I have to things to say to you:
There are no short cuts.
There are no wasted hours.
So, let’s begin.
What do you need to start writing?
Well, you’re looking at these words on a phone or computer – and you could use that. But for lots of reasons, I believe it’s better to write with pen or pencil on A4/US Letter paper. At least for nothing drafts.
I’m calling them ‘nothing drafts’ rather than ‘first drafts’ because they’re not as scary as first drafts. They are just something you write, when you begin writing, and they are meant to be a mess. You really must not worry about
crossings out, second thoughts and what you might be in danger of thinking of as ‘mistakes’.
There are no mistakes. There’s just getting stuff down on paper.
Everything you write in your nothing draft is for you. You’re the only one who ever has to read it or understand it. As long as you can read back the words you’ve written, everything’s fine.
The first advice I’m going to give you is this: Double-space your writing.
Right from the beginning, only write on every other line.
Well, doing this gives you more room to put in changes and new sentences than if you write on every single line. It also gives you a feeling of making faster progress. This is a page from one of my stories –
I hope you can see where I’ve written new sentences in between the first lot of sentences. They appear in the double-space gap, because that’s what the gap is for. The page is welcoming to new stuff. It doesn’t make you feel bad for making changes. You’ll probably need to make lots of changes. Not always, but most of the time.
Next Lesson, you’ll start on a story.
For now, I’d like you to do a couple of writing exercises.
Invent a pseudonym.
On your first blank page, write down some random made-up names. Have fun with them. Make them a bit over the top. Just let your brain come up with anything. First names and surnames.
Now, from among these put together the name of a writer (not a real writer who actually exists) – make up the name of an invented writer you can write as.
For example, I once wrote something under the name ‘Alex Warden’. That was my pseudonym.
Don’t worry if you don’t like the first name you come up with. Come up with a few, then choose the one that you like.
Take as long as you need.
Before the next Lesson, I’d like you to read and re-read the story below. It probably wasn’t written by the American writer Ernest Hemingway, but is often spoken of as if it was. (Details here.)
Warning: It is very sad.
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
That’s a short story. A famous short story.
Before next time, think about these questions:
Why is *that* a short story?
What does a story need?
What can’t a story do without?
Write down four things a story needs.
If you like, you can go straight to Lesson 2.