How to make time for writing

img_0232

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.

Advertisements

How to create a story premise

IMG_0229

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 the  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.

Writing short stories

daisiesAfter some of the responses I got from my last post, I started to get the impression that people might actually struggle with writing short stories. Until another writer pointed it out to me, I kind of always thought that short stories were easy for everyone. Ya know, something a writer could crank out in an afternoon, no problem.

I guess I developed that point of view because of my writing background. While most writers started out writing simplistic stories when they were kids, I started out writing poetry as a kid. See, my family is very Irish, and it’s a family tradition that all the girls learn to write poetry or lyrics. So, while everyone else was writing daring tales of their heroic pet cat, I was twisting words to describe a blue sky or the shape of a cloud.

In poetry word choice is everything. Poets don’t have the luxury to spend 40 pages describing something. They need to say what they mean in a word, maybe two. Because their format is so confining, each word has so much more weight then what you might find in something bigger like a novel. Though writing poetry can be tricky and even frustrating sometimes, the one good thing is that it makes a writer’s vocabulary explode! If you ever find yourself at a loss for words while writing, definitely try writing poetry for a few hours. IMG_0302

I hope you see where I’m going with this ramble. That’s right, the exact same skills a poet uses in writing poetry are also used to write short stories. Just like in poetry, in short stories every word has to have a lot of meaning. No filler words!

Here’s an example. In a novel a person’s voice might be described like this:

She had a voice that was pleasant for everyone to hear. It was high, but not so high that it was screechy, but not so low it sounded like a squawk. It was like listening to music even though she wasn’t singing.

While in a short story it would be described more like this:

Her voice chimed like a glass bell.

This word choice is important for two reasons. One, it’s a lot shorter and fits into the smaller format. And two, the words do double duty.

IMG_0230The first critical words are “chimed” and “bell”. What kind of imagery do they bring up? Well, where do bells chime? In churches, temples, during celebrations. Bells have been traditionally used for purification. So maybe this character is pure, innocent, or even holy in some way. The second critical word is “glass“. What kind of imagery does glass create? Glass is fragile, delicate, something you have to be gentle with. So maybe this character is fragile is some way.

These three simple words, chimed, glass, bell, described her voice but also described the character’s personality. In a short story, these three words are probably the only description I would give for this character. Even if she’s the main character. In fact, most of my short stories have no description of the main character. The MCs are only defined by their names and by the way they act.

I know this is only one element of writing a short story, and it takes a lot more skills and techniques to write a good story in a small format, but word choice is a really import skill. I hope this is helpful for all you short story strugglers out there. And if I could only give one little tip for you to take away with you, it would be to write more poetry. Really, it’s a great warm-up before writing short format anything.corrected homework with green check mark

Do you have any short story writing tips to share? I’d love to hear about them, please leave them in the comments area below.