Writing a Story: The Beginners Guide
Picture this for a minute...
You’re mulling around in Neopia Central, browsing the shops aimlessly and thinking about how bored out of your mind you are. Suddenly, you see something that catches your eye. It could be an item, another Neopet, anything that strikes your fancy. Suddenly, without thinking, a story idea forms in your head. From what was once void, a swirling form sparks to life. You begin to get excited. You head for the nearest school supplies shop and buy a pad of paper and a pen to write down your fantastic idea before you lose it. Your aim is quite clear now. You want this story published in the Neopian Times.
As soon as you sit down, however, the spark of excitement begins to die as you stare at the blank piece of paper and furrow your brow, unable to do your idea justice in words. No way will your story be able to match those of Neopian authors who have been published numerous times with writing skills of amazing proportions. Your excitement slowly turns to doubt as your story idea seems less and less impressive, and the pen begins to slip through your fingers.
If this is you (and I bet it is), then it doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. It simply means that you don’t know where to begin. That is what I am here to help you with: The writing process, in five easy steps.
It has come to my attention that there are many more potential Neopian authors than Neopian authors. The main reason (besides a lack of grammar skills) is the confidence level of the potential authors isn’t high enough because they just can’t get their ideas down. Now we’ve all heard the whole “it’s the NT”, “only the good writers get published there” and the like. But let me tell you. I didn’t think that my first NT story would get published either, but it did. You’ll never know if you can get published if you don’t try. So what are you waiting for? Grab a pen and let’s begin!
Step 1: Prewriting
In its beginning stages, your story may seem more like a spark of an idea than one of those incredible, gripping, page turner series that you read weekly in the Neopian Times. Don’t let this discourage you. All stories start out this way.
A good skill to have is prewriting. If you know the basic path you are going to follow with your story’s plot before you begin, then you are less likely to come down with a sudden case of writer’s block. I’ve had many a great idea lost because I’ve written myself into a corner in a story where the plot is going in a completely different direction than I had planned, or it has simply stopped all together. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and there are many writers who never do any prewriting at all, but if you are a beginner with a lack of confidence, then I suggest you take the time.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Prewriting sounds like work. It sounds like something you would do for a boring school paper. But it doesn’t have to be. For me, prewriting is more like prethinking. I don’t like to write things down (mostly out of laziness), but what I do do, is watch the story in my head like a movie, and experiment with it, really know my characters and settings before I try to describe them.
Step 2: The Beginning
Then comes the hard part. The actual writing. Sometimes, though I have thought my story through ahead of time and know pretty much what I am going to say, I can’t seem to write a good beginning. I end up typing twenty first paragraphs, each as terrible as the next. This can be discouraging.
If you hit this road block, there are a few different strategies that you can use to work around your problem.
First off, there is no law that says you have to start from the beginning of a story. If you have brilliant ideas regarding the middle, but just can’t seem to write a beginning, then write the middle first and fill in the rest later. I once wrote an entire one act play that I started from the third scene. It’s possible. And it works.
Second, if you are having trouble with the beginning of a story, it probably means it is boring you as you are writing it, which means that your audience will be bored when they read it too. If you think your beginning is ugly, try adding some pizzazz to it, some exciting little scene that really helps the reader understand the story and its characters. It can be an argument between two characters (those are fun), or possibly the end of a plot that happens before the actual story kicks in, like the last day of school before summer or something of the like.
Third, you can just keep writing. If you have a bad beginning, who cares? Go back and fix it later when you are surer of yourself. The important thing is to keep writing.
Step 3: The Middle
The middle of the story is almost never a problem for me. If I know what I want to happen and I have a solid knowledge of my characters and setting, then the middle is a breeze. Frankly, if you have problems in the middle of a story, it is probably because you are not enjoying it. If you can’t wait to write some more of your story each day, if each word you write sends a chill up your spine, then your story should pretty much write itself. If you don’t feel like this, then your story probably isn’t working out the way you thought it would. Take a few steps back and do a little more prethinking/writing before you continue. Above all, keep a positive mental attitude towards your writing.
Step 4: The End
Okay, you’ve done your prewriting; you’ve written a grabbing beginning and an exciting middle to your story. Now comes the toughest part. The ending.
Think of your least favorite book on the entire planet. Think of the ending. If you think the ending of this particular book is the worst part of the book, you are probably right. Endings are hard. Maybe it’s because I write more beginnings than endings (give me a break, I don’t finish every story I start). The ending, however, is always the most important part of a story. If it doesn’t sum up the plot and put meaning into the story, then you are going to have a problem. Again, if this happens to you, take a few steps back. After writing an entire story in the wrong direction, an ending is a bad time to try to fix what you messed up. Writing an ending is like landing an airplane. If you haven’t slowed down and gotten closer to the ground, you won’t be able to land. Make sure your ending flows naturally with your story and fits in with everything else you’ve written.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
Once you’ve written your story, it is always a good idea to edit it and make it better. Just read it over a few times and tweak it. It will make your story sleeker and easier to read. (Also make sure you’re indenting paragraphs, using punctuation, etc.) And be absolutely sure your story fits within the guidelines laid out by the Neopian Times such as content and number of words. If your story doesn’t meet these guidelines, it WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED!!!!!!
Now, finally, after all that work, you’re ready to send in your story to the Neopian Times. Whether you get published or not, I hope you had fun writing! My best wishes to you, and good luck with your story!!!