Monday, September 26, 2016

5 Tips for Starting to Write a Story

This month I am teaching a class on writing short stories and while working on it I came up with my own idea for writing a story. It's in a genre (young adult) that I haven't written before so as I sat down to get started it occurred to me I had no idea what I wanted to say or how. I had a concept, but where do you go from there? That got me to thinking about how I normally start out writing a story. I realized there isn't one set way that I start. I just do.

It's something I started learning many years ago when I started out in writing for TV news. You don't have much time to think about how you want to get started. You have to do it or the time will pass and your story won't make it on the air. So I would just start. As Nora Roberts says, "you can't edit a blank page." Anything else can be fixed. So start. How and where? Anywhere can be a beginning. You don't need to sit and consider the perfect first line.

1. Begin with a conversation. This was how I started on that young adult story. I had a concept and I wasn't sure how to introduce the characters or get their story started, so I began with two of the main characters caught up in a conversation. It isn't necessarily the first one they have, but it will explain one of their early actions. But writing the dialogue made me understand several things about each character and from there I was able to begin a character sketch. or....

2. Begin with a Character sketch. I've often done that in the past. I know what my story is about, and I have a vague idea of the character, but starting with a sketch (that can be used or discarded in the book) can be a good way to start off your writing. You get a picture of your character and even if you don't use the description exactly in a later scene you start off knowing more about you character.

3. Start off with a description of the setting. Now I say that not as the idea for the opening of your book any more than you would start off the opening scene with a character sketch. This is just a way to begin your writing. Write a scene setter so that you can place your characters there. Again, this can become preliminary work or you can use parts of it as you start to write. What you want to write down in the book is not so much this description as the "feel" you get from this description. Show it in your story.

4. Write a scene you know will be in the book.  I've even written the final scene as a way of starting off. In a mystery that can really be helpful because you then know how your main character is going to solve the crime.

5. Write the first thing that comes into your mind about the book. It can be anything -- from character to plot to a simple line about the story itself.  Again, this is just a way of getting started. Too often we get caught up in looking at that blank page and we don't know where or how to begin. Look at your notes about the story or look into your head to think about the story.

When I was writing for a newscast I'd have at least reporter notes or wire copy to go from. We never start out with nothing, and your stories are that way too. Think about what is in your head and just get started. Some times that is a good way to get started in the morning too. Don't let yourself get bogged down with worrying about how perfect the writing needs to be.  Once you make getting started a common practice you may find you don't need as much editing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

5 Tips for Starting a New Project

Writers always seem to be starting a new project.  We don't always finish them, but new projects or stories can be exhilarating. sometimes they are just what we need to get us out of our writing doldrums or excited simply because they are new.

Okay, you have a new idea.  What should you do about it?

1. Develop a concept.  That means what are you going to do with it?  Do you want it to be an adventure story about a girl lost in time?  How about a story about a woman who learns she is more capable than she realized? Or a man who finds he really does have something to live for. Think about your characters and what they want or what you want to do with the story.

2. Develop your people.  That can mean your main character, of course, but it might also mean something fun like developing an evil villain. Or maybe you want to feature the old lady next door with a secret she's hiding? (bodies in the basement?)

3. Give yourself a location.  Writing a setting can be fun, but don't get too bogged down with it so that you forget the story itself.  Try using your setting as another character. It can be a hindrance to your story -- like a blizzard that keeps your heroine in all day and prevents her from starting her mission or makes her do more research before she sets out so that it later saves her life. Or it can be the catalyst because she desperately needs to get to her brother to save his life with needed medicine.

4. Think about the ending.  Notice I said think. You don't need to know it to start. Just having a vague concept can help, but that doesn't mean you need to think everything out before you get going. Give yourself permission to change the ending before you ever get there and write with that idea in mind.

5. Start writing!  I don't care if it's a scene, a description, a dialogue. Get started so that your book is no longer just a concept. Put something into your computer, tablet phone, or wow...write it in a notebook or type it up.  Just get started.

Yesterday, I came up with this great idea and sat around thinking about a new story.  I thought about it and thought about it, and this morning I was still thinking.  Well, no more thinking. I am going to start it!

You can do that too! Don't just think or talk. Write.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

5 Tips for Getting Back to Writing

We've officially come to the end of those golden days of summer and the kids are getting back into school.  Now is a good time to get back into our writing habit as well.  But where to start?  And how? Summer may be a fun time for vacation and just hanging out, but it's time to start thinking of a new project or working on one.  So how can you get back in the mood or better yet, how can you get started?

1. Try a research trip.   This might seem like a good way to delay getting started on actually writing, but it can also energize you. Fall is a wonderful time to explore those places that were crazy busy during the summer.  If you're thinking about writing a new historical fiction book, this would be a great time to visit a local history museum.  One of my plans for the coming winter is to finish my romantic suspense set in the southern Colorado plains. It can be a hot road trip in the summer time, but it's a pleasant drive in the fall. Another favorite research spot is the Denver Art Museum, for a visit to their Native American exhibits.

2. Plot a new book. Just last week someone mentioned they are starting to get ready for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month in November and that means a new project. We were urged to start thinking about what book we're going to write so to me that means I should now get started on plotting or planning my characters for that book.

3. Work on edits for an old project.  Whenever I need something to get me back into writing, I always turn to an old project that needs help. This is a good short cut to getting the creative juices flowing again. Edit something that you have left undone. This can not only help you get re-motivated, but it can get some of those older projects finished.

4. Find a new character. I am always watching for ways to create new characters or working on a character sketch.  Look for someone new to write about. I am teaching a character class this month and working on that with students is helping me to keep my own characters growing.

5. Take a writing class or attend a workshop. This coming weekend is Colorado Gold, a wonderful conference put on by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I haven't gone in a couple of years, but it is always a great way to end the summer, get caught up with everyone on their writing projects and find new ideas.

Next week I'll report back on five things I learned at the Conference.

Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...