Writing is a creative process and how every writer chooses to create, is individual to them. Likewise, with plotting, every writer plots at a level they are comfortable with.
Some just plot the bare essentials. They have a firm idea of the story they want to write and have a good memory to be able to memorize everything.
Others go into more detail. These writers prefer to figure everything out before they write the story.
How you plot will also depend on your level of experience. For the beginner, it’s recommended to plot thoroughly.
Before writing, think of every possible situation. Plot events thoroughly, plot scenes to the last detail and generally leave no questions unasked or unanswered. This way you will always know where you’re going.
Are You Using The ‘What If’ Technique When Plotting?
Your short story of 500, 2.000, 10.000 words or whatever word length you choose to write, will spring from a single idea - Perhaps a one-sentence idea.
So when you are still in that one sentence stage, using the ‘What If,’ technique is a good way of generating ideas to build on that initial story idea.
While you are in the plotting stage, experiment. Your aim should be to write the best story you can. Experiment to see what bits and pieces you can put together to write the best story ever.
So using ‘What If,’ ask yourself questions then answer them…
What if the character was like this?
What if this happened to him?
What if I placed him in this situation? How would he react?
What if I took this away from him?
What if his worst fear came true?
What if he doesn’t get what he wants? What will he do?
What if I placed this obstacle in his path? What will he do?
You’ll be surprised what you come up with, if you take the time to experiment.
(c) Nick Vernon
Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories. Visit Website
This must be the single most fascinating issue amongst new writers - and non writers.
Throughout their careers, authors are consistently asked the same question: Where do you get your ideas from? As though there is some secret locked store-room full of them, hidden away,
and that only the best writers are mysteriously given the key.
If you're one of those people that has apparent trouble coming up with ideas, let me reassure you right away. You already hold the key to the 'idea store'. Just like any other writer or creative person, the ideas are inside your head - and all you need is an easy way to tap into them.
Something I'm just about to give you.
You may not be conscious of it now but your subconscious is a swirling mass of ideas just waiting for your attention.
The problem for most long term writers is not 'Where do I get ideas?' but 'Which one of the thousands I have am I going to work on next?' The dilemma then becomes 'When am I ever going to have enough time?'
Because once you gain access to the 'idea store', you'll most likely never have problems coming up with ideas again.
Gaining Access to Ideas
The notion that ideas are plentiful - and you already have them - is comforting to know, right? But you're probably still wondering how to unlock that store.
Easy. First of all, try this exercise.
Write at the top of a page: "Ten Ideas for Stories"
The simple act of doing this begins to open your subconscious mind. Let it do its magic, you really don't need to force it.
Let me explain.
Your subconscious mind is dumb. It cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, real and imagined, true or false. It is constantly taking in information and impressions from the conscious mind and trying to make sense of what it sees and hears and experiences.
It takes the data it has and tries to understand it, quantify it and file it away for reference later.
During this process it compares and contrasts different notions, sees if they fit and when they don't, continues. Most of the time we let the subconscious do this without question, without even knowing it's happening.
The KEY is to interrupt this process and let the notions that don't quite fit come to the surface of your conscious mind.
The Old 'What If...'
Ideas, as in scenarios and interesting propositions that are worth a writer pursuing, usually come in the form of two disparate notions that wouldn't normally be melded together.
For instance. 'A person with a lisp' is not strictly an idea worth pursuing. Similarly 'a person giving an important speech' is not necessarily an intriguing subject. But - 'a person with a lisp giving an important speech' is an idea with potential.
Another example? 'Aliens taking over the earth' is fairly tired subject matter for fiction writers nowadays. As is, 'kids have fun skateboarding' I would suggest. But what about 'Skateboarding aliens having fun taking over the earth?' Now THAT's an idea!
Open your mind to possibilities. Let impressions come in to your mind, let them ferment in your subconscious and take a sidelong look at how your subconscious deals with them.
Ask yourself, what if I put this fact with that fiction? What if this person were in that situation? What would happen if this notion were true? This imaginary place existed, or this particular scenario happened? How would that affect people, my characters, me?
Do this and soon, you'll be scribbling down ideas for stories in no time.
Practice Makes Productive
If you deliberately ask yourself every day to come up with ideas, you'll find that your brain will start to do it automatically.
You will begin to think laterally and see connections where previously you thought there were none.
One the things that helps this process immensely is the simple act of writing.
Many new writers think they can't start writing until they have an idea. Consequently they may never start. This is wrong thinking.
Most ideas only come AFTER you begin writing. As a useful metaphor, it's like turning on the tap. You have to get the water flowing BEFORE the ideas will come.
Writing a story is about letting images and thoughts form as you write, and being open to your subconscious, which is literally bursting with ideas all of the time. But if you don't turn on the tap, you'd never know it.
Don't ever stop writing because you think you have no ideas. Write anyway. And if you get stuck, write about that. Keep asking your mind for ideas, even if you have to write: 'I need an idea. I need something to write. Hey, brain, give me an idea.' You'll find the subconscious reacts well to this kind of stimulus. It works far better that staring out of the window - every time!
What's a 'Good' Idea?
You may be tempted to wonder whether an idea is 'good' or 'bad'? And what's the difference?
Again, this is upside-down thinking. There is no difference between a good idea and a bad one if you never put either of them down on paper. The 'good' idea is anything that gets you writing - and finishing a piece of work, whether that be a paragraph or a novel.
A bad idea is simply one that doesn't get written down.
It's about your personal preference. You may have a great idea that doesn't inspire you to write.
You may also have a dumb idea you find endlessly fascinating, that keeps you writing for hours.
The good idea is the one that keeps you writing.
And out of the wilderness, I hear the mournful cry:
But I Can't Think of Anything Original!
Many new writers have this idea you can't write unless you have an original idea or some momentous new thought.
Tosh! There's no such thing as an original idea. There's nothing new. Nothing.
What's original is your particular way of writing. What's 'good' is your unique way of thinking - and expressing your ideas. And by the way, you're already unique - just because you're you.
Don't ever think that it's your ideas that define your originality. It's not. It's your ability to get them down on paper that is far more important - in any writing arena.
Are we inspired yet?
Now go and write down those ten ideas for stories!
(c) Rob Parnell
Do your readers lose consciousness ploughing through pages of narrative description? Or are they perplexed and bewildered because your snappy dialogue leaves them wondering just who is talking to who? It's time to get your narrative/dialogue balance right. Here's how.
Most stories have two basic elements: Dialogue and Narrative. Narrative also has two main purposes: to inform the reader and to describe a person, place or thing. Getting the right balance between Dialogue and Narrative will lift your story, giving it bounce and adding interest.
Modern readers in general prefer a story that moves along with a fair degree of alacrity. If not, they soon get bored, and when that happens your novel is history. That's today's book reader for you; spoon fed on fast action films and TV with perhaps little time to read anyway. But maybe the readers you are aiming at are more relaxed and cerebral and are quite at home with a slower paced tale. But which is right for you and your readers?
Take a careful look at published books or stories of the type you are writing yourself and gauge what proportion of the text is dialogue and what is narrative. Compare what you see with your own writing and note the difference. It is vital that you get this right or you may fall between two stools.
And this is where dialogue comes in. Too much and the reader can get lost and disoriented. Too little and the reader can get bogged down and toss your tome aside.
TOO MUCH DIALOGUE
If your story has too much dialogue it is not unknown for readers to loose track of which character is speaking. And you need to avoid too many 'he said', 'she said' or 'said Mark', 'said Hermione'.
An excess of dialogue can be wearing and you may need to intersperse the conversation with snippets of movement or description. As for example:
'Maria looked up from her work. "So that's what you think of Grimble, is it?'
Carla nodded. 'He's passed his sell-by date if you ask me'.
Introducing that small movement 'Maria looked up from her work.' activates the reader's imagination and gives them a picture to lock onto.
Imagine two characters having a heated argument. To break this up you could say something like:
'A removal lorry shuddered to a halt in the street outside followed by the blare of a horn from an angry motorist. Ronald fumed over to the window and shut it with a crash.'
This gives us movement and description, not only of the character Ronald, but of the traffic outside, which, incidentally, also echoes the turmoil going on inside.
TOO LITTLE DIALOGUE
If you find you are filling up page after page with too much narrative you may need to ask yourself these questions:
Does this piece of narrative add to the storyline or is it superfluous?
Would the story or plot suffer if I left it out altogether?
You may love to describe the start of a new day with three paragraphs of purple prose but these could be saved by simply saying:
'Gail drew back the curtains and sighed dispiritedly as she took in the grey clouds and pouring rain.'
You can also use a character's dialogue to add a descriptive element. In some instances you could cut out a wordy flashback with something like:
'I often think about those hazy summer days when you, me and Dave used to wander over the downs picking the buttercups and daisies. Then we'd lie down by the pond in that little grove of trees. Remember? Lovely. I wonder what ever happened to Dave...'
But often you simply have to be cruel to be kind and axe those sections of narrative that add nothing to the story so that your narrative/dialogue balance is right.
And when you do get it right, believe me, your readers will warm to you and want more.
(c) Mervyn Love writes on several topics including creative writing. His website Writers Reign has a mind-boggling array of resources, articles and links to keep any writer happy for hours.
As a writer, time can be your greatest ally or your most dreaded enemy, depending on how you look at it.
The publishing industry works at a snail's pace. As author and screenwriter Richard Curtis once said, 'Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write cheques.' Oh, how true.
I get a lot of emails from writers who have urgent problems they want fixing NOW. I myself have to sometimes drop everything to do some research, to find answers to technical issues or just to get some advice.
But publishers don't work this way. Ask them a direct question and they behave like my ex.
Either they don't answer at all, give you the brush off or make you feel small and grubby for daring to bother them with your pathetic request.
It can be very frustrating to have to wait for a reply that may never come - but such is the life of a career writer.
Life as Bottom Feeder
As a writer, you're the lowest in the foodchain. The most abhored, the most misunderstood, the most avoided and yet, ironically, the most necessary component of the publishing industry. How else do publishers get to be huge conglomerate monsters, slavering over cash and fighting over each other's riches?
Simple, by publishing the outpourings of all us, 'Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beasties', - to quote the great Scottish poet, Robbie Burns.
On the upside, you do get some kudos for being a good writer sometimes from agents or other people who want to cash in on something you've written.
But even then, writers often complain they feel like gatecrashers at their own parties. The film and publishing industry love to congratulate themselves on picking winners and bestsellers but seem to find it hard to even acknowledge the creators who get them so excited (and rich) in the process.
"You think writing is hard," they like to remind us. "You should try production and marketing - now that's hard!"
I guess it is. But how many glittering award ceremonies are there for writers? One or two? And how many of them are televised? Um...
Time is its Own Reward
Personally I like the way writing industry professionals take their time getting back to me. It gives me more time to write. I think that's the trick - and the answer to the problem.
You can't afford to write and then contact people. Contacting people is part of the ongoing process. Waiting is a futile and frustrating way of spending your time - especially if you're doing nothing but biting your nails and fretting.
Use your time wisely.
If there's any delay in someone getting back to you, don't think you have keep bugging them until they answer. That won't work. It will only make them more resentful of you. Send out your query and then get back to work.
And keep writing.
In the process of getting published, you will face many delays - it's all part of process of editing, formatting, proofing, printing, marketing and promotion - all of these things involve people, which means it takes time. And the one thing all of these people hate is an impatient writer. The answer?
You must keep writing.
And if you think getting published takes forever, try waiting for royalty checks to come - now that takes forever!
So now you know what to do. Altogether now,
(c) Rob Parnell
This article will outline the various ways in which your writing can become more engaging. It will look at character, plot, style of narrative and timeline, to show you how you can make your writing more appealing.
This is a question every writer or new writer has asked themselves from time to time. How to write fiction that people will not only want to read, but enjoy and remember a long time after they have finished the book.
This article although aimed at novels can easily be applied to short stories.
The first thing to appreciate when constructing engaging fiction is to start with a strong main character or protagonist. You want your main character to stand out and be able to carry your story right through to the end. This is even more important for longer fiction as you obviously have to engage the attention of your readers for longer.
What makes a memorable character can be many things. Unusual physical appearance can help such as for example, a very tall man who has a lot of tattoos and a bald head. However, it is the personality of your main character that will stay in the minds of your readers more. Readers want to be able to identify with your main protagonist or at least sympathize and root for them when they are presented with obstacles or opposition.
Your main character does not have to be perfect by any means, but they have to be likable, appealing and believable. They need to seem almost real. Even if your main character has many flaws, their good points should still outweigh them.
Another aspect to bear in mind when writing engaging fiction is your plot. Good fiction should contain conflict, that is, a hurdle or obstacle that your main character needs to overcome in order to achieve what they want. It would be very difficult to write engaging fiction without a strong plot. Regardless of the genre you are writing in, the same rule applies.
A good plot should aim to grab the reader's attention from the beginning of the book and should contain sufficient tension and cliff-hangers. This is especially true when writing thrillers or crime fiction. When writing engaging fiction the plot should not be predictable but should keep your readers intrigued until the end. However, even if you are writing romance fiction for instance, the plot should not be obvious. It could even include a credible twist.
Your style of narration is another way to write engaging fiction. Third person narrative is popular for good reason. It allows you to follow the thoughts and view the world of all your characters both major and minor. Third person narrative also assists with plot as you can better understand the actions and motivations of the antagonist, for example.
By contrast first person narrative although restricted to your main character has the added advantage of you seeing the story unfold closely through the eyes of your main protagonist. This intimate view of storytelling can add excitement and tension, thus making writing more thrilling.
Finally, the time span of your book or short story can make your work more compelling. Obviously, the shorter the time span, then the more tense your story is going to be, again very useful for thriller writing. However, a longer time span will allow you to include more details thus creating vivid memorable fiction.
(c) Sharon Wilson is an aspiring writer who is serious and passionate about the art and craft of creative writing. She has undertaken several courses in this field and has gained extensive knowledge of writing novels and short stories. Sharon has a keen interest in poetry and is an avid reader. Her blog is dedicated to all writers, especially the new writer: click HERE