So... You've got a story idea.
Just give up. That's what I do. No, but seriously. If you want to write a well-rounded story with great characters and a killer setting, you have to do your research and take it one step at a time.
Step 1: DO STUFF.
Take notes. Write down lines of dialogue that pop into your head. Listen to music that fits with your story (one of my personal favorites). Keep a notebook. Notes on your phone. Whatever it takes. Document it to death. Scene ideas. Timelines. You name it. Do you know your beginning? Do you know your ending? You don't have to by any means, but when you're starting it definitely helps you fill in the blanks when you're working from point A to point B.
Step 2: KEEP DOING STUFF.
Pull your story together. Write an outline or a timeline of events. Write out character descriptions. What do these people look like? What kind of movies do they like? What do you they love? What do they fear? What secrets do they have? What is your hero fighting for (or going after) and why? What are the motivations of your villain? Run through the same questions with all of your main characters. The more you know about them, the better your story will be and the easier it will be to write. Where does it take place? What's the time period? Does it take place over an afternoon or several years? Work this thing hard and you'll see great results.
Step 3: DON'T GIVE UP ON THE STUFF YOU'RE DOING.
At some point you actually have to start writing. Maybe you're not into outlines and you want to just go at it, free form. Or maybe you have a partial outline, or a detailed outline that's 20 pages long... There's no wrong way. You do what works for you. (Check the links at the bottom for some good resources that I've used in the past and worked great for me!) The key here is sticktoitiveness. Tons of people have ideas and leave it at that. Tons of people start stories they never finish. Don't be that guy. Push through that first draft.
One of the reasons I love writing comic scripts is the gratification. Screenplays and novels can be intimidating due to their length. With comics, you write one script and BOOM - you've got something finished. 22 pages go quick. Too quick sometimes. That's not to say that you don't take a similar approach with other forms. Break your novels up into chapters or your screenplays up into scenes. Chip away at them and do a little dance when you've worked your way through.
Once you've finished that first comic script or novel chapter, take a break and revel in that win. You've earned it! While it's not for everyone or every story, I'm a big fan of cliffhangers. Leave the reader wanting more and leave YOURSELF wanting more!
It's too easy to have a stopping point and take a break that lasts longer than it should. You should be just as excited to get back to your story as your reader will be when they read the final product. Same rules apply for stopping in the middle of a script. Know what the next scene will be. It makes it that much easier to jump back in after a break. You know where you left off and you know what's next. Even if you don't know the scene that follows, you'll have a great starting point and you'll be able to get back to it with some confidence and motivation to keep going. For me, writing is all about flow.
Your outline, should you choose to use one, is not the end-all-be-all. It's a guide to make sure you hit the main points of your story. IT WILL CHANGE. And that's ok - even great. The outline is a tool that I use to keep me on target when I get lost or go down a rabbit hole and find myself staring at the walls or spinning in my chair. (yeah, i do that - it's fun!)
When you find that flow and you've done your research and built your characters, I find that they tend to write themselves. Subconsciously, they speak in their own voices and you're demoted to stenographer, typing out the words that you hear. It sounds spooky, but it's a good sign. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen for you right away. Practice makes perfect in a lot of these cases (which I'll discuss more in another post). The important thing here is that you're DOING STUFF. Stuff is great. I love stuff.
You have an idea. You expand on that idea with detailed notes. Find a creative way to introduce your characters to the reader and get them into some kind of trouble. The drama of their lives is what will keep your readers engaged. If you like writing, chances are you like a good story. You've read novels and comics... you've watched movies. You're pulled in by the drama of the characters and their relationships. It doesn't matter if it's action, horror, drama... pick a genre... none of it matters if you don't care on some level and you're interested to find out what happens next.
I hope that this is a good jumping-off point for any aspiring writers looking to start their journey. Check out these links. Lots of great info there. Be patient with yourself and take it one step at a time. Most importantly, have a blast telling your story. Passion and a love for writing is what will keep you going, not fame and fortune.
How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method - by Randy Ingermanson
The Screenwriter's Bible - by David Trottier
Thanks for reading stuff!