Each writer has his own style; not all writers can write the suspenseful horror of Steven King, or the heartbreaking romances of Amanda Quick. No two writers are the same; if given the exact same basic storyline, two authors would maybe write the same story but wouldn't write it the same way word for word. Each would add his or her own twist, different characters or character interactions. The idea would be the same, but it would be two different renditions. And if you were to read both and like one but not the other, you would like that author's writing.
Not all writers are good writers, just as not all home builders can build houses right. However, how good a writer seems depends on just who it is that is reading the book. For example, I personally enjoy books such as Dennis McKiernan's Mithgar books or Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. I don't, however, enjoy any hard core science fiction books such as any Isaac Asimov, David Brin, or anything cyberpunk (with a few rare exceptions, Otherland being a prime example).
The following are tips I've either learned or have been taught that help motivate me to write. If you would like more information than is provided here or more help in motivation, I urge you to check out my Links page. There are many sites on there that are ideal for new people to check out or submit work to be critiqued. A favorite is the Local Writer's Workshop, but there are many more.
How do I begin?
How do I choose a storyline?
I have a motivational problem; can you help?
How do I make my characters seem deeper and more meaningful?
How do I write?
What's a Fanzine?
What's an E-Zine?
There is no way for me to tell you to choose your own story. It is your story, your creation, and all I can tell you is to use your own imagination. Choosing the storyline is the easiest part of the whole writing process; it only gets difficult if you make it that way.
Here's one way to choose a storyline: sit down, grab a pen and paper, and write down things that you like. They can be dragons, wolves, knights, castles, colors, certain authors, worlds; anything that you can think of. Write them down, then look at your list. If, for example, you have a combination like "Castle, dragon, princess, chivalry, medieval", perhaps you should write something having to do with a knight saving a princess from a dragon; if you like dragons, perhaps make it a dragon saving a princess from a knight! Or if you have "wolf, black, werewolf, vampire, magic, undead" write something about a vampire and a werewolf going head to head with armies of undead wolves. The possibilities are endless!
The first thing any author should first do is think of a plotline. You can keep it simple in the beginning if you want; your first idea could simply be that your book will be a quest book, or a dragon book, or simply even a boy-meets-girl thought. But the beginning is for you to just think about the book. If your story happens in an imaginary world, start creating that world; think of traditions, draw maps, make languages, etc. Another good thing I've found to do is make biographies of your main characters containing their attributes, backgrounds, personalities, and whatever else you might think is important. These you can keep simple as well; they will probably evolve more as you write the story.
A handy tool for a writer is the journal. A composition book, a notepad, or just some papers stapled together can be a writer's best friend. I myself have two such things: one is a larger book that I put down my character bios, possible scenerios for the story, and places in my world, and the other is a smaller booklet I carry around all the time that I can whip out if an idea comes to me suddenly when I'm far away from my bigger journal. When I get home then I either transfer it to my other ideas or start writing the chapter I thought of. Another useful idea a writer might like to start making is an outline. Some authors make very detailed outlines, dictating exactly what is going to happen in the story to what character and when, but most authors opt to write out a basic outline instead. An outline gives you an overview as to how to line up the events in a story; you write the events in the order you want them to happen. Here is an example of a simple outline. An outline like this gives you room for flexability, and room to let your character do what they want.
Once you've figured out the basics of your story, WRITE! One of the most detrimental aspects of a creative mind's ideas is the act of NOT writing. Many people have absolutely lovely ideas in their head about worlds or people or adventures, yet they never get around to putting them onto paper. Don't let this happen to you! As soon as you can, and as much as you can, get onto your computer and begin typing the story; grab a pencil and paper and begin to write your story. And don't stop!
It's sad when people who have such creative ideas and talents inside their minds don't get up the nerve or the gumption to put that creativity down onto paper. There is no better motivator than onesself, and if you lack motivation you won't be going anywhere. There is, however, a temporary answer for this problem: other people. Reading the writings of people you know, or can correspond with, is one way. I myself find that I feel more in the mood of writing when I have someone critique, or edit, something I've written; their insights make me see what I made a mistake in; I go to correct it and generally end up writing even more! One of the best places online that I have found this to be true is at The Writer's Loft (a link on my Links page). The people here are friendly, helpful, and give great advice. If you read their works, you might be motivated by them alone! I urge you to check out places like this, where you can get help from others like you.
Characters are what you make of them; in books there are always characters that are just there or that serve only as someone with one line. These characters you don't have to worry too much about, although you can play around with them. However, with your main characters, it is a different story. Characters that you plan on devoting a large part of the story on need to be much deeper, much more well known, than those characters who are just there for a simple scene. For some this is easy, but for those who haven't lived in the world this can be a difficult obstacle to overcome.
Take, for example, your typical hero. His name is Roland, he's big, muscular, brown hair, blue eyes, carries a sword and wears a loincloth. Okay, you just said who and what your character is; but at this point, who cares? There are many barbarians that fit this discription; what distinguishes your character from the rest of the men in the army? Instead of just giving appearances, give the heart of your character to your readers: don't say Roland's hair is brown, say "it's the color of tilled soil." Don't say he carries a sword, say "he carries Runesword, an heirloom passed down through generations of his family that holds mysterious powers." And don't just call his eyes blue; make a metaphor instead: "As blue the sky was when first created, so were Roland's eyes." See the difference?
Another way to make them deeper is to give them family histories. Sometimes this is tricky to the new writer; many people try to give a character's whole life on one page, and leave nothing for their reader to discover later. Intersperse your character's life history throughout the book; reveal how his parents died as he is talking to a war friend; give the audience a window into his earlier torment at the hands of the enemy through a flashback. Be subtle with your revelations; when they are telling their life's story you may tell everything, but try to use images sporatically to convey feeling.
This may sound like a very stupid question, but it is one that I asked myself long ago. Have you ever had the perfect idea in your head, or have a full story laid out in every detail, then go to your computer, put your hands on the keyboard and go blank? One of my biggest problems isn't creating the scenerios, or writing the story: it's beginning. On some of my stories, I have half the story finished but I haven't found a good opening line yet.
If you are having this problem, do the easy thing: forget about writing the beginning. Start writing wherever your mind wanders to first: if you envision a battle that happens in the middle of the book and know how to write certain parts, by all means write it! If it's on a computer, save it under BATTLE or some such, and then start writing something else. You can continue on to what's after the battle, or you can go to another scene entirely. I myself have written scenes for books that popped into my head, then decided not to include them in the story, or to make a completely seperate story out of them; that's an option too. If you find that a particular scene no longer fits in with the plot of the story, don't erase it! You might, sometime in the future, write another story that the scene will fit into or you can spawn another story from that battle using it as the beginning scene of the new story!
No matter what, just keep writing. If you get stuck at a certain part, forget about it for a while and start writing another part; eventually you will probably get an idea for that other part, go back and add to it. It's not a total loss if you can't think of anything at the moment, so don't worry too much. There are times when you might have an idea but can't find the words so just write down the basic idea for that part then come back and rewrite.
One last thing to remember. No author ever just sits down, writes a story, then sends it off to a publisher to be published (unless they're VERY VERY VERY good). They always do rewrites of their original manuscript, editting, polishing, and adding on details to the story to make it better. If you finish a manuscript that is 120 pages, most often you can just about double that with one or two rewrites. As you read your work, you'll find grammar mistakes or a word that would sound better with another word, or a way to make something clearer to the audience. Many authors, even after they have published their books, find mistakes where they could have made something better. So don't worry: you're not alone.
Writers sometimes say that before they published their novels they
submitted short stories to fanzines. Fanzines are magazines that buy
and publish short stories for distribution to subscribers. If you get your short story
published in one of these fanzines, it is one count in your favor if
you ever go to publish a story; publishers generally take second
looks at people who have been published before they would look at
unpublished authors. Many well known authors published works to
fanzines or anthologies (pretty much the same thing except it's in
book form) before they became big sellers. There are fanzines for many
different genres of writing, whether it's fantasy, science fiction,
romance, or erotica. Fanzines can help a person get a foot in the
door, or at least a toehold.
An Ezine is something that has come out with the rising popularity of
the internet and email. An Ezine is pretty much the same as a fanzine
except that instead of people getting something in the (snail) mail,
they get it through their e-mail. This is still in its infancy
stages, but seems to have grown in popularity. Most Ezines don't buy
your stories but just distribute them to subscribers telling who
wrote them and copywrite information. One reason it hasn't gotten
very popular is that many people don't like to run the risk that
their works will be stolen and submitted to, and published, by
written anthologies or fanzines, and that they don't get any money
for these stories. Still, it is one option to get your material out
there to the reading public.
I hope this helps.