The other day I saw a notice asking for submissions of holiday-themed screenplays. Obviously, the film producers were already thinking ahead to 2018 and beyond.
Then I remembered the Christmas story I wrote some years ago. I began with great trepidation. Surely, your own story cannot rank with the classics.
But my attitude changed, once I began to write. My own views of the holiday didn't need to correspond with those of Dickens and other authors. How to write a story is solved simply by being honest about your feelings.
I share some writing tips below. Story writing and online writing may seem like worlds apart, but begin with your strength and develop from there.
(First Christmas Story TIP: Start with a problem. The central character need not be happy or cheery. Give him or her something to grapple with while in the midst of other merry-makers.
Second Christmas Story TIP: Start with a happy occasion and quickly turn it into a personal disaster. Explosions and assassination attempts are not required to create drama. What's the worst thing that could happen to your hero as the story opens?
Third Christmas Story TIP: Avoid reading the classics. Choose a different approach. How many times can we watch a grumpy person be forced to reveal a painful past only to see him or her turn sunny and nice? Your creative writing skills will improve by pursuing your own voice and themes. You never know, maybe it will make you consider writing a novel about your holiday.
Fourth Christmas Story TIP: Tie it to something you have a passion for. Guitar and songwriting were my choices. My Songbook Chronicles trace the progress (or retreat) of singer-songwriter Frank Gosnell.
Fifth Christmas Story TIP: To develop the story, write a short article about it in an attempt to explain to a listener what it's all about. Don't worry if you don't know how to write an article. Just start. It can be sloppy, bumpy or initially illogical. By telling the story you're actually developing creative writing prompts that may inspire story beats.
(BTW, as ghostwriter for hire, I often share these same tips for business books, memoirs and books by musicians. I like using fiction narrative techniques for nonfiction projects. So use these tips any way you wish.)
She didn't know how to begin, despite reams of notes, lots of social media posts and a journal about her wish to write.
Stephen King once said that he couldn't understand why people with talent for writing didn't get started.
I understand the resistance. I've felt it too. So I've written Startup Author Hacks to help others overcome the scary notion of facing a blank pages.
Gather, organize and shape is a simple process for taking the raw materials you have -- despite how disparate they may seem -- and creating the guts of a novel, nonfiction book, screenplay or article.
You very likely have the beginnings of .... something. A book or screenplay. A poem or article. Next, you want to learn how to write a story, long or short.
Go for it.
Startup Author Hacks is not a bunch of writing tips. You need a plan, a method for facing the blank page.
Some of the most successful authors worldwide would rather begin with something on the page. Anything. Even if it is sloppy. Why? Because they know the road to perfection takes time. First they must get their raw ideas on paper or in a digital file. Everything can be reworked. But the blank page?
I begin with an idea. And then it becomes something else." —Pablo Picasso
Identity is also part of the process of writing a novel. Who are you? How do you like to work? Startup Author Hacks encourages you to find a process that works for you.
Maybe you don't want to start at the beginning. Dive into the middle, then. Creative writing prompts are nothing more than prods to get your engine running. Ignition. Here we go.
Buy it now. Startup Author Hacks will show you how to get started with the stuff you already have.
But if you don't have much to work with, then download my FREE guide for authors, Ready to Happen. Just 10 minutes a day will build your treasure trove of ideas for your book, screenplay, article -- or love letter.
Creative writing is not so hard if you let yourself go and give permission to be casual, messy, but honest.
Best of luck!
The author fretted about the gaps in her story. “I can’t figure out what happens next, and at the end.”
She didn’t say it out loud, but that’s what she was thinking. And that’s why everyone around her saw a pensive, unhappy writer walking in circles.
But maybe she didn’t need to fill the gaps. Maybe she had enough in her notes and outlines, but was not trusting the material.
Or maybe she was just stuck. It happens.
Cozy Mystery Novelist w/ Story Writing tips
The wonderful cozy mystery novelist and excellent teacher Linda Palmer (a/k/a Melinda Wells), often advised UCLA Extension students to skip ahead if they felt stuck. She reminded everyone that there is no rule that says authors absolutely must write their books, blogs and articles from beginning to end, from Page 1 to Page 260.
Linda’s idea appealed to me because sometimes in our search for something that we believe is missing, we over-write and waste time. When you at least write the scenes and chapters, paragraphs and dialogue, that you believe belong in the work, you may discover that those big gaps in story have shrunk.
Writing Resources: Story Creation is a 'mental game'
But how could the gaps have shrunk? It’s a mental game. Too often we see the holes in the story, or the imperfections, and do not realize we have done plenty of good work. Also, maybe it is time to simplify and boil down the theme or story elements to the essentials. If I can’t move forward, often it is because I have too possibilities spinning in my head. That’s when I say, “Dude, just choose one!”
Jumping ahead provides another advantage. As you proceed with your story it is nice to know you have chapters down the road waiting for you.
Dear Startup Author, you may fear that skipping through your outline will only result in a mess. Things don’t seem to fit together. That’s a possibility, and yet that’s why we value revision so much.
On the other hand, if you insist on staying with the chronology of your outline are you imposing a uniformity that is dull?
There is not one answer. But, then, who likes to sit around feeling stumped? We want to move forward on our projects.
Tips & Strategies for Story Writing
Many authors, amateur and experienced, can feel overwhelmed by the impulse to write a book or a series of professional or corporate articles. Often they begin to write too soon.
Television writers, who are under enormous pressure to produce imaginative comedy and dramatic stories, know they must not write until they created story beats.
The beats are the plot points, the road map, for a screenplay, novel or nonfiction book, such as a memoir or business title. TV writers understand that it is hard work to make a story. So, they sit with it. They "beat out the story" until they know the basic shape of the plot. Only then do they truly feel confident writing the script.
Not every authors works this way. Plenty of successful scribes follow their instincts, either because pounding out a plot doesn't work for them, or they have a natural sense of story structure and they go with it, so to speak.
Having something on the page that offers guidance is a fine way to go for new authors. You need something that gives you confidence, even if the outline, grid or beats you've created begins to shift or morph as you begin to write.
Another way of working with the pre-planning process is revealed in (coming soon!) Startup Author Hacks. In short, I suggest methods for gathering all the napkin notes, tweets and other "stuff" you've jotted and then forgot. This too gives the writer something to hang onto, even during those tough sessions when he or she is not sure which direction to go.
Know where your story is going
Whatever organizational method you prefer, do you best to get to the end soon. By that I mean, know where you are going. If you are writing a screenplay or novel, develop the ending first and then work your way backwards to develop plot twists. This is reverse engineering.
A nonfiction business book does not have a plot, but its organization must keep the reader engaged and then deliver a fulfilling end.
In some cases, new authors can't get their motor running because they haven't planned their journey. Knowing your ending is a fine place to begin.