Strolling through the graveyard of broken stories

IMG_0158In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t posted in a while. And by “a while” I mean like half a year. I haven’t written much either. A few haiku poems, some prodding at my journal, but that’s about it. I haven’t worked on novels at all, not even an outline or proof reading a novel.

I have excuses of course. I sold a house. If you’ve ever sold a house, you already know it’s a nightmare. And then I moved three times, including moving in with my parent for two months. If you’ve ever had to move back in with your parents (even temporarily), you know it’s a nightmare. And then I bought a bigger house. If you’ve ever bought a house, then you know it’s a nightmare.

So, I had a lot going on. So much that I had absolutely no time to write at all? Um. . . weeellll . . . .

If I’m being honest with myself, if I had really wanted to, I could have written a little. The thing is, I just wasn’t feeling it. Of course, I’m usually a huge supporter of the “Just do it!” style of writing. The whole “It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel inspired, write anyway!” way of writing usually works for me. But this time, it just wasn’t enough. I couldn’t think of any good stories to write. And I could have worked on one of my outlines, flesh out one of my half written novels or even proofread, but every time I looked at my writing it just looked so amateur-ish. The stories seemed broken and awkward. The main characters felt one dimensional. Every time I read something I’d written, I’d just keep picking it apart.

For a while, I honestly thought I would walk away and stop writing all together.

Yeah, that didn’t last long.

It seemed like the moment I finally decided to never ever write again, was right when new stories started flooding back in. I think it started when a writer friend, trying to coax be back into the writing world, suggested that I try writing some children’s picture books. “They’re fun to write and super easy. And you get to work with an illustrator who will help you along.” she said. So I stared writing a few quick outlines for picture books, just so she would stop nagging me. And the next thing I knew the stories I’m thinking up get longer and longer and more and more complex. After a while I look at the outline I’m working on and I realize that it’s an outline for a novel, and it’s a pretty good out line at that. Now I’m thinking of all sorts of ideas for novels.

The writing bug, there really isn’t a cure, only treatments.

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How to make time for writing

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I don’t think there’s any special trick to this, it’s just a matter of priorities. For me, I only write on my days off of paid work. I have long hours at work, so I get three days off instead of two. I don’t write on work days because to write before work would mean that I would have to wake up and about four in the morning. And I don’t write after work because that would mean I would have to stay awake until about midnight. I’m not a college kid anymore, I can’t function with just four hours of sleep.

glass colors frameThat being said, even on my off days, sometimes I still don’t write. It’s not that I don’t want to write, or that I don’t understand that it’s important to get some writing done whenever you have a chance. It’s just on some days there are things that are a bit more important. I can almost hear it, writers across the globe are clutching their chests and gasping at my last words. But really, there are somethings that are more important than writing. Sometimes I just have to take a day off to check in with reality.

For example, this passed month my mom had a pace-maker put in. I took a few days off of writing for that. No, I’m not a surgeon, and I completely understand that if anything went wrong there really wouldn’t be anything that I could do to help the situation. But still, a machine was put into my mom’s chest to keep her heart beating. I just thought I should be somewhere more present than holed up in my writing burrow.

broken heartAnd guess what, I don’t feel the tiniest bit of regret for that time off. Once my mom was out of the hospital and feeling better, I went right back to writing. I didn’t try to write extra to make up for the missing days. I didn’t really worry about word count.
Because, sometimes life happens and the more you live it the better your writing will be any way.

So, how do I make time for writing? Easy, when I wake up in the morning I think of what’s most important to me on that day. Sometimes writing wins. Sometimes it doesn’t. And both help me improve my writing.

What ways do you improve your writing with out actually writing? I’d love to hear about it, please leave a comment in the area below.

How to create a story premise

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Someone recently asked me where I get my ideas for my stories. What they probably should have asked me is how do I take those ideas and mix them up to make the stories I write. See, when I write, I don’t take one idea and write a story based on that, instead I take a whole bunch of ideas and patch-work them together to make a new story.

For example, a few weeks ago I was thinking, ‘I like the Harry Potter novels. I want to write something like that.’ Of course, just writing another Harry Potter novel would be boring because it’s already been done. So instead I thought about all the things I like about the Harry Potter novels.

  1. I liked that it took place in a secret magical world that was parallel to the normal world.
  2. And I liked that the main character started out young and we got to watch him grow and become a powerful leader.

IMG_0114Okay, that’s a good start. I’ll just take those parts. But,now I need to add more parts to it.

Well I really like the anime Full Metal Alchemist. So maybe I could put armored metal golems in my magical world. In fact, what if my main character was raised by a kind metal golem, one that looked really scary. It would give my young protagonist the ability to look beyond the scary or at times ugly exterior of people to see the goodness inside.

Okay, what else? Well, I recently watched the movie Song of theĀ  See (lovely movie!) and I really liked the seclusion of the island they lived on. So, what if the main character grew up on a distant island with only her golem guardian to keep her company and that’s why she doesn’t know about magic and all her powers.

So, now I have these parts, but they still lack something. What am I going to use as glue to really bring all these parts together?

The best glue I’ve found for sticking random parts together is conflict.

FOGGY ISLANDYou might be thinking, ‘Conflict? How’s that going to work? She’s a girl that’s grown up on a pristine island with her loving and nurturing guardian. Then she’s whisked away to a magical school where she finds out she has magical powers and everyone good adores her. It sounds like she has the perfect life!’

Well for one thing, if she’s lived such a happy life with someone she loves on a peaceful island, how happy is she going to be when all that is taken away from her? That could definitely cause a little conflict.

It’s okay, a good start, but I think I could add more conflict.

IMG_0136What if the MC wasn’t adored by all the good guys of the school when she gets there? What if the school is divided into two groups: the good guys and the bad guys. And what if the bad guys are the one’s that take her from her perfect island home. What if they do this because she’s supposed to be their secret weapon against the good guys? The good guys know this and the bad guys know this. So, no matter how good she acts, the good guys don’t like her because she’s dangerous, and the bad guys don’t like her because she keeps doing good things.

Now that could cause some serious conflict!

I think that’s the big take-away I’ve been trying to say through all of this rambling. A story is made by taking different features of other stories or events that you liked and then they are glued together with conflict. I hope this was helpful.

Do you have some tips for creating Story Premises? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment below.