The most basic definition of a story is 'Somebody wants something and something's in his way,' and I'm more likely to be engaged if I at least think I know what those two 'somethings' are. They can be simple, they can be complex, but - particularly if you're a beginning writer - I'd rather you err on the side of revealing too much than too little.
A writer, or a beginning writer, is faced by the huge walls of self-consciousness. Most people think, "What if I say the wrong thing? What if I don't sound erudite and sophisticated? I'll be considered a fool." In time, with a lot of practice, you realize that's your foolishness is your gift.
Beginning writers are often advised to 'write what you know,' and since I knew about quilters - their quirks, their inside jokes, their disputes and their generosity, their quarrels and their kindnesses - the lives of quilters became a natural subject for me. Quilting wove together my two themes as completely and effortlessly as I could have hoped.
One thing about beginning writers is that they don't really always know their own strengths and weaknesses - you might think you're bad at characterization, but that might really be because of some issue you're having with another element, which is making it hard for you to express character in a convincing way.
So often with beginning writers, the story that they want to start with is the most important story of their life - my molestation, my this, my horrible drug addiction - they want to tell that most important story, and they don't have the skills to tell it yet, so it ends up becoming a comedy. A powerful story told poorly becomes funny, it just makes people laugh behind their hands.
I would advise any beginning writer to write the first drafts as if no one else will ever read them - without a thought about publication - and only in the last draft to consider how the work will look from the outside.
When you finally start to write something, do not let yourself stop...even when you are convinced it's the worst garbage ever. This is the biggest caveat for beginning writers. Instead, force yourself to finish what you began, and THEN go back and edit it.
What’s strange is how many beginning writers seem to think that grammar is irrelevant, or that they are somehow above or beyond this subject more fit for a schoolchild than the future author of great literature.