Writing. Where do you start?

I was asked a really obvious question recently. “Where do you start?”

It’s not a question I think about any more. I jump in and write.

There are a gazillion ways to start writing. But, that’s not a helpful answer.

First of all, be organized. Think through your story, create your characters and your scenes. Essentially, every story from a blog post to “War and Peace” involves a dilemma that needs to be resolved. There needs to be a reason for the story to be written.

I start by asking myself what the vast majority of readers need to know. And, then I answer the question.

Second of all, ignore the organization efforts and let the story roll. That’s what makes the story interesting.

Listen to a good storyteller. They make the words in between the question and the answer intriguing.

The simplest form of storytelling is song. We sing stories all the time. Almost every culture does.

Songs have a method. They go full circle. They repeat sections. They create experience.

And, art is math. There is an entire society devoted to the subject, the American Mathematical Society. Math is about balance. So is writing.

Get to know resources. Delve into the archives of Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle at Cultural Equity.

Listen to stories, set to music. Then imagine them without the music. Now imagine them growing longer and with more detail.

Surely you have listened to the Prairie Home Companion. You get the idea.


There are wonderful old stories like “Train Hundred And Eleven.” You don’t need a handbill to follow the characters in the story. Whoever wrote that tune makes you jump right in. “July 17, 1910…” Suddenly, you are in the train yard.


A few years ago, I came across Joel Mabus’ The Banjo Monologues. I can’t forget his story of “Cindy, Gerald and Jerald Lee.” Like the consummate storyteller, Mabus can’t resist telling a story about his story.


Find your stories. Find the balance. And, yes, jump in.