So, in my last post, (Which was a whole month ago.  I swear I meant to post sooner) I’d hoped to get some people riled up and writing.  And hopefully, you started working on some writing. But sometimes, both for beginners and the more seasoned pros, you find yourself just staring at a blank page, wondering where to start.  And that can be where good intentions start to die.  So I figured it’d be a good idea to write a post on how to start a story when it’s just not working.


Last time, I advised to just start writing. But that that doesn’t always work.  So in case motivation is flagging, here’s my list of common issues and solutions to get you back on track.

Problem 1. Finding an idea. Sometimes, you just don’t know what to write. Luckily, there’s a lot of sources for Writing Prompts!  You can try Reddit or find a book!  Or sometimes, the best sources are just to think about your own life, or an interesting story you’ve heard.  Adding a few twists on your own life can result in something amazing.

But maybe you knew that. Maybe you went through a dozen prompts, and they all bored you. I know that I’ve been there before.  Chances are, you’re suffering from what’s known as Choice Overload.

The truth is, you could probably write a story on any number of ideas, even something as simple as dropping the soap or something wacky like time-travelling aliens fighting Hitler in a world with superpowers while God and the Devil play a game. Just about any idea can spawn a story if you’re really devoted. But now you’ve considered so many that none of them are sticking out over the others as the best. So let’s eliminate some options. Go write out a list of every single idea you have, however you prefer to get ideas.  Then get a die (if you have a twenty-sided die around, even better) or your favourite number generator.  And roll the dice! Find the prompt that matches that number.

Problem 2: Refining an idea. Now maybe you did all that and still got one that you don’t want to write. It’s too specific or not specific enough or maybe you just thought it was silly. Remember, prompts are meant to just be starting spots. Let’s think of some ways to twist the initial idea.

  • Whatever character(s) you originally pictured in the prompt, considering switching their gender(s).
  • If it was a prompt about you, picture someone diametrically opposed to you in the same situation.
  • If it’s a romantic idea, consider writing about a homosexual relationship.
  • If the prompt is about famous person, replace their name with someone else in a similar position.
  • If it’s about God or the devil, consider using a different god, like Zeus and Hades. Or maybe it’s Zeus and Lucifier! Mix and match.
  • Not all conflicts are on a grand scale.  If the prompt is about a conflict, consider scaling it down to be between children, or scaling it up to be between countries or even planets.
  • If you’re still drawing a blank, roll the die again. But since this can easily put you back into problem one, this is the last dice roll! And now there’s one more option for a twist. Consider writing a story based on both this and the last prompt.

Problem 3: Defeating Anxiety. By now, you probably have some idea, even if you don’t think it’s a good one. Well, that’s our goal for today, so don’t worry. Not every story you write will be a blockbuster. Sometimes, you just need something short that you can write in an evening and forget, just to stay in practice and clear the air so you can come back to writing masterpieces tomorrow. Maybe it’ll even come out better than you think.

Problem 3: Defeating the blank page. Alright, so hopefully now, we have an idea on what to write. But the trick is, where to start? I’m sure everyone has had the experience of writing and rewriting the first sentence a dozen times. So here’s two words to start your story.

“One Tuesday…”

Yup, that easy. You could also do “Once upon a time…” if you prefer. But this is just a quick and dirty trick. See, now that you know where the story starts, you can write out that first sentence.

“One Tuesday, Mary’s perfectly calm afternoon was destroyed by the piercing wail of a child’s cry.”

And now hopefully, you can move on to finish the rest of the story. But obviously, you don’t want every story you write to start with “One Tuesday” or “Once upon a time.” And that’s where the dirty trick comes in. Once you’ve finished your story, go back to the beginning, and erase those words.

“Mary’s perfectly calm afternoon was destroyed by the piercing wail of a child’s cry.”

Problem 4: Defeating procrastination. Weren’t you listening last time? Stop procrastinating, go write!

But seriously, I get it. Sometimes, you’re always promising it’ll be just 5 more minutes. So let’s get down to the brass tacks.

  • Do you have 30 minutes right now? Go find a timer and set it for 25 minutes.  Then just write.  Then when it’s done, you can take a 5 minute break, and maybe do it again.
  • Sometimes, life is just busy and you can’t find the chance to write. In this case, try writing it into your schedule. Wake up 30 minutes earlier, or set aside 30 minutes in the evening or at your lunch hour just devoted to you writing.
  • If you’re seriously time limited, try spending 5 minutes sometime throughout the day to write an outline first. A good outline can help you double the amount of words you’re putting out when you do get a chance to write.

And that’s it for this post!  Now go write, because writing is fun.  🙂