So you've never written a story before and all your friends talk about NaNoWriMo so you thought you'd give it a shot. What do you do? Where do you start? And have you looked at that number? 50,000 words by the end of the month. Oh My God!!!! How do I write that much? Well, I'm here to tell you, it's not as bad as it sounds. The book I'm looking to publish now is 140,419 words long, that's 516 pages long. Popular books that you might be more familiar with are The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 204 pages long, Brave New World is 196 pages long, and The Great Gatsby is 144 pages long. Not so bad, now, right?
So now that you have your word program sitting there in front of you, where do you start? A beginning is a great place to start. You are telling an imaginary story about you, only you aren't really you. Who are you? Do you have blue skin? Do you have four arms? Oh gee, as I write this, I'm reminded of the movie Avatar. I'm sorry that wasn't what I had in mind, but at this point it doesn't really matter. You could have four legs, three opposable fingers on each hand, and one eye - or you could just be human - what you are kinda depends on what kind of story you want to write.
That brings us to the next decision you need to make. Where are you? If you have blue skin, you probably aren't on Earth, at least not on the Earth we are all familiar with. Then comes the narrowing down of some kind of when. Time would be relative to location. If you are on another planet, the length of a day, the turning of the seasons, even the ambient temperature, may all be very different. But Earth is familiar and we know all the natural laws. If you are on a different planet, all natural laws might be very different. Who knows, magic might be the norm rather than engineering. Hmmm now that's a thought. Whatever you choose, the natural laws need to be understood so your character can function within their restrictions.
Now, special powers solves all such problems. I mean, if you could do anything, what would you do? But though it might be fun, don't you think it would make things too easy? or maybe too hard?
Okay, so you have your main character (or two), your home on your world with it's level of technology and environment. What more do you need? You need a goal, and along with that, you need a plausible reason for needing to accomplish that goal. In my next book, I started out with a small boy, small for his age. He was scooped up on the street and dropped into slavery because he had ice-blue eyes. His goal? Well, it's complicated and changes as the story goes along. At this point, freedom from the metal chains is the goal. His knowledge of the world is highly limited. Later, his goal becomes learning everything there is to learn about swordsmanship, but that becomes complicated too. For some of the story, his goal is to become old enough to repay a debt. His journey to accomplish that goal is a healthy chunk of the story. He has to traverse a glacier, keep an unplanned companion from suffering from possibly fatal frostbite, not to mention stay out of trouble for the duration of the trip, and there at the end, he was nearly foiled. Ultimately, his intended goal, to repay his debt, wasn't necessary after all (sigh) but such is the stuff of stories.
So where do you start? Start by walking out your door (metaphorically). The bad guys have kidnapped your daughter and you need to rescue her. You were the one who was kidnapped in order to keep you from claiming your crown. You need to escape, bring all the kidnappers to justice, and claim your crown all before you reach the age of eighteen in thirty days. Can you think of other scenarios? Have at it, and have fun.
So there you go. You've made all the pertinent decisions, now sit down and write. All you need to do is walk out your door.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say.
-- The Road Goes Ever On - The Hobbit