWT – The Writing Tribe Facebook Group. One of the best things I ever did for my writing was find the right writing group. A good writing community can help you learn, encourage you, and provide friendship and networking opportunities. I enjoy hanging out in this writing group online; perhaps you’ll find a great one local to you to get started with!
  • 2.d. Envision your brand, start your platform! When open-water swimming, you must lift your head from the water from time to time so you can look up and see where you’re going. Advising you to start thinking about your brand, and how you want to craft your author platform, may seem premature, but working on this is an excellent way to lift your head from the lake and see where you might want to go. Check out other authors’ platforms, make a vision board, decide which forms of social media you enjoy participating in, and design your website. Even before you get that first acceptance, you can still publish your thoughts–and maybe even some of those writing prompts–to start building your author platform.

Step 3: Set a SMART Goal

  • 3.a. BHAG: Big-Ass Hairy Goal. Let’s start with this one. What is your biggest, boldest, haven’t-told-anyone-about-it-because-it’s-scary-to-even-dream-it goal? Write that down. It’s your long-term goal. Put it somewhere you see it every day. Even better if you see it somewhere that reminds you to go sit down and write.
  • 3.b. What’s the next thing you want to accomplish? That’s your short-term goal.
  • 3.c. What’s in between these two things? That’s your mid-term goal.
  • 3.d. Use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, Timely) matrix to delineate the first goal. Maybe the first is, you want to write a short story (specific) of three thousand words (measurable) by sprinting fifteen minutes per day (achievable, depending on your time management skills) in the same genre as your BHAG goal (relevant) in one month (timely). Once you have achieved your goal, first – CELEBRATE! Then, see if there is another goal between this one and your mid-term goal. If so, break it out with the SMART matrix, and keep going!

Step 4: Recommended Reading

So there you have it–a quick start guide designed to get you up and writing and on your way. I hope you find it useful! And, if you find yourself working your way through your goals and wishing you had some more one-on-one instruction, check out Scribbler Coach for my coaching and editing rates.

Happy writing!