My friend's short story was so good I literally went, "What?" at the end. I wanted to know more. So when I suggested (read: begged) she keep going, she said she was really busy right now but she was interested in doing more with it this summer when her schedule opened up a bit. She went on to say:
“…The time lapse [between now and this summer] will help me flesh out exactly what I want to say as well. I may do outlines and notes in between now and then to keep my hand in it though. Any advice?”
Yes. First of all, thank you for saying you'll keep going. I think you've got something.
Second. Honestly, time is probably one of the best things you can do for a story. If you have time to allow for time, good.
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Simmer the story on low. Constantly let the heat slowly pull out the delicious flavors. Yum. But of course, with that comes the obvious – the heat must be on. We can’t just put the pot on a cold burner at the back of the stove and expect it to cook. We've got to be thinking about the story, the characters and their histories, their relationships, and writing about it…
I've done my research on a lot of writers and all of them, all of them, say writing daily is the key.
For some reason I used to discredit this, most likely because I was reading it and hearing it so much. Now I’ll affirm it. In fact, I can’t stress it enough. Here's the difference, though -- everyone says to write, yes, no one ever says what that looks like. Do I have to be sitting down at a computer? Does it have to make sense to anyone else but me?
Something you want to get published will need to be legible, so most likely on a computer/typewriter, and if you want an audience of any kind, it should probably make sense to them on some level.
But that's not what I'm discussing today. I'm not talking about the final-draft. I'm just talking about the daily-draft, the bit we do for habit, our due to the muse. Whatever you want to call it.
That can look like many things:
I had a professor once who suggested I always keep a post-it pad with me, and that worked for awhile, in conjunction with one of those little black books? Easy to slip in a back pocket or bag...but I found that if I left it somewhere, for some reason -- Ugh! -- it would completely throw off my gig.
So I suggest instead that you always keep a sharpie with you, because then you can write on anything that’s handy – the infamous napkin, the side of a box, winding around a multivitamin bottle, your hand/arm/closest body appendage…
Of course traditional journaling is good. Traditional sit down and write in a book I found in the "Journal" section of my local bookstore type stuff. This works. I still do this, though in my current version I'm more likely to write in a steno I found in the "Office Supply" section of my local dollar store.
For awhile writing in cookbooks was my thing. I loved writing sloppy tid-wits in the section labeled "Fish," and sweet, gooey gossipy things in the "Desserts."
I'm a visual person, so I like finding images to go along with my stuff, sometimes. Or better yet, finding interesting images to flesh-out with words. Yes, I'm well aware this is an old stand-by of creative writing classes. But it's an old stand-by because it works.
If all else fails, and I absolutely can't find words, I draw a picture and try to caption it. Remember, habit is the key. It doesn't have to look pretty, you just need to feel good about dedicating that time (be it 10 minutes or 10 hours) to yourself and your craft.
Also, a couple of quick bullets:
- Practice writing short, powerful excerpts. My “300 Words or Less” days are done for a reason – when it feels like you’re just too busy, at least try for 300 words or less.
- Outlines are helpful, but be flexible. I’ve written and rewritten the outline for the book I'm working on four times now. Each version has the same general idea as the one before, and I already know how the book ends, but the outline is a tool that becomes more clear as I continue to plow through. If an outline just complicates things for you, drop it and keep writing.
- Know and use your primary learning style(s) to help you write. Like I said before, I'm visual, so to make my story come to life and seem more real, I visualize the scene, the dress, the action that I’m trying to portray, and then I try to fit words around them. I am in love with "Google Images." If you’re a tactile person, find objects that will help you make it more real. If you’re an audio person, find music and sounds that help you create the scene, the dress, the action...kind-of like a movie soundtrack or something.
Total pages logged as of today: 152 (so I'm behind on my goal, but pushing, pushing. If I do an extra page here, another there, I'll make it. Still 8 days...)
Moment of Magic today:
For Mardi Gras, I suggest you find some way to make your way into your very own Fairy Paradise, whatever that may look like to you. Here's one version...