Starting a new story is hard, whether its a short story or a full novel. After all, a story is made of a million moving pieces, all developing and coming into focus with time and hard work.

next story

How to Start Your Next Story

When you’re ready to start a new story, it’s tempting to get right to drafting. But if you take a little time to pound out some of the bigger pieces of your story first, you can make the drafting journey a lot smoother.

Here are five steps to take before starting your next story:

1. Catch a spark

You know how this starts. You get that spark. That little piece of a new idea that you know is really a story. It might just be a character’s voice, or a small piece of a plot, or even an image.

However small it is, the inspiration it holds is huge, and you’re going to make a full story out of it.

It can take months, even years, to write a complete novel. But ideas crop up all the time, especially if you’re looking for them. Spend your time with an idea you absolutely love.

2. Meet your protagonist

Before you dive into drafting, identify your story’s protagonist and take a little time to get to know her. What’s her background? What does she love? What motivates her?

Without understanding your central character, you won’t get far into your plot before running into problems.

3. Find something to fight against

Now you know your good guy, get to know your bad guy. Of course, this can be a standard villain or antagonist, or it could be something else.

For example, it could be an outside force like a malevolent government or a hurricane. Or, it could be internal to the protagonist.

But whatever it is, you should understand what it is, and what motivates your protagonist to fight against it, from the beginning.

4. Explore your setting

A good setting isn’t just a canvas for the story to be painted on. It sets the tone for the story, and can even be a  source of hurdles for the protagonist.

Some authors consider the setting to be as important as a character, or even one of the characters. So it’s worth taking an imaginary walk around town before you get to writing.

5. Identify your tentpole moments

If you’re not an outliner by nature, you’ll probably expect to discover a lot of your plot as you write. But knowing the general direction you’re headed in can help a lot.

That’s where tentpole moments come in—the big moments in your plot where something big happens, or a shift takes place. Identify these moments up front to help give your plot focus from the get-go.

Get to writing!

It’s impossible to know everything about your story before it’s written, but a strong foundation can get you off to a strong start and even save you precious drafting time. Follow these five steps for a smoother drafting process.

What does your drafting process look like? Let us know in the comments.


For this practice, pick one of these steps to explore for a new story, or one that you haven’t done yet for your work-in-progress. Take fifteen minutes and complete it now! Write it out as you think, and then share in the comments.

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

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