Writers Guild tip: Writing your own story

Enthusiastic storyteller writes

Enthusiastic storyteller writes

Jan Marx

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu

How many times have you said you should write down a story from your life but never have? Would you like to give your grandchildren a legacy of the true you? Are you interested in writing a novel? How do you begin? This is where the “single step” comes in.

Actually, if the above questions apply to you, you’ve already begun writing, but it’s still stuck in your head. We call that “percolating.” At some point if you’re really serious you need to quit brewing your ideas and pour them out on paper or computer before they become stale.

The following steps will help you begin:

1. Decide you’ve percolated enough; time to act!

2. On paper brainstorm your history, i.e. write words like work, college, military and travel; or build a timeline.

3. Choose one of the above topics and narrow it down to a specific incident or short time period, i.e. work: “1960 summer harvest,” or youth: “playing piccolo for the President.”

4. Your first sentence can begin with anything: a question, a quote, or even “I.” It doesn’t matter because it’s your story and no one should grade you on how you write it. Even if not all the sentences flow well, don’t worry. In the electronic age you can edit them later. It’s important you write them down. You can begin with an outline if that helps.

5. Make what you write interesting. Use dialogue, paint pictures with words and avoid too much detail. Readers today want information in “sound bites.”

6. Find other like-minded writers and form a group. Read to each other and critique—not the ideas but for clarity.

7. “Publish” your memories and include photos when available.

8. Give as a gift.

Next month: Another writing tip and information on our paperback books.