“How do you start to write a story?”

Now there’s a question and a half. It’s something I’m asked fairly frequently and I still don’t think I have particularly helpful answer, even after writing 16 novels and countless short stories. Yes, I said, 16. Four still sit on a flashdrive and remain hidden away from the world. Those four were the beginning; my teething novels, my sandpit, and actually where the Byte Series began. Those four novels are about Cait O’Hare. If you’ve read any of my Byte books then you’ll know who she is. Setting those aside for now … How do I start a story?

Generally, I have a question and uncovering the answer requires writing. The question can be anything. Over the years I’ve answered these ones (and more): What’s the worst case scenario here? What happened to the children? Who killed the jeweler? What is the Wayward Son Protocol? What does Devil’s Breath do? What if … there’s almost always a ‘what if’. In Terrorbyte the what if was, ‘what if the initial crime conceals another crime?’.

How do I know there’s a question and what that question is? Well, that, Readers is an entirely intuitive process for me. Before I even know there is a question (and there is always a question, in fact many questions) I have usually glimpsed a partial scene. Sometimes what I see makes the question more along the lines of ‘ What the actual … is going on here?’ For example when I started writing Qubyte the scene I saw first was Ellie waking up to a call from Kurt and realizing something had happened to the Director. Straight up there’s a question, right? What happened to Director O’Hare? And that, Readers, was the first question. That question was the foundation of an entire novel. 95,000 words or thereabouts because I needed to know the answer. Pretty soon there are questions popping out of questions and words on the page. (Without those words on the page there is no story, folks. It’s that simple.)

You’ve probably seen a few posts on the ol’ social media regarding Cryptobyte and might even know that the release date is Nov 10 (which is Terrorbyte’s official 10th birthday). The question posed early on in Cryptobyte came about because of a conversation on the way home from the bookshop with THA. I can’t even remember how it started but by the time we reached home I knew more than I wanted to know about a woman and her strange hobby and that lead to a question, ‘How did the families disappear?’ and then, ‘What did the families have in common?’ and eventually, I found, ‘Why?’

Stories can start from anything but I find there is always a question or thirty that require answers. 🙂

The answer to where I start is … I answer the questions and I keep an open mind, it’s pretty rare for everything to be as it appears. And sometimes the beginning isn’t.

Where to start? Start with something that makes YOU want to know more. It doesn’t have to be the beginning, you might start in the middle and work out, or the end and work back, or maybe you’re more like me and start close to the beginning and work to the end. Pick a place. Write. Because the thing about stories is they don’t write themselves no matter how often you hear that from people. Just write the story and edit it once you have all those words out. 🙂

FYI we have a Facebook group now attached to my Facebook page. Come on over!

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