Decide what you want to write about
Do some brainstorming to collect as many ideas as you can. Simply take a piece of paper and scribble down anything that comes into your head. Alternatively create a bubble chart (put your main idea/theme in the middle of the page and then branch out with other linked ideas around the edge) or create lists under main headings/topics.
Expand your idea
Choose one of the themes/ideas from your brainstorming session, take a new piece of paper or open a new document on your computer and scribble down anything related to your story idea. Don’t worry about the order – just let your ideas flow. When you have finished, choose which ideas you think you could include in your story. Don’t discard any ideas that now seem irrelevant – they could be useful for another story.
Who is your story for?
Knowing your audience can affect the writing style and content of your story. If you are just writing for family and friends you can probably assume a certain level of shared knowledge and experiences and your writing style can be more chatty and personal. If you want to reach a wider audience, you will need to create a more detailed picture of the settings and scenes and the characteristics of the people in your story and even add a bit of background information to put it all in context.
Create an outline
Creating an outline for your story can be useful because it helps you to organise your ideas and think about how you want your story to start and finish and how you are going to build up and develop the characters and events in your story. However, although it is useful to have it to refer to when you start writing, don’t let your outline inhibit any fresh, new ideas you may have.
Write first, edit later
Don’t waste time editing your first draft – simply pick out something from your outline (it doesn’t have to be the beginning) and write down whatever comes into your head. Don’t be tempted to change anything or take anything out at this stage. There will be plenty of time for polishing and refining your work later on.
If you are a new or inexperienced writer you may feel you should adopt a more formal style of writing but this really is not necessary. Just keep your writing natural and simple and don’t be tempted to use words and expressions that are not part of your normal vocabulary.
Less is more
Once you have completed your initial drafts be ruthless and cut anything that isn’t relevant. Make sure your sentences aren’t too long and that each paragraph has a single focus. If you find it hard to be critical of your own writing ask a friend or family member to read through your story. They don’t need to be experienced writers. All you need is someone who can tell you whether they have understood what you have written – they may even have some ideas on how you could improve or liven up your writing.