“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison
The hardest part about writing isn’t even the beginning, it’s trying to figure out what to write about so you can begin. You need a concept, a vague idea, something intangible that you can grasp at. Finding something that is interesting enough to keep not only your attention but your readers’ is where a lot of struggle comes in. Having gone through many writing classes where there was a requirement to write something, I often found myself staring at a blank piece of paper.
It’s when I’m at my wit's end trying to think of any single idea that I could possibly latch onto and develop a story out of it, that Toni Morrison’s words always come back into my mind. I should write the story that I want to write.
Too much time has been wasted on me wondering what other people would want to read when it could have otherwise been spent on writing the story I want to spend the time reading. A perfect example of this is the “Stalking Jack the Ripper” series by Kerri Maniscalco. In an interview, she said that she wanted to read a story about a girl in Victorian England who was interested in becoming a medical examiner—so, she wrote it. She wrote four books centered around a girl and her love of the macabre and gave her cases to work while subverting every normal “standard” that a girl of her time should follow.
Then the question is, what do you like? Do you like history? Vampires? Magic? Mystical worlds? How about fantasizing about the future and what the world will be like, whether it’s advanced or apocalyptic?
Pick what subject or time period interests you.
Once you have your general setting, the next question is what you want to accomplish with your story. Do you want to challenge old ways of thinking and take a forward-thinking woman and put her in the Middle Ages? Do you want your characters to go on a quest that brings them to a different world or an alternate universe and show them a different way of perceiving things?
Like before, pick what interests you the most—what you believe would make the most sense.
From there you can think about what you want your characters to be like and what kind of journey you would like them to go on. You’ve already done the hard part—you found what you want to write about. Once you understand that, you’re able to expand and develop and have fun. You can also listen to some music to help get your ideas flowing, or even get your favorite drink (mine is a nice port wine). Either way, you’re already so much closer to your goal.
So, yes, the hardest part about writing is the writing part, but it gets a lot easier once you have some idea of what you’re going to do.