Writing Flash Fiction Gems – Small, Precious, and Slower Than You’d Think

What Is Flash Fiction?

There are, of course, as many definitions of Flash Fiction as there are writers.

Flash Fiction image

Continue reading “Writing Flash Fiction Gems – Small, Precious, and Slower Than You’d Think”

Welcome to StoryADay 2016

Welcome to Week One!

This weeks’s theme: Limits

I know you’re excited. I know you want to get started on your great masterpiece. But setting that kind of pressure on yourself is the fastest way I know to a crippling case of writers block.

This week I’m going to impose limits on your writing that will make it almost impossible for you to write something great. This is my gift to you.

Continue reading “Welcome to StoryADay 2016”

[Write On Wednesday] Time Yourself

Today’s exercise is designed to help you see that you CAN write, even when you think you don’t have time. Take 30 minutes today to write a complete story. Here’s how…

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. We must find ways to work in a time-crunch.

Today’s exercise is designed to help you see that you CAN write, even when you think you don’t have time.
time flies
The Prompt

Write A Story In 30 Minutes

Tips

  • Turn your phone off, mute your email, hang a sign on the door, put on huge silly headphones. Do whatever you need to do, carve out 30 minutes today to Just Write.
  • Use only 30 minutes, start to finish, brainstorming to ‘the end’.
  • Set a stopwatch. Take seven minutes to brainstorm. Think of a character. Give him/her a problem/desire. Pick a reason why solving this problem/achieving this desire causes them extreme heartache/peril (examples: Wesley loves Buttercup but is too poor to woo her. Becoming good for her means risking being murdered by pirates, a prince and a rodent of unusual size. A bookworm’s heart’s desire is simply to read, but his wife thinks its a waste of time so he can’t read at home; and his boss threatens to fire him if he catches him reading at work.)
  • Pick a good opening line that sums up the character and the problem. (“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” – J.D Salinger: The Catcher In The Rye)
  • You should be at about 10 minutes into your time now. Spend the next 15 minutes getting to the meat of the problem, throwing complications at your character, and having him start to try to resolve them. Fail at least once. (If it’s an interior kind of story, you can let that failure be ‘temptation to give up’)
  • Five minutes to go! At some point in the past 15 minutes your character should have started to tell you how the story should end. Tie up the last challenge you gave them and move immediately to the ending. Two sentences. Don’t worry about connecting the middle to the ending just yet. That’s what rewrites are for. Just write “[connecting stuff]” and move on to the end.
  • There. Didn’t that feel good?

What you have in front of you is likely not a complete short story. It’s a sketchy first draft. But it’s a sketchy first draft that moves. It has an interesting character. It has action. It has a sense that it’s going somewhere, and it has and ending.

Now you have a draft you can rework. Add a few lines to help clarify setting and description for the reader, if it’s that kind of story. Change some of your ‘info dump’ paragraphs to dialogue and move them to earlier/later in the story. Expand or delete details. Figure out your theme and how you can (subtly) strengthen it.

Do this, and I think you’ll have a pretty good story. All from taking 30 minutes to squeeze a little short story writing into your day.

Host a Writing Sprint

RunnerHaving trouble getting started with your writing today? Why not host a writing sprint?

WHAT IS A WRITING SPRINT?

A writing sprint is a focussed block of writing time. Ideally you announce it to the world and invite others to join.

It’s usually pretty spontaneous. A writer announces that they’re doing a writing sprint at :15, for example (meaning ’15 minutes past the hour wherever you are’), and says ‘join me?’

I see writing sprints mostly on Twitter, because that’s where I hang out, but there’s no reason you can’t host one on your favourite social media network: Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, LinkedIn, even the StoryADay activity stream.

WHY HOST A WRITING SPRINT?

  • You’ll inspire other people to join you in real time, as you write.
  • You’ll feel like you’re not in this alone.
  • You’ll be accountable to the other people taking part and less likely to abandon your own efforts.

HOW TO HOST A WRITING SPRINT

Start It

All it takes is a simple announcement. You can give people some notice (if you know you’ll be writing at 7 AM EST, say so) or you can just say “Go”.

Here are some sample messages you can send

About to write my storyaday story. Want to write with me? #WritingSpring at 0:15.

I’m #writing RIGHT NOW. Join me?

The hashtags are a Twitter thing: they let people easily find other people who are interested in the same things. the ‘Writing Sprint at 0:15’ part lets people know you’re starting at fifteen minutes after whatever hour it is now, wherever they are. (Obviously you can make it 0:00 or 0:23 or any time you like).

Set A Time Limit (optional)

Some people say they’re going to ‘sprint’ for 30 minutes or an hour or 15 minutes. That lets people know how long you’ll all be writing together (though anyone should feel free to write for more or less time). This is optional, though it increases the sense that you’re all in it together for at least that amount of time.

Write

This is important: get offline and write.

No, you won’t actually know if anyone is writing along with you because you’re not checking your messages (right?!). But just imagining a squad of other writers out there writing along with you is kind of fun.

End The Sprint

When your story is finished (or your time is up), send another quick message to let your followers know you are done, and invite them to check in. Sample messages:

#WritingSprint finished! I got a lot done! How about you?

That #WritingSprint was bit of a slog, but I did get 523 words written. How did you do?

Enjoy The Feedback

Sometimes you’ll hear nothing (especially if your network is small and not populated by writers) but sometimes you’ll hear from people you don’t even know, who just saw your hashtag, or message, and jumped in because you gave them the motivation they needed to get going today. And even if you don’t hear from them, there mayl be writers out there who saw your ‘writing sprint’ announcement and buckled down to write a story that would not otherwise have been told.

And trust me, it’s a pretty warm and fuzzy feeling, knowing you’re helping motivate people to write.

Writing In The Fast Lane – Interview With AdorablyAlice

As writers we’re curious. About everything. About people, technology, history, our neighbours, everything.

I’m particularly curious about other writers and how they work, what keeps them going, why they do it.

So here’s the first in a series of interviews with writers, starting with writers who took part in the StoryADay challenge last May.

AdorablyAlice was one of our most active writers during the first challenge. In this interview she gives a lot of credit for her writing success to her secret weapon: her friend and mentor: Cid (also a StoryADay veteran). I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below, picking out one thing from this interview that stood out for you: something that sounded sooooo familiar it made you smile, or something you’d like to try in your own writing life.


Before you started StoryADay how would you have described your writing life?

I used to write a lot when I was younger. Sometime after high school, I stopped. It wasn’t until NaNoWriMo 2009 that I began writing again. So between NaNo and StADa, I was still trying to find a balance between work, school, life and writing.

What made you decide to do StoryADay?

Cid. I found out about StADa through her, and because short story is my weakest point, I thought it would be a good challenge. Plus, I thought it would help me get into the habit of writing daily.

What did you expect to achieve? What did you actually achieve? What did you learn during the challenge?

I wanted to write something every day, and I wanted to get stronger at writing short stories. I did write everyday, but I think I’m still weak in writing short stories. I learned about Twitter fiction, which intrigued me, and I actually wrote a few TwitFic pieces.

How do you make time for writing?

This is a good question. And when I have an answer that doesn’t involve neglecting chores/cooking, I’ll let you know.

Why do you write? What keeps you motivated?

I am most productive on #writersdatenight (yes, I have to include the Twitter hashtag). Once a week a group of five writers (including myself) meet at McAllister’s to eat, socialize a little and write. Because the other four ladies have been writing longer than I have, I feel motivated to write a lot when I’m around them. The sound every one typing is motivating. I’ve tried other writing groups, but they’ve been more socializing than writing, so I don’t enjoy them as much. Lately, Cid has been setting goals for me. Write 5K and get a book. Write 5K and have a Glee marathon. It works. She’s awesome.

What are your aspirations?

Well, I’d love to be published and that’ s definitely a long term goal, but more short term…I’d like to finish a story. Well, I’ve finished a few, but I don’t revise. So a good aspiration would be to go back and revise…lol

Do you have a project or website you’d like to tell people about?

Well, there’s Book-Addicts. There are four of us (Cid’s one of them) and we basically review books across all genres, interview authors, have guest blog spots and book giveaways. It’s a pretty awesome place for people who are as addicted to reading as we are. www.book-addicts.com – get your fix!

I also have my personal website, www.adorablyalice.com, I keep up with how I’m doing as a writer, offering the lessons I learn as I delve into the mysterious ways of The Writer.

Thanks, Alice! (And you can read more about Alice’s experiences with her writers’ groups and productivity in this blog post – which features a fun cartoon from my own writing friend and secret mentor, Debbie Ohi.)

[And one more thing: I’d love to interview you about your writing, no matter what stage you’re at or whether or not you’ve done one of these creative challenges, so leave me a comment below if you’d be willing to chat.]