Category Archives: Writing Craft

Get Your Writing Done – In Months, Not Years

calendar dateThis post originally appeared on the Book Marketing Tools website in October, 2015 (click here to view it).

So you intend to write a book. Many, many people do, but there are just a few who seem to actually get it accomplished. You’re not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling who make enough money off of their books so that writing gets to be their job. You’ve got bills to pay, mouths to feed, and a roof to provide.

But, guess what?

There was once a time when Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and a whole host of other well-known, well-paid writers had to do things other than writing to get their bills paid, mouths fed, and roofs provided, too. Just search for their bios and you will find that at one time, they worked other jobs (sometimes crappy ones) before they hit it big with their writing. But, still, they got their books done.

How did they do it?

On those same searches, I’m sure you can find out how Stephen King and J.K. Rowling got their writing done while living a whole other life, too. (I know you can in Stephen King’s On Writing book.) I’m not sure what they are, but I have a method that works for me.

Maybe it can work for you, too.

The key is organization. You need to know where you need to spend your time, where you want to spend your time, and have a way to budget that time.

Get a handle on the project

First, evaluate your project’s scope. What’s involved? How long will it take to complete each task? Make a list of all of the things you need to do to complete your book along with the time you think it will take to complete each task (adding 20% to provide flexibility). Don’t feel like you need to list out every single last detail; feel free to group things. For example, you can have the task of “plan publishing” and allow one month or “beta reading” allowing three months. Then, you need only put “plan beta reading” on your calendar at the appropriate time; then you can do another plan for that set of tasks.

Schedule your to-dos

Next, put your tasks in the order in which they need to be completed, somehow identifying which tasks could be done simultaneously. Now, look at your schedule of other things to which you are obligated – like your outside job, kids’ activities, grocery shopping, etc. – and realistically choose a due date for publication, taking into account all of your obligations. Be realistic and give yourself plenty of time, but not too much time that you feel like you can put off getting started.

Work backwards and note due dates for each of the other items on your to-do list that need to get done in order to get to publication. Using whatever calendar you use, insert those due dates. Along with the completion date, calendar dates to begin the tasks and even intermediate dates (“continue working on x”) if it’s a longer term item.

It works

I used this method to complete my latest novel, Taming the Twisted. When I first started, I wasn’t sure where I was going with it or how long it would take and I had no real timetable because I had other books coming out at the time, so I just committed to writing one hour every week day. When I had about half of it done, knew where I wanted it to go, and decided I wanted to release it in one year, I implemented this system.

After figuring out how many chapters I had left to write, the beta reading and revision steps, publication steps, and marketing planning steps, I worked backwards from my publication date to create my schedule. To get the first draft done in time to do everything else, I decided I could write a chapter each week, which left me plenty of time to finish and have my books in my hands ready to sell at my launch on August 15th.

Get to work

Once you create your plan and schedule your tasks, all you have to do next is make appointments with yourself to complete them. If you get off, don’t beat yourself up; just rework your plan and go from there.

Do you have any methods that have worked for keeping your work on track and moving forward? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Just comment below.

Happy 2016!

champagneAnother year has come and gone. It’s hard to believe that just 16 short years ago at this time, we were wondering why we were all getting our panties so up in bunches over Y2K…

Though I reflect on the previous and make plans for the next year, I’m one of those “no resolution” type people; if I need to start a new habit, I do it whenever I resolve I need to, even if it’s a random Thursday. Of course, with things like eating healthy and exercise, I have to get back on track every year after the holidays. But I don’t necessarily see that as a resolution.

For the past few years, I’ve been participating in a movement to focus on just one word for the year. The first year was confidence, last year was  connection, and this year it’s strengthen. So I thought I’d take this blog post opportunity to talk about how I’ll apply strengthen to writing craft.

Number one is to strengthen my writing schedule. After finishing a book in 2015, marketing it, and doing lots of other projects, I kind of got away from a regular writing habit. If I want to finish my next novel anytime soon, I need to revisit that habit. To do it, I’ve scheduled hour long writing sessions into four days each week in my calendar. At least two of the days, I’ll actually write on my novel and the other two days, plus more when I can manage it, I’ll devote to researching the early 1900s.

What word would you like to focus on in 2016 with regard to your writing craft? Feel free to share in the comment section below.

WRITING’S DIRTY WORDS: FEEDBACK, CRITIQUE

communityDoes the thought of handing your writing over to a writing group to critique make you sweat with fear? Or maybe you’d like to join a writing group but you are nervous about what to say to your group-mates? If you are serious about your writing, you have surely heard that giving and receiving feedback is an important part of the process. It is true that feedback from others helps you to make your writing stronger. But it can be difficult. Letting others read your work, especially if you are not sure about its quality, can be a nerve-wracking experience. And if that’s not enough, when you join a critique group or attend a feedback session, you will be expected to deliver constructive criticism on others’ work as well. You may wonder what you have to offer others when you are still receiving help on your own work. The answer is a lot.

Unless you are in a writing group with Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or some other multi-national best-selling author, everyone in the group is in the same place (and I suspect even the famous authors receive some degree of working feedback). Whether you’ve written one book or six dozen, it is always valuable to know how readers see your writing and to listen to what works and what could be improved. Similarly, if you are interested enough in books and writing to be participating in a writing group, you have plenty to offer. If you follow the following advice, you can help to ensure a more helpful, fulfilling experience.

Giving Feedback

Writing and critique groups follow varying formats for sharing work. Usually, the number of pages will be decided upon in advance depending on the number of participants and the time allotted for the group meeting. Sometimes, they exchange pages via email or hard copy a certain amount of time in advance of the meeting, and sometimes the authors will read their pages to the group at the beginning of the meeting. Manuscripts may also be exchanged so someone else will read your work aloud, which can also be helpful.

If you receive writing ahead of time, read the pages carefully and make notes. It can also help to read it through the first time as a typical reader and then read it through a second time with a more critical eye. Make notes of things you found interesting, unique descriptions, poignant moments, and other passages or elements you enjoyed. Also note any questions you have, areas which were unclear for you, and if you have a suggestion for changing a word or a phrase, jot down the change. If pages are read at the meeting, listen as closely as possible and make the same notes.

When it is your turn to provide feedback, remember the sandwich method. First, point out at least two or three things you found interesting or enjoyable. Next, point out a couple of areas where you had questions, were confused, or that could be improved. For feedback on hard copies received in advance, you can skip over the small, copyediting changes because the writer will be able to see those when they get their pages back. Finally, end your feedback by naming an additional positive aspect or reiterating what you enjoyed.

Another thing to keep in mind while giving feedback is specificity. Avoid saying “it was good,” or “it was bad.” Include what specifically needs improvement or which particular words worked well. If you think an area needs to be better, try to offer suggestions about how it could be made stronger. Remember to be kind, which will be easy if you approach the experience as it should be approached: a group of people with common goals getting together to help each other improve their writing. Keep in mind that just as they are not experts, you are also not an expert. For all you know, what they wrote could be perfect; you are just offering your own opinions and perspectives and they are free to accept the advice or dismiss it.

Getting Feedback

Putting your work out there for others to judge can be a harrowing experience. What if they hate it? As mentioned above, if you cared enough to put it on paper and submit your work for review, there is going to be something good. And if they hate it, that is just that person’s opinion and it doesn’t doom your work for the trashcan; maybe that person just doesn’t know good writing when they see it. Regardless, if you find a caring, positive, help-oriented critique group, even if they did hate it, they will be able to pick some good things out and point out some areas where it may benefit from some changes.

When it’s your turn to get feedback, the most important thing to do is listen and take notes. If your group-mates have specific questions, answer them but don’t elaborate. Plan to have the urge to defend your work, pointing out what you meant, or attempting to correct viewpoints and then plan to bite your tongue, sit on your hands, or do whatever else you have to do to keep yourself from verbalizing those urges. However, while listening, do pay particular attention to passages, phrases, or sentences the readers didn’t understand or misunderstood as well as their questions, because these are like big red flags waving in the air indicating your writing was not clear enough in those areas.

Remember your critique group just wants to help you and, like you (presumably), they are all amateurs. Their opinions count and should be considered, but they are not the final words; If you think about what they say and decide they’re wrong, go with your gut instinct and don’t change it. A caveat, however: if several people say the same thing, consider what they said again a little more carefully before you dismiss them as wrong. And just because everyone says the same thing, it still doesn’t mean they are correct, so, in the end, don’t be afraid to go against the masses if you feel that strongly. Finally, say, “Thank you.” When you get home, read through your notes so they will be clear to you if you won’t be getting around to revisions right away. And then keep writing.

Feedback, giving it and getting it, is an integral part of the writing process. It can be scary, but don’t let that fear stop you from participating. Acknowledge your fear and do it anyway; follow these tips and hopefully doing it anyway will be a little easier.

Get Back Into Writing After an Absence

book vacaAn edited version of this post original appeared on the Book Marketing Tools website in June, 2015 (click here to view it).

You’ve no doubt heard more times than you can count how important it is to write, if not every day, at least regularly. But there will be times in your writing life when you’ll be pulled away from your work. Maybe it’s an extended illness or a much-deserved vacation. Then you get back, excited to return to the writing life routine.

And nothing.

You’re stuck.

You don’t where to begin or continue.

Pre-Planning

If you are pulled away from your writing for an illness or other sudden occurrence, there won’t be much you can do about it. But, if you’re taking a break, for a pre-planned event or vacation, you can plan ahead. If you’re in the middle of a book, make some notes about where you intend to go next. If you’re lucky enough to take a break between projects, make some notes about ideas to consider for your next book, including a list of research questions you’ll need to answer. This will give you a head start when you get back to your daily life.

Plan B

Let’s suppose now that either you didn’t know your hiatus was coming or you failed to plan ahead. You still have options to get yourself back in the groove quickly and painlessly.

Set Your Schedule

Make a list of all of your appointments, non-writing-related things you have to do, and any writing-related deadlines you’ve already committed to meeting for the next two weeks. Use Outlook or create a time schedule on a spreadsheet or by hand, like this:

(Or feel free to swipe this one.) Next, insert of all of your appointments. Decide how long it will take you to complete the non-writing related or writing related tasks with deadlines and block off the appropriate time to work on them. Finally, pen in as many writing appointments as you are able. If you can put in at least an hour a day, that’s great, but if you can only fit in four or five over the entire two weeks, that’s fine, too.

Keep Your Appointments

After setting aside the time to write, the next most important thing to do is honor your appointments. Treat them like doctor appointments or other obligations you wouldn’t miss except for an emergency or illness. If you do have to miss an appointment, rearrange your calendar to reschedule it as soon as possible.

When You Arrive

As you sit down to do your writing at your allotted time, first congratulate yourself on your discipline. And then start writing. It may be frustrating at first. It might feel awkward or you might not know where to start, but don’t give up.

If you’re continuing work on a book, re-read the last several pages you wrote before your break to remind yourself of where you were going. If you need to start a new book, look through your idea file or brainstorm some ideas. Or maybe your next book is too daunting. If so, try an article. Search some keywords or phrases related to the topics you enjoy writing about online and read some blogs or articles that pop up, paying particular attention to the comment sections to see if you can answer any additional questions.

If you’re really stuck, free write. Set your timer for the length of your appointment slot and force yourself to keep your fingers moving writing or typing the entire time. “I want to write” is a great prompt; write about what you want to write in as much detail as possible, whether it’s a novel about a certain character with certain qualities, a how-to article that will teach people how to do something with these steps, or a non-fiction book that inspires people with certain insights. When you get stuck, write “I don’t know what to write” or “I’m stuck” or whatever whining complaints pop into your head. Eventually, your brain will get bored and will give you something.

And You’re Back

By the end of the two weeks (likely sooner), you will be back to your old writing self, cranking out words and finding your groove again.

Do you have any tips for getting back into the writing habit after an extended hiatus (or even a weekend)? If so, please share them in the comments section below.

CREATING AND RELIEVING TENSION FOR A CAN’T-PUT-IT-DOWN STORY

Photo by Graeme Maclean, Flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gee01/871748702/
Photo by Graeme Maclean, Flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gee01/871748702/

Think about the last really good, can’t-put-it-down, up-until-three-in-the-morning-just-one-more-chapter book you read. What was it that kept you reading? It was probably some sort of suspense. You just had to turn one more page to see how things turned out. This suspense is created by tension. The creative writing technique of creating tension and relieving tension is used by storytellers to pull readers through to the end of the story.

You can create tension in a variety of ways. But before we talk about that, let’s address when it is appropriate to increase tension and relieve it. Tension can be equated to conflict; it could be a conflict between two people, between people and an object, or between a people and what’s in their own heads. Fundamentally, it is someone wanting something but being prevented by something or someone else from getting it. Use tension to build suspense and keep people reading so they have to find out what happens.

One key in building tension is that the thing or circumstance wanted by the main character has to be important; the stakes need to be high. Let’s say you’re telling a story about someone who is late. Let’s say this person is five minutes late for a continuing education college class where the instructor notoriously takes ten minutes to get started on the lesson. Depending on the type of person she is, this may be quite a tense situation. However, now let’s say this same person is five minutes late for her last graduate class, it’s the final exam, and if she’s not there on time, the doors will be locked and she can’t get in, and if she can’t take the class, she has to wait a whole semester to graduate. Which scenario makes your throat tighten a bit?

To create tension, you can use one or more of these techniques:

  • First, write. Short. Sentences. All of those periods close together automatically create tension. It seems more urgent.
  • Use dialogue; showing people in actual situations having conversation makes the writing feel more alive and real, especially if what the person is saying is a façade for what he really thinks or believes.
  • Use specificity with dialogue. Make the words reflect the anger. “’Please, please, please let me in. I promise I won’t make a noise.’ She got on her knees and shook her clasped hands at the door guard.” vs. “She begged the door guard to let her in.”
  • Be specific with narrating the action: “She slammed her car door shut, catching her purse straps. She yanked until they let loose and she fell to the ground. She got up and stumbled to the auditorium.” vs. “She hurried to the auditorium.”
  • Stay close up. The first ways of writing in these last two points bring you close in to what’s happening in the story; the second ones pull you away. Staying close up builds tension.

Think about tension the next time you are writing. Build it higher and higher to keep the reader involved until the climax when you resolve the conflict and relieve the tension.

Get Back into the Writing Groove After Illness or Vacation

routineAn edited version of this post original appeared on the Book Marketing Tools website on June 12, 2015 (click here to view it).

You’ve no doubt heard more times than you can count how important it is to write, if not every day, at least regularly. But there will be times in your writing life when you’ll be pulled away from your work. Maybe it’s an extended illness or a much-deserved vacation. Then you get back, excited to return to the writing life routine.

And nothing.

You’re stuck.

You don’t where to begin or continue.

Pre-Planning

If you are pulled away from your writing for an illness or other sudden occurrence, there won’t be much you can do about it. But, if you’re taking a break for a pre-planned event or vacation, you can plan ahead. If you’re in the middle of a book, make some notes about where you intend to go next. If you’re lucky enough to take a break between projects, make some notes about ideas to consider for your next book, including a list of research questions you’ll need to answer. This will give you a head start when you get back to your daily life.

Plan B

Let’s suppose now that either you didn’t know your hiatus was coming or you failed to plan ahead. You still have options to get yourself back in the groove quickly and painlessly.

Set Your Schedule

Make a list of all of your appointments, non-writing-related things you have to do, and any writing-related deadlines you’ve already committed to meeting for the next two weeks. Use Outlook or create a time schedule on a spreadsheet or by hand, like this:

blank calendar

(Or feel free to swipe this one.) Next, insert of all of your appointments. Decide how long it will take you to complete the non-writing related or writing related tasks with deadlines and block off the appropriate time to work on them. Finally, pen in as many writing appointments as you are able. If you can put in at least an hour a day, that’s great, but if you can only fit in four or five over the entire two weeks, that’s fine, too.

Keep Your Appointments

After setting aside the time to write, the next most important thing to do is honor your appointments. Treat them like doctor appointments or other obligations you wouldn’t miss except for an emergency or illness. If you do have to miss an appointment, rearrange your calendar to reschedule it as soon as possible.

When You Arrive

As you sit down to do your writing at your allotted time, first congratulate yourself on your discipline. And then start writing. It may be frustrating at first. It might feel awkward or you might not know where to start, but don’t give up.

If you’re continuing work on a book, re-read the last several pages you wrote before your break to remind yourself of where you were going. If you need to start a new book, look through your idea file or brainstorm some ideas. Or maybe your next book is too daunting. If so, try an article. Search some keywords or phrases related to the topics you enjoy writing about online and read some blogs or articles that pop up, paying particular attention to the comment sections to see if you can answer any additional questions.

If you’re really stuck, free write. Set your timer for the length of your appointment slot and force yourself to keep your fingers moving writing or typing the entire time. “I want to write” is a great prompt; write about what you want to write in as much detail as possible, whether it’s a novel about a certain character with certain qualities, a how-to article that will teach people how to do something with these steps, or a non-fiction book that inspires people with certain insights. When you get stuck, write “I don’t know what to write” or “I’m stuck” or whatever whining complaints pop into your head. Eventually, your brain will get bored and will give you something.

And You’re Back

By the end of the two weeks (likely sooner), you will be back to your old writing self, cranking out words and finding your groove again.

Do you have any tips for getting back into the writing habit after an extended hiatus (or even a weekend)? If so, please share them in the comments section below.

Your regularly scheduled post has been postponed – AND the best writing advice ever

IMG_0407Normally, this is the time of the month when I post something about the writing craft. However, I’m knee deep in getting ready for the launch party of my latest book, Taming the Twisted, (2-5 p.m. at Camanche Days near the arts/crafts tent in Camanche, Iowa, tomorrow 8/15/15 if you want to stop by.) I have everything packed and ready to go, as you can see from the huge pile in my living room here with my pets checking everything out.

However, so I don’t break the promise I set for myself to write a monthly writing craft post, here is my best writing craft advice:

Ready?

Get a pen and paper so you can take this down.

Okay, here goes.

Write.

That’s it.

Just practice. Write. And when you’re done, write some more.

Now, go. Do it.

If you want to learn more about the book keeping me so busy, go to http://jodietoohey.com/my-books/novels/taming-the-twisted/

Until we meet again…

WRITING CRAFT – QUICK START GUIDE

Photo from Steven Depolo, flick creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/5749192621/
Photo from Steven Depolo, flick creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/5749192621/

Do you want to start a writing craft journey, but you’re not sure where to start? You know all of the great reasons to write (for mental health, to express creativity, to inspire or help others, etc.), but you just can’t seem to begin? It’s easier than you think.

Step 1: Get out your Whittler
Carve out time.

While looking at your calendar and considering all of your other obligations (work, school, kids, chores, etc.), decide on a writing craft goal for the next week. Think of it like exercise. Start slow and increase your goal each week. Next, PEN it in. View your writing time as an appointment you can’t miss unless you have an emergency. Note: Laundry and dishes are not emergencies.

Carve out space.

All you really need is a pen or pencil and paper, but you may like a lamp or light, chair, desk or table, computer, and reference books. You can plan to write outside of the home like at a coffee shop, but it is a good idea to have some writing space at home for when you can’t get away.

Be ready.

Keep index cards or notebooks plus pens or pencils everywhere you go (by the bed, by the toilet, in the car) so you can jot down ideas and thoughts when they come (which you know will be when you least expect them). Or carry a digital voice recorder.

Sept 2: Get on the merry-go-round.

Do you already have an idea for a poem, story, creative essay, or another writing craft project? Great. Write it down. Write. Write. Write until there is no more. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc.

Not so lucky? Great. Write. Set the timer and write about anything and everything in your head in no particular order without worrying about writing mechanics. Use prompts from books or websites. Go somewhere and write what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Make lists and then when you write, pick one and go: places lived, old friends, vacations taken, questions you’ve had, heartbreaks, foods you like/dislike, things you know, teachers you’ve had, jobs you’ve held, or one of hundreds of other topics. Ask yourself, “What if…?” and then answer the question. Start with “I want to write about…” and then go into details. When you think you’re done, set the timer for a few more minutes and keep going.

Eventually, an idea for a poem, story, creative essay, play, or other work will come to you.

Step 3: Get it in shape.

Some projects may require research beyond what you already have in your head. If so, get that done first. Good resources include the library, the internet (just be careful of user-generated sites), personal interviews, and observation. Once you have everything you need, put your words in the final form you desire (poem, story, novel, etc.). Leave out stuff from Step 2 you don’t need or want but still don’t worry too much about the nitty-gritty, writing-class type details.

Step 4: Get it good.

This is where you really get down to business. Read through your piece as many times as needed to make it more exciting, interesting, readable, and insightful. If you need help, visit the book store or check out books at the library about whatever form you’re writing in (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) as well as about creative writing in general.

Especially in fiction and creative non-fiction, you can amp up the energy in your writing by using specific but not clichéd words, using dialogue, or by using shorter sentences. You can increase tension by creating a character; giving him or her a big, important problem; putting him or her in danger of not being able to solve the problem; then solving the problem while creating additional little problems that must also be solved before the story ends. Keep the stakes high; continually ask yourself, “Who cares?” In all forms of the creative writing craft, increase the impact of your images by creating pictures with words, involving all of the reader’s senses, and writing active rather than passive sentences.

Deepen insight by showing readers a truth about human behavior or offering a new way to look at something. Keep your point of view consistent unless you have a reason not to, keep your reader in mind as you revise, and show, don’t tell. (Show: “She shuffled her slippered feet across the hardwood floor.” Vs. Tell: “She was tired.”) You’re voice and style in creative writing is uniquely you. The only way to hone it is by practicing and learning by reading other work and writing craft books. The most important thing to keep in mind is your voice is YOU. Find yourself, who you are, what you’re about, how you feel, what you think, and you will find YOUR voice. The most efficient way to do this is to write.

Step 5: Get it in sharing shape.

Read and correct any of the nit-picky mistakes until your eyes glaze over. There are numerous writing craft reference books available if you need to brush up. Remember to:

  • Use correct punctuation and grammar (and if you break the rules, have a reason).
  • Read your work out loud and word for word and/or have others read it and give feedback.
  • Cut “That” out: Read the sentence without “that”; if it doesn’t belong, chop it.
  • Remember the power of said: It is a nearly invisible word so think hard before using something else like shouted or whispered. Try to make the dialogue speak for itself.
Step 6: Get it polished.

Once you think you have your work all edited and ready to go, read through it one more time. If it is a book-length piece and you want someone else to publish it, consider professional editing. No matter how good we are, our brains always want to read what we should have written and not what we actually wrote.

Step 7: Get it out there.

If you want your work published in print or electronically, query agents, publishers, and/or magazines as appropriate or publish it yourself. If you’re not interested in publication, you can still share your work with friends and family or start a blog (several are free). Participate in open readings or give your poems and stories as gifts.

Embarking on a creative writing craft journey can be a rewarding, healthful, and life-changing experience. Following these seven easy steps will get you going.

GET VISUAL WITH STORYBOARDS FOR NOVEL WRITING

deskWhen novel writing, it’s sometimes easy to forget what your characters look like, especially if you’re like me and can only make weekly appointments to work on it. My workspace is also relatively small considering all of the other things I write and that take up my time.

After a storyboarding workshop the winter before last, I decided to create a visual profiles board to assist me with my novel writing. I had already written character sketches and found images online of people who I thought looked like my characters, so it was just a matter of copying them and old-school cutting and pasting.

The result is the board you see on the right side in this photo. With pictures of my characters (and other key items like my characters’ home) attached to a piece of foam core, I could tuck the board away and pull it out when working on my novel. When I was done, I stashed them back out of the way, keeping my space tidy and organized.

I also made a board to plot out the evidence to weave in as I wrote the mystery portions of the novel. I printed the outline/list descriptions of what I planned to include in each chapter. I then cut them apart and glued them to a piece of foam core with enough space for small sticky notes to go between. I wrote the evidence pointing to the actual murderer (no spoilers here) on one color of post it, evidence pointing to the character who I wanted the reader to think was the murderer on another, and evidence pointing to someone else on another color.

At the point when I’d done the storyboards, I was writing one chapter each week. So when I wrote, I looked at the chapter description, wrote the scenes, and weaved in the evidence bits. Within several weeks, the novel’s first draft was completed and my mystery elements were all included.

Have you used a storyboard when writing your novel (or other book)? I’d love to hear about it. Just type them into the comments section below.

Want to find out more about the book that was written with the above methods, Taming the Twisted, and about my other titles? Click here to visit my author website at www.jodietoohey.com.

DAYDREAM YOUR WAY TO YOUR NEXT NOVEL

Photo from Fritz Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/3396219694/
Photo from Fritz Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/3396219694/

When I was a kid, as a way to fall asleep at night, I would picture elaborate “day dreams” in my head. I was always the main character. When I was a teen, these mostly involved imagining how my latest crush would realize his love for me and we would be together. Eventually, I would get to a boring spot and I’d fall asleep.

But, sometimes, if my imagination brought me to somewhere emotional or with a lot of tension or suspense, it would keep me up half the night.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually training my brain to write fictional stories. So when I started to write my first novel, I already knew how to imagine the story – the trick was translating it into words on paper. To keep people reading, I just had to imagine the types of things that kept me up at night. And if I find myself getting sleepy, I know the story is going stale.

Now, when I work on my novels, I do the exact same thing but with a keyboard in front of me. I imagine the story in as much detail as possible, right down to the words used in conversation, and I type it.

If you write stories, you may already do this as well, whether you realize it or not. But, if you haven’t and you find yourself stuck, give it a try. Just write down what you see in your imagination.