To get started on writing, you don’t need a grand vision with your world fully fleshed out and characters iconic. You only need a desire to create, to make something of your own, like that wishful feeling you get when you watch a heart-wrenching tv show or read the climax of “The Way of Kings” and say, “I want to inspire that same feeling in others.”
I’ve asked several writer friends and they all picked up their pens at different ages. Anonymous (keeping names private), for example, began her journey in third grade. She liked her school’s freewriting assignments so much that she wrote part twos and threes in her spare time, then got her first novel idea by 4th grade. She never finished it—a trend that seems commonplace (I never finished my first or second novels)—but completed a hefty chunk in her notebook that she remains proud of.
I think that’s something we all need to remember. In the end, your first novel has a high chance of remaining unfinished, so don’t be afraid to experiment and let your passion flow through. You can always edit it, anyway.
For example, I presented Abby, my sister, with a novel idea during the summer of my 7th grade that we both got super pumped about. We fed off of each other’s excitement, which propelled us for about 10,000 words before we found ourselves losing steam. The same loss of motivation made me stop writing my other incomplete novels, but I eventually learned how to push through that mental block by writing despite feeling off about my work, taking breaks, and utilizing my inspiration well. Regardless, those two experiences helped me improve dramatically, and I still remember them with fondness.
Maybe it’s wiser to kick off with short stories. I didn’t because my first exposure to writing fiction (that I can remember) was a CTY summer camp that focused on novels, and I was stuck on novels until I really began to write in 9th grade. Short stories are like fireworks. Each is different and multicolored, making it hard to get tired of them since you finish one so fast. They’re satisfying too, and the payoff—a sense of accomplishment—is smaller but also much more staggered than novels, where you usually feel best after writing a scene that brings together everything you’ve set up. I occasionally take a break from novels to work on them when I get a good idea randomly, but you can also actively brainstorm if nothing comes during a dream or while taking a shower.
Think of a theme. The one I chose a few months back was “you only live once,” but it can be more complicated than that. Now implement that theme into a premise. For me, I decided that my theme was going to be the lesson learned by the protagonist, who had problems with making decisions. I then thought back to a short story I read a while ago about a train that scared you into staying on it for years, the mysterious vehicle being the aspect of that story I loved. Therefore, I decided to do something similar but with an elevator, cutting my protagonist off from the rest of the world. Thus was born “Ascension”, which I might put on my blog sometime.
Overall, getting into the world of writing fiction is simple, but it’s also complicated. You have to find inspiration to write, especially if you’re just beginning, for why else would you start? Don’t be afraid of trying it on a whim, however. Write poems, short stories, or even novels if you feel the urge, but also connect with writers through camps or school. Having people who support and share your interest is important. Writing is a solitary activity, but it doesn’t have to be.