So what do you do when you have ideas and no practice?
We writers are pretty lucky nowadays to be living in the Age of
the Internet. There are all kinds of writing resources out there,
from advice pages to workshops to marketing info. Just for starters,
you can check out my links page. And
that's only a small sampling.
If you are so inclined, you might want to get a basic book on
story structure or plotting. Some writers think
books on writing
are totally useless, while others swear by them. Me, I have a tendency
to collect them and then put them in my shelves for moral support
(where presumably they will lend me their knowledge through a process
of osmosis), so I
am somewhere in the middle on this debate. But I do think that
particularly when you are a beginner, a book can help you avoid
some common early mistakes, such as allowing your protagonist to
wander through the story until the end, when the conflict is
resolved with little or no initiative on her part. Three books I
would recommend that I'm pretty sure are still in print are Robert
Kernen, Building Better Plots, Jack Bickham, Writing the Short
Story, and Damon Knight, Creating Short Fiction.
At first glance they may seem formulaic to you, but the point is
to use them as a guideline. Stan Schmidt's advice when trying to
get from idea to plot is good to keep in mind too:
- Start by trying to imagine the problems that would come up if your
idea were reality.
- Who will end up having these problems? Those are your characters.
- For each scene, ask yourself what is the best thing
your characters can do from their pov, and let them do it.
Another thing to keep in mind is not to make it too easy on
them. As Paul Park told us at
"If your character has a cold, give him cancer."
Once you have a story written, you could join an online writing
workshop. The two
specifically geared to speculative fiction that I participate in
fairly regularly are
the OWW workshop
and Critters. You will probably
learn as much from reviewing other people's stories as you will
from the critiques you get for your own stories.
Talking about writing and asking questions can also help.
There are several lists you can subscribe to through
Yahoo Groups, as well as a
number of newsgroups where writers hang out. But beware -- writers
like to write. The writing lists I've participated in tend to be
very high volume.
And remember, if you're like 99.9 % of the rest of us, the first
things you write are going to be crap. Learn why from the crits
you get, and make the next story better.