Discovering a Story Everywhere

Archive for September, 2016

Writing Tip – Let Work Age

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What is one of the keys to great wine? The fact that it has aged appropriately. It isn’t consumed immediately. It allowed to let it’s flavors develop. Writing is kind of like that. Except it’s not so much getting better while it ages as you will be able to see it better. Your view of it improves.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked at something days or weeks later and be shocked at how horrible a sentence was structured. I looked it several times when I first wrote it and never saw a problem with it. But stepping away I was able to come back to it and see the story nearly as though for the first time.

After you write your first draft, put it aside. Get away from it. Then review it again. You’ll see so many areas that need work that you didn’t see before.

Too many writers feel that once they have written the first draft that it is ready for publication. That is so false! It is far from being ready for anyone to read at all. You’ve only just begun. You need to let it age then go back and find all those glaring mistakes. Trust me, many will jump right out at you. That’s why you need to get away from it for awhile and then go over it again. Let it age some more and repeat the process.

Writing doesn’t happen overnight and neither does editing it. Try letting your work age and see how much better the end result can be.

Edit Your First Draft a Paragraph at a Time

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Once you are finished writing your story, it comes the time for editing. This can be very overwhelming. You might want to edit smaller pieces at a time like one paragraph at a time.

When I start to edit, I read only the first paragraph. After all, I already know what will happen next so I don’t have to read on to get the context of what is happening within the lines. I focus on the first paragraph.

How Does It Sound?

Read your paragraph slowly. Pretend you are seeing it for the first time. It helps if you haven’t looked at it in a few days or weeks. It’s all fresh.

How does it sound to you? Does it make sense? How does it flow?

Does your paragraph do what it’s supposed to do? Question yourself.

Read it out loud. Read it backwards. Make it flow smoothly.

What Can be Reworded?

No matter how good of a writer you are, there will be many sentences that need to be re-worded. As you are writing, you are not quite thinking of the perfect wording. You want to get the idea out. That means your wording will probably not be just right. When you go back over your draft, think how you can reword sentences.

They can always be worded better. And don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. Think of it as a game. I enjoy trying to find different ways to say the same thing.

When you are looking at re-wording things, you need to look at several different aspects. Start with the actual words. Are there better words you can use? Usually there are, and we can find them when we stop and really think about it.

Maybe your sentence is too wordy. It is not uncommon for a writer to try to put too much into one sentence. Most long sentences can be condensed into something smaller and more powerful.

Can Anything be Removed?

As you go over each of your paragraphs, question whether or not you can remove it without hurting the story. Many times there are sentences that can be removed as they are redundant, too wordy, or just not necessary. Take it out and see how it sounds.

Don’t get upset about deleting something. It’s okay. Trimming off a few words, sentences, or paragraphs can be a good thing. Think of it as trimming the fat.

Look at a section and see how it would read without it. You might be surprised. Many first draft pieces can be removed. And then some things might need to be added.

Can Anything be Added?

Look over your material and see if anything needs to be added to it? Maybe it is more description.  What are people wearing? You don’t want to add too much, but you don’t want to have too little either.

Ask yourself this, can the reader ‘see’ the character, scene, or action well? You might need to add some visual aides. It can be as simple as a hand gesture or tucking a piece of hair behind the ear. Maybe add the color of the eyes if you haven’t already.

You don’t want to add unnecessary words, but see if you can add anything that will enhance the story.

Move On and Repeat

Once you finish with that one paragraph, move one to the next one. Repeat what you did above. Before you know it, the process becomes easier each time.

Don’t Edit While You Write

It is fascinating to see how authors differ in techniques. They cover the entire spectrum of writing styles and habits. Some can write in a crowd while others have to have complete silence.  Others can edit as they write…But I wouldn’t advise that. Until you have gotten a lot of experience under your belt writing, don’t focus on editing as you write that first draft.

The Wonder of the First Draft

Believe it or not, the first draft is an amazing specimen. It is an ugly yet beautiful thing. I see the first draft as something moldable. It is not rigid. There are dozens if not more possibilities.

The first draft is a rough outline of the story as you see it during the initial writing stage. Many times a story can change as you write which means it won’t be as smooth as you originally planned. But that is okay. The first draft is supposed to be incomplete with loads of potential.

If you focus on editing as you write, you take away so much of that potential. You are filing down the rough edges when you are still chiseling away at the stone to find the sculpture. Now is not the time for that. You are still finding the main parts of your masterpiece.

Make Notes

As I go along in my initial writing, I find that some areas will need certain work on it during the editing phase. In one scene of a book I was writing, I was not in the mood to describe the room in too much detail but I felt it needed something. So instead of fighting with my muse that wanted to focus on the action, I put in a note (“Add description”) right in the middle of my writing. When I went back to edit, that note stood out and gave me directions.

Notes have been a lifesaver for me. They have helped me develop deeper stories.

Age Before Editing

Once you are done writing, put your work aside and forget about it. By doing this, you’ll be able to think clearer as you work on it and catch major issues you otherwise would skip right over. Set it aside for a few days or even a few weeks. When you sit back down to start true editing, you’ll see where you need to fix sections or even eliminate some.

By waiting until you are done writing the guts of the story, you allow it to gel and get it out of your mind so editing is a much crisper process.

Finding Inspiration in a Dream

You’d be surprised how many authors find inspiration for their books within dreams they have. They close their eyes at night and enter worlds that no conscious mind can ever create. Colors that cannot be fully described with words weave around us and create landscapes that are breathtaking. Creatures are conjured up that defy logic and sense. Scenes are displayed that make the mind swirl in anticipation and passion.
From those dreams, they weave stories that become bestsellers and even at times end up on the silver screen. Other worlds become a part of ours. These stories mesmerize you and stay with you long after you read the last words and close the final page. Dreams can be very inspiring for authors.

No Limits

Within dreams, there are no limits. There are no laws of science or nature to hold you back. You can do anything and be anything. Your mind has no constraints on it all. It can do whatever it wants any which way it wants.
That is what makes dreams so much fun and versatile for inspiring stories. After all, there really are no limits within a story either.  People can change into other animals or even objects. They can speak to people in other dimensions. So much can happen with no limits.

Test Run

Look at dreams as a test run. Within your dreams, the kinks of the story are worked out. You can see dozens of different scenarios play out in your mind with multiple endings all in a matter of seconds. You don’t have to write the scenes out and then edit them over and over. The editing is being done in your dreams. All the word is in this impossible world.

Subconscious Update

When you wake up from a dream, do you find yourself thinking about what prompted your mind to put together such a scenario? Sometimes, I’m able to come up with what did, but many time I just can’t. Part of that is because it is your subconscious at work. I think of dreams as your subconscious updating on the events of the previous few days in a unique and creative manner. The dream might be from something a person said that you cannot remember but your mind picked up and filed away to deal with later while you were sleeping. Your mind could be working out a problem you have. I was tackling a problem at work and the dream I had, as a result, was downright scary.

Using That Inspiration

Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed. When you wake up from a dream, write it down immediately. You don’t have to write the entire dream down. Generally, a brief description will be enough for you to remember it later. If you are like me, after you’ve been awake for a few hours, the dreams start to fade from my memory. By putting down a few sentences right after the dream, I can read it later and recall what I saw while asleep. From there I can write the story out.

This is really helpful when a dream is recurring. By writing it out, I’m able to purge it from my mind and give my dreams rest from seeing the same scenes over and over again. Might as well use it to write a story.

You never know what your dreams will come up with or what story you can pull from them. Use them. They are free inspiration that your muse thinks will be beneficial.

Taking the Lemons in Your Life and Writing a Story

Life sucks. I’m just saying. I’m laying it on the line. It is not a bed of roses. Think so? Really think it is? Then check what that thorn is sticking in your side. Life has some wonderful moments. I won’t deny that, but it has some really horrible ones too. We could all sit down and go on and on about what bad things have happened to us and how life has given us a bad deck of cards. But it is how you react to those horrible moments that determines how you view life. So you get thrown a lemon. As a writer, you can take those lemons and make some wonderfully written lemonade.

I work with the public. I also live in a house with five other people, three dogs, and three cats. There are many days where I get lemons rained on me from bad tempers to everything breaking around me. Even if I’m in a great mood, it seems that the world conspires against me and takes that apple from me and gives me a lemon instead. Now, I have to admit that most of the time I react negatively to it all and let everyone else have back what they are giving, but the most constructive use of all that lemon is to use it in my stories.

So, my kids and I have a disagreement about going to a friend’s house. That is a lemon I can use in a scene with a teen arguing with their parent. It’s been years since I was a kid. I don’t know how they argue in today’s world. I only know those from the eighties. I can use this in my story.

My boss pulls me aside and corrects me at work. That is a lemon I can use in a scene. How does he do it? How do I react? What do the others around us do? So many resources are right there. Even what he is correcting me about can be one.

My car dies on the way to work. That is a lemon I can use to direct an entire story. Make it a comedy, a horror, a romance, or a kid’s book. Describe how it acted, how the traffic responded, how it smelled and sounded. So many things can come from this bad incident.
The IRS informs me I’m being audited. Believe it or not, I can use that lemon as well. I won’t be happy about any of it, but I might as well use it. I could imagine murdering the agents or have them have a bad day before auditing my stuff so they let me off easy because they are scared of what will happen next.

When the lemons fall into your lap, turn them into a horror story as you write out what you really want to do. Turn them into comedies as you begin to see the funny side of it. Use life as your resource.

A Writer’s Killer Resource: Family Stories

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This is one of my favorite resources for stories. When the family gets together, they inevitably talk about the past. Most are funny stories which leave us all in stitches. Why do we love them? Because they are real and are better than some stories are. Then why not make them into stories?

I made a list of the stories told in my family. As I heard them, I wrote them down. Later I took them to use as a basis for several short stories. Most become short stories. The majority were not retold exactly how it happened. Some embellishments were added. The point was that those family stories were the inspiration for my new story.

Every family has them. They are told all the time. But some are not always talked about openly and laughed about. You have to get members alone to discover this inspiring gems.

I’ve heard stories of cute babies, cheating husbands, and near death experiences. Stories from military service have also been informative and inspiring. Survival from abusive relationships, looking for adoptive parents, and so much more. I was at a funeral where I saw family members I hadn’t seen since I was a small child. Things said had been piecing things together and asking questions. My mother then realized that I had no clue of the intricate relationships of that branch of the family. I walked away with a lot of resource material and a whole different viewpoint on my family.

Listen when your family gets together. Ask questions about periods of the family’s history. How did people meet and fall in love? Who was their first love? What was the scariest moment in their life? I hear of encounters with ghosts, of fleeing a burning building, and meeting their one true love across the ocean at the end of World War II in war-torn Paris. So much to pull from.

Inspire Your Muse by Eavesdropping

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Let’s make it clear that I’m not asking you to go around listening in on conversations you shouldn’t be. Never do that. I mean for you to pay attention to conversations that flow around you though not always including you.

Your pre-teen girl has friends over. They are talking non-stop wherever they go. When they are nearby, how do they talk? What is the topic of their conversation? I found a great story once when my daughter and her friends were talking in the back of the car. I couldn’t help but hear their conversation. So I let it inspire me.

Once I was in a cafe and was listening to two women talk about their children. Their voices were very loud so I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping, but I listened to how they talked and put that in a story that needed it.

What other people say and do can inspire all sorts of stories. When you are on the bus or train heading to work, conversations whirl around you all the time. At work, you hear people talking as they walk by, in meetings, or in the copier room. Let a word or phrase they drop inspire you. You don’t have to listen to the whole conversation.

I was at work one day when I overhead the person in the cubicle next to me on the phone with a customer. Her voice was loud so anyone could overhear it, but it was the interaction with the customer that inspired a short story. All I could think of was what if the customer is saying something totally different on the other end and can’t get her to understand him? A story was born just from casual eavesdropping.

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