Announcing the StoryADay Fun-Size Challenge


Whether you’re easing back into a writing routine, need a break from your magnum opus, or just want to inject a little fun into your day…

YOU ARE INVITED TO SIGN UP FOR THE STORYADAY MAY CHALLENGE

New For 2022: 2 Ways To Play

This year, for the first time, I’ve created a Fun-Size StoryADay challenge—one month, one story—to ease you (back) into a daily writing practice that fits your life.

Your Perfect Writing Day

Imagine opening your email each morning of May and finding an encouraging note, writing prompt or tiny task that will start you off on the right writing foot.

No guilt, just an invitation to let your inner writer come out and play.

What’s In the Fun-Size Challenge?

Each day you’ll receive a tiny task to lead you through the process of writing one story during the month

  • Week 1 – Ideas and preparation
  • Week 2 – Developing your ideas and beginning to write
  • Week 3 – Working through the middle and ending the story well
  • Week 4 – Tidying up and planning ahead

PLUS anyone who signs up will have the option to enter the ‘review lottery’ and may get feedback on their writing, live on a group call.

By the end of the month you will have a draft of a story that didn’t exist 31 days before.

Perhaps you, like StoryADay writers Gabrielle, Marta, Kim, and Lex, will have created the draft that gets you your first, second or fiftieth fiction publication.

Or maybe, like Laura, or E. Rankin, you’ll make your first paid sale.

And how great would it be if, at the end of May, you are like StoryADay writer Michele who finally created “that daily writing habit”, or Robin who says “I have become a real writer”? Or Jeff, who says “every day, I have that desire to put in a little time with my writing and I’m confident that will always be there for me, now.”

Even if you need to take a day or two off, the tasks are manageable enough that you’ll easily be able to keep up. Importantly, you’ll keep making progress towards your goals, throughout the month.

(And don’t worry, for all you hard-core challenge fans, the classic 31 days, 31 prompts, start-and-finish-a-story-every-day version is still an option, with new writing prompts every day, and a lively community to keep you going!)

If you’ve been looking for a way to break through your blocks, fight the fear that comes with perfectionism and high expectations, and simply have some fun with your writing again, join us this May for the free StoryADay May challenge.

A Foot in Both Worlds

keeping one foot in each world—living up to your obligations to other and saying ‘yes’ to your need to write—-takes time and practice.

I took a week away from my writing. And I want to tell you why, and why it might (or might not) be a good idea for you to do the same.

It’s not like the timing was perfect…I’m two weeks out from putting on the 13th StoryADay May challenge, and this year I decided to make it easier (on you, not me) by creating a whole new Fun-Sized Challenge. (Have you signed up yet?)

But frankly, the time is never right. Not for vacation, not for a crisis, and certainly not for you to become a writer.

So what are we to do?

Continue reading “A Foot in Both Worlds”

Healing – A Short Story

Yesterday morning, my iPad and iPencil kept telling me they needed recharged (yes, normally I write on paper, but I was working with electronics for…reasons).

I charged the iPad for a while, then, impatient, pulled the cord and moved around with it.

It worked for a while then complained it needed charged.

The same thing happened with the iPencil.

In my impatience to get things done I was trying short-term, stop-gap fixes.

Finally, I realized my devices were trying to tell me something I often ignore when my body tells me the same thing:

Continue reading “Healing – A Short Story”

Please don’t do this…

I popped into a writers’ group on Facebook this morning and saw something so awful, so muse-crushing, so career-killing that I had to write to you and beg you not to make the same mistake.

Sound dramatic? 

That’s because I feel so strongly that you shouldn’t do what these two writers did. I’ve seen it stop writers in their tracks for years, if not forever.

What was this horrendous thing?

In two separate posts, this morning, I saw writers post their tender first efforts at writing (in their words “the opening of my novel”)  in a forum full of strangers and ask for feedback. 

Here are some of the responses they got:

Continue reading “Please don’t do this…”

Everything Else, We Can Learn

Do you believe that you have a right to write? Not that people in general have a general right to be creative. Do you believe that you, specifically, have a right to write? Even if it takes time away from your partner, even if it takes time away from your kid, even if, even if, even if…

Do you believe you have a right to write? Do you believe your voice is important? Do you believe your voice matters?

Mindset is I’m coming to believe more than half the battle when it comes to writing. Everything else? We can, we can learn as we need it. I think getting that in place is huge.

If you need a place that’s snug and safe, to work on your writing practice, consider joining us in the I, WRITER Course. Find out more.

The Value of Morning Pages

Some writers become discouraged by the Morning Pages practice: It can feel like running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress.So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly’?

This morning when I had a realization that might convince you to try (or enjoy) Morning pages, yourself.

Do you write Morning Pages?

Julia Cameron popularized this free-writing practice in her book The Artist’s Way and many writers swear by it.

The idea is that you write 3 pages of no-obligation, possibly-stream-of-consciousness ‘stuff’ every morning, to warm up.

But some writers become discouraged after doing Morning Pages for a while. It can feel like you’re running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress. So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly?

I’m sporadic with the ‘morning’ part of Morning Pages, but I do tend to journal most days and/or free-write before I try to write anything ‘proper’.

That’s what I was doing this morning when I came to a realization that I thought you might enjoy sharing. it might even convince you to try Morning pages, yourself.

Julie’s Morning Pages 21 Jan 2022

I am at my desk and facing the classic writers’ dilemma: there is so much I could work on. I can feel the clock ticking away the minutes I have carved out for writing and the first stirrings of panic bubble low in my chest.

I want to write. I don’t want to waste this precious moment but the task seems so huge—and it is! I either find my way back into a dormant story or begin building a whole new world full of decisions about the world (is there gravity? Are we even on earth? Which Earth? When? Where?) and people with full, complex histories before we meet them on the page. And then, how do I make something interesting happen, and keep happening?

The whole thing weighs on me like heavy cloth and I begin to feel the gravitational pull of busywork, the need for the affirmation of a thumbs up or little red heart on social media (It’ll just take a moment to check and I might get an idea for a story!) or perhaps it’s time I learned to use Scrivener properly—whatever that means. (I’m sure I bought a whole course on that.Surely when I have mastered a new tool, THEN it’ll be easier to write…)

Luckily for me, I have been pursuing my writing goals with a will for over a decade now and I know, beyond a doubt, that my only hope of doing anything like ‘good writing’ rests in one practice:

Continue reading “The Value of Morning Pages”

What Should You Write, Today?

It’s a new year, full of promise…too much promise, perhaps?

A new year can feel like that beautiful notebook someone gave you as a gift: full of potential, unspoiled…too good to mess up with your messy handwriting and half-baked ideas.

(Be honest: How many beautiful blank books do you have on your shelves just waiting for the day when you have a project worthy of their quality?)

The Curse Of Perfectionism

After all the hoopla of New Year and the endless year-end review/goal setting articles flooding the web, the new year can arrive with stakes that feel ridiculously high.

So, if you’re having trouble deciding what to write this week you’re not alone. Many of us struggle with that urge to get things right. First time. This time.

But…the truth is, creativity isn’t about getting things right. It’s about making new things, which usually involves a bit of mess-making.

In Praise of the Mess

Continue reading “What Should You Write, Today?”

Pay Attention to Your Process

Here at StoryADay I talk a lot about the importance of not just starting, but also finishing your work.

Finishing (and sharing) your stories allows you to improve your craft with words, but just as importantly it helps you get to grips wiht your process as a writer.

You might wish you were the kind of writer who could get up at 5 o’clock every morning and write 2,000 words and then get on with your day. And maybe you can white-knuckle it for a week or two.

But maybe your process is different.

And would it be so terrible if you allowed yourself to start with what comes naturally and build on that?

My Customary Freak-Out

I’m preparing a new workshop and was getting discouraged about my apparent lack of progress.

I had a little freak-out as I sat down at the blank page to make myself start work on the outline.

Then I laughed.

Because the words ‘customary freak-out’ popped into my head and I remembered that this isn’t new. This is my process when i’m creating anything new, whether it’s a workshop, a story, or a whole course.

It goes like this:

  1. Come up with an awesome idea
  2. Mention it to people, who say ‘yes, please do that’.
  3. Do loads of research and get excited.
  4. Back away and look at my project only out of the corner of my eye.
  5. Berate myself for procrastinating
  6. Have a small freak-out
  7. Realize that what looked like procrastination is actually percolation and what looks like me backing away from the work is actually me backing up, so I can see the whole thing clearly.
  8. Sit down to create The Thing, and have it pour out of me in one messy-but-promising first draft.
  9. Revise and polish and get excited all over again.
  10. Deliver the thing. Have a blast. Help people.

The Upside of Knowing Your Process

Since we’ve been through this before, my brain has started to move the ‘freak out’ date further from the delivery date (thanks, brain!) so there’s more time between the messy first draft and the production copy.

But it has only done this because I’ve finished and delivered things (workshops, essays, books, articles, speeches, launches) so many times before.

You Can’t Be Someone Else

I envy people who can work on a project for an hour a day for a month, making steady progress. That doesn’t seem to produce my best work, or make me happy.

I’m reluctant to say that I can’t change that, because clearly things can change. I’m not pulling all-nighters. I’ve discovered I can work at any time of the day, not just my beloved vampire-hours. Mindset controls a lot.

But I suspect that working with, rather than against, our natural inclinations, makes for an easier route to productivity. My process isn’t all rainbows and sprinkles, but it works for me.

Finding Your Process

Your process may be different from mine (I hope it is!) It very likely is.

If you think you don’t have a process, it may be that you’re not paying attention OR that you’re not finishing and ‘shipping’ products.

There is an inherent stress in making all the decision needed to call a piece ‘finished’. There is anxiety in showing it to people. You’re raising the stakes. But raised stakes cause us to pull out all the stops. Extra effort builds muscle. The adreneline rush of promising to show your work makes you strive to do your best work.

The more often you go through the whole process of producing and sharing work, the better you will your own process.

And the sooner you can recognize your process for what it is, stop fighting and start tweaking it so that you can produce more, get more creative, and be more fulfilled.

Happy creating!

Have you noticed what your creative process is? What do you do that other people might not recognize as forward progress? Leave a comment!

7 Myths About Revising your Writing

If you want to improve your writing you know you have to revise your writing. But, in my work with writers I encounter a lot of resistance when it comes to revision.

Some of this resistance comes from myths around the best way to revise and edit your own writing.

I’m here to bust seven of those myths.

For more, listen to the companion podcast episode

1. Revision is all about seeing where you’ve failed

It’s not. 

As I talked about last week, seeing where you’re succeeding can be just as important, if not more than seeing what’s not working. You don’t want to cut out your best lines!.

It can be helpful to get other people to look at your work, both for a fresh pair of eyes on a project we may be too close to, and because we do tend to be a little hard on ourselves. 

Experienced writers tend to have a well-developed sense of what’s working in their writing as well as what’s not…but it’s not flawless and we all need a little feedback from time to time.

And when you DO find something that needs to be reworked (let’s not call it a ‘failure’) work on celebrating. 

  • Seeing what’s not working gives you an opportunity to fix it. 
  • Going back to older stories and noticing what’s not working, is a measure of how far your skills have advanced. 

So celebrate!

2. You must walk away from your work for two weeks, before you revise

Continue reading “7 Myths About Revising your Writing”

Should You Sign Up for that course or challenge?

Cover image workbook: should I take part in NaNoWriMo or other creative writing challenges, courses

So Many Challenges, So Many Courses

Have you ever lost an afternoon reading all about how to market your novel…before writing the novel, never mind figuring out how to revise or publish the thing? 

Or figuring out if you should take part in the latest writing challenge all your friends seem to be doing? 

Or maybe you spent way too much energy deciding whether to invest in a new writing workshop or class instead of buckling down and practicing our creative writing skills.

Yeah, me too.

Instead of trusting that the work we’re doing will inevitably lead to progress, we get distracted by Shiny Object Syndrome!

But going down endless rabbit holes will leave us no closer to our goals than we were before. 

In fact, it can leave us overwhelmed, discouraged and stalled. 

How can we make the courageous choices that really lead to progress in our writing life? And how can you decide if that new writing course, challenge or book is Shiny Object or a Shiny Opportunity?

Spend Some Time With Future-You

What do you hope for when you open a new book about writing, sign up for a course, or embark on a new writing project? 

You don’t just hope to complete the course, or the book or the challenge.

When tempted to try a new Shiny Object, you probably build an image in your head of Future-You, a you who has unlocked something with a magical key that is this Shiny Object. 

What does Future-You look like? Happy? At ease? 

When they sit down to write, does it feel inevitable that they will write and write well?

Hope motivates us to learn that new thing, take that new course, or start that new project: the hope that we will become the writer we’ve always wanted to be. 

And that this Shiny Object will be the one that gives it to us.

And it maybe it will be, if we do it properly

(Download the workbook for some tips on how to do that).

But sometimes it backfires and we end up discouraged, and no closer to our goals than we were when we first caught sight of the Shiny Object. 

The ABCs of Learning The Writing Craft 

We can’t absorb everything at once, nor can we progress faster than we progress!

When considering how to learn the craft of writing, we should do it with care.

ASSESS

What are you trying to achieve?

Be specific.

Ask yourself when do you want to achieve it by/when you will reassess and see how much progress you’ve made?

BRAINSTORM 

Ask yourself what resources you already have on tap? A bookcase full of books on writing? The StoryADay site’s prompts, feature articles and podcasts? Online courses that you have signed up for but not completed? Course notes from conferences and courses you took in the past?

What wealth is hidden in those treasure chests?

Might you find the answer to ‘how should I show that my heroine’s heart is breaking, without saying that?” in one of those resources? 

CELEBRATE

Sometimes we’re tempted by Shiny Objects because of our own lack of confidence. 

Can you become your own best cheerleader and give yourself permission to keep working on what you’re working on now?

Ask yourself:

What do you already know how to do well?

In writing – what are you doing when writing seems easiest? 

In life – and how might those skills support your writing. Are you already an expert organizer? Can you schedule (and stick to) writing/learning time on your calendar? Are you excellent at connecting meaningfully with other people? Can you use that to write powerful emotional scenes? Or are you the one people trust to set up writing dates, for accountability?)

Now that you’re feeling secure in the skills you already possess, you should be able to more clearly assess whether or not you really need the Shiny Object and whether it’ll really help you, right now.

A Process For Investing In Yourself

Sometimes, of course, a great opportunity comes along: a teacher you’d love to work with, a writing challenge that seems exciting, a book recommendation that you can’t stop thinking about.

Sometimes taking advantage of those opportunities is the right thing to do.

How can you tell which Shiny Objects are actually Shiny Opportunities?

Don’t stress, I’ve got you covered. Here’s the StoryADay Shiny Object Decision Flowchart. Go through it any time you need to make a decision. But, before you go, download the free workbook that goes along with it and expands on each of the flowchart questions.

Download the StoryaDay Shiny Object Workbook now
(with bonus Decision Flowchart!)

StoryADay Shiny Object Decision Flowchart - Should you take part in NaNoWriMo, StoryADay, or other creative writing challenges and courses

Download this flowchart and the accompanying workbook now

Leave a comment: what Shiny Object/Opportunity were you most recently wrestling with? How did you make your decision? How did it work out?

You Don’t have To Be Brilliant From The Beginning

I found this in my Free Little Library the other day and it prompted a powerful lesson that I thought I’d share here as advice for writers. If you’re struggling to write and wondering if you’re any good, Snoopy has a lesson for you.

Continue reading “You Don’t have To Be Brilliant From The Beginning”

A Recipe for Success During StoryADay

In this guest post, StoryADay Superstar Leslie Stack shares her recipe for success during the StoryADay challenge: Story Sparks

Story Sparks logs in a box
photo credit: Chris Stack

This is my fourth year participating in Julie Duffy’s StoryADay May and it has truly been instrumental in jumpstarting and refocusing my writing.

Whether it was in May or September, I found my writing grow in meaning, technique, and purpose.

Sparking Stories

One of the difficulties of this writing challenge is thinking of a fresh idea every day.

To help me with this, I use both the daily writing prompts and Julie’s Story Spark Notes.

Continue reading “A Recipe for Success During StoryADay”

20 Short Stories That Will Make You A Better Writer

Don’t try to write short stories without reading some. Here are 10 modern and 10 classic stories to get you started.

Reading in front of the fire

Chosen by members of the StoryADay Superstars community

  • Perhaps you want to write short stories because novels seem overwhelming.
  • Perhaps you’ve been told that you ought to start with short stories.
  • Perhaps you read a short story you loved and thought “I want to do that!”

The rules for novels and movies don’t apply to short stories. Part of the fun of short story writing is that the form is so flexible.But how would you know that if you’re not reading them?.

Here are 20 great short stories you should read, suggestesd by the StoryADay community.

Each story is either a classic or one that stuck in the reader’s head for years.

storyaday divider

What if writing was inevitable?

Does writing have to be a struggle? What if your writing felt inevitable? What impact would that have on your life?

Changing Seasons image
Change is inevitable. Why not writing?

If not, you could find yourself, two weeks from now having written nothing,  unsure of what you want to be writing, struggling to find your rhythm again.

I have mindset change to make you joyfully productive. Read on…

Use Your Powerful Imagination

Imagine, instead, that you had a plan for the first two weeks of October. What would that look like?

Continue reading “What if writing was inevitable?”

The Five Most Romantic Things You Can Do for the Writer in Your Life

This guest post, from Michele Reisinger, combines the wisdom of many of the StoryADay Superstars. Make sure to leave this open in a browser for the people in your life to ‘accidentally’ read! 😉

My husband would deny it, but he is a romantic at heart.

We’re all struggling with the effects of pandemic pandemonium,  but recently he’s given me some pretty awesome gifts that have not only helped me cope with our “new normal,” but also develop a writing practice that will last far beyond this shared crisis.

Even better, while their value to me is priceless, their cost was almost zero. As writer Chari Schoen points out, “Sometimes it is just the little things” that mean the most.

So, what are the most romantic things you can do for the writer in your life?

My amazing cohorts in StoryADay’s Superstars shared their stories and wish lists.

Continue reading “The Five Most Romantic Things You Can Do for the Writer in Your Life”

Don’t Let Shame Kill Your Creativity

In this video post I talk about how shame shuts down the exact processes we need for creativity and what you can do about it.

Spoiler alert: I talk about reducing your expectations, celebrating every single tiny thing you do that contributes to your writing life, and collecting Story Sparks.

Find out more about Story Sparks here

Let’s Stick Together – in the StoryADay Cafe

Something I do with the StoryADay Superstars, is get together once in a while for writing sprints.

During this next couple of weeks, when everyone is isolating physically, I thought it might be helpful to open that up to the whole community. So you’re invited to join us for some writing dates!

When

Continue reading “Let’s Stick Together – in the StoryADay Cafe”

How Can Our Community Help You?

A live video I recorded earlier this week full of positive ways to ride this thing out

The herd instinct is only a problem if you’re following the wrong herd. 

Let’s see if we can put it to good use. Let’s circle the StoryADay wagons and help each other to write more of the stories that people need to hear—to distract them, to entertain them, to uplift and connect them.

Some things I’ve shared with people over the past few days

  • This is a wonderful time to catch up on your reading. Everyone has a pile of books they’ve been meaning to get to. Turn off the TV and open those books!
  • If you can’t get to a writing group because you need to protect your health, ask other people to turn on the voice memo feature on their phone and record the group discussion for you.
  • If you’re a member of a real-life writing group, ask the organizer to sign up for a free Zoom account. You can get everyone together for 40 minutes at a time under the free account, and chat about writing, or hold your critique meeting, or whatever you usually do.
  • You don’t have to be writing fiction if it doesn’t feel right, just now. Write letters to friends you haven’t seen recently. Write journal entries. Work on a non-fiction project you’ve been meaning to get to. Advocate for a favorite charity or write postcards for a political candidate’s campaign.
  • Use writing prompts to write tiny, throwaway stories that are only intended to amuse and distract yourself.

What other ideas do you have?

What can I do to help you?

  • Do you need an online writing hangouts this week, to keep you from obsessing about the news, or keep you sane while you work from home?
  • Do you need daily SWAGr check-ins at StoryADay.org for the next week, to keep you accountable?
  • Would it be helpful if I put together a bundle of links to the most popular articles on the site, so you can read something that isn’t virus-related?

Is there something else I can do to help you?

Leave a comment and tell me how you’re doing, and what you need. Also, if you’ve found something that helps you, please share that too!

When To Abandon A Short Story

Hand holding a full black plastic trash bag

I gave up on a story today.

It wasn’t a horribly-written story. In fact, it had amused me and a couple of other people who’d read it. My critique group had given me stunningly insightful feedback on what I needed to do to take it from ‘promising’ to ‘good’.

But instead, I put it away and will probably never look at it again.

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Give Up On A Story?

This is a question that comes up surprisingly often among writers.

Wouldn’t you think we’d KNOW if a story was worth working on, or whether it should be consigned to the darkest recesses of our cloud drives, never to be accessed again?

Continue reading “When To Abandon A Short Story”

144 – Mastering The Middle

Last week in the podcast, I shared five tips for a successful NaNoWriMo. Lots of people have told me it helped get them through the first week so: yay!

victory

In this week’s episode I talk about the difficulties of reaching the middle of creativity challenge at the exact same moment you reach the midpoint of the novel.

(Short story writers, stay with me because a lot of what I’m going to talk about applies to you too!)

You are not imagining things: this is hard. The middle of a novel is the notoriously hard, and the middle of the challenge is hard for different reasons.

The Midpoint of the Challenge

The midpoint of the challenge is tough because you’re tired. The novelty has worn off. You’ve started to question why are you ever decided to put in all this work. And you may feel that your story isn’t worth the effort.

Allow me to help.

Continue reading “144 – Mastering The Middle”

5 Tips for A Successful NaNoWriMo

It is November and you know what that means? The whole writing world has been taken over by NaNoWriMo. 

As someone who has been participating in and leading creative challenges for over a decade, I have some tips to help you make the most of this month of extreme creativity.

Continue reading “5 Tips for A Successful NaNoWriMo”

Creating Compelling Characters

Plot happens outside, but story happens inside

Donald Maass, The Emotional Craft of Fiction
Caution Magnetic Magnet

For people to love your story, they need to love (or love to hate) your character.

The most beautiful writing in the world, the most exciting action sequence in history, neither of these will make people love your story.

But a compelling character will steal their heart, sneak into their memory, and make them come back to your writing over and over again.

Wouldn’t it be great to have raving fans?

How do you make your character compelling without spending too many words tracing their inner thoughts? How do you balance character growth with action?

Step 1: Know Your Character

None of us step out into the world in the morning as a fresh new creation.

We walk out of the door with hang ups and passions and prejudices and ingrained behaviors, all of which come from a lifetime of having experiences and reacting to them.

Lisa Cron, in her excellent book Story Genius, talks about this brilliantly:

You have to know your character’s childhood damage, she says, and the protective behaviors they created. If you can set your story at a point in their life when those behaviors no longer serve your character, you have automatic conflict built into your story (and conflict makes stuff happen!)

Top Tip: do some ‘discovery writing’ about your character before you ever try to write the actual story. It will make your first draft go soooo much faster.

Resources:

Step 2: Nobody’s Perfect

In our quest to make readers love our protagonist, we can forget to give them flaws.

But how do you give them a flaw, without making them unlikeable?

The best resource I’ve come across came from the podcast Writing Excuses, where they talk about playing with three different characteristics as if they were sliders on a mixing board. Your character can be competent, proactive, and sympathetic, but they can’t be 100% (or 0%) of all three at the same time.

Contractors say, “You have have a job done well, fast, or cheap. Pick two.”

At any one moment in a story, a character can be extremely competent, extremely proactive, or extremely sympathetic. Pick two.

And then play with those levels throughout the story. (Think about how Hermoine Grainger changes over the course of the first Harry Potter book. At the start she is the most competent and proactive of the three friends, but nobody likes her. By the end, she has given up some of that proactivity and learned to lean on her friends. She acknowledges that Ron is more competent at wizard chess, and lets Harry be the one to face the last big challenge…and we like her a lot more, for it.)

Top Tip: Playing with character competencies is a great way to make them more or less sympathetic without having to give them a ‘tragic flaw’.

Resources:

Step 3: Show Their Inner Conflict In Action

In critique groups I usually hear two opposing critiques of character, depending on the writer’s natural tendencies:

  • The writing’s beautiful but it’s a little…slow (translation: nothing happens!!) OR
  • It was very exciting…but I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care (translation: explosions and chases are great, but your character has no inner depth)

Whether you naturally write lots of action, or spend a lot of time dwelling on inner feelings, a good writer needs to be able to balance action and inner conflict, to create compelling characters.

One of the best ways to do this is to turn off the inner dialogue and show your character taking actions or interacting with physical objects that

  • Are symbolic of their inner struggle
  • Matter to this character for a specific reason (which you know, and can reveal to the reader)
  • Remind the reader of the stakes, without you having to spell it out.

For example, in the beginning of the movie Die Hard, a watch-word for action-based storytelling, John McClane picks up a picture of his happy family from a desk in his wife’s office…and winces.

In that moment (right before he gets embroiled in the explosions and flying bullets) the viewer remembers that this is not just a wise-cracking action hero. He’s a man who is losing his family and isn’t sure how far he’s willing to go, to put it back together.

That’s the question the rest of the film answers.

And it’s the reason we, as viewers, care.

Top Tip: Turn off the inner dialogue and give us a moment, filled with all five senses, where your character demonstrates their emotions, on the outside.

Resources

Big Final Caveat

All of this kind of craft-based instruction is useful for developing your writing…but only if it doesn’t slow you down while you’re creating first drafts.

If you’re writing the first version of a story do not stop to worry about ‘showing not telling’ or whether your character is sufficiently proactive in this moment.

All of this can be fixed in the rewrite.

And one of the best ways to figure out what’s working and what still needs work in your story, is to show it to other readers.

Perhaps the idea of a critique group terrifies you. Or maybe you’ve been in groups in the past that were frustrating, or just ‘meh’.

If that’s you, I have a gift for you: a free guide to critique groups, including:

  • All the personality types you’ll encounter in a group
  • How best to interact with each
  • What you need to know to to give and receive great feedback

Don’t waste time being afraid of feedback, any longer. It’s the single most important thing you can do to get your writing closer to the point where you can really begin to delight readers and build a raving fanbase.

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Writers: Burn Your Business Cards

‘Creative’ is not a noun…Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title, not the work.”

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

I read Chapter 3 of Kleon’s latest book this morning and it stopped me in my tracks.

Not because I didn’t know and understand what he said.

I have, after all, made a name for myself as the person who entices writers to actually write during May & September every year.

But because it made me wonder: am I actually doing the verb?

diary writing

What Do You Do All Day?

Continue reading “Writers: Burn Your Business Cards”

What I Do When The Writing Stalls

I’ve been stalling on writing this blog post for about two weeks. 

Don’t worry, it’s not bad news or anything. I just couldn’t write it.

You know the feeling, right? You want to work on a project, but every time you sit down, something is wrong. You can’t find your way into the story, or you are seized with a sudden urge to research the perfect lamp for your desk…

My Favorite Productivity Hack

To get this post going, I used one of my favorite, sure-fire tricks:

Continue reading “What I Do When The Writing Stalls”

Write A Short Story in Three Easy Steps – Windy Lynn Harris

Short stories are fun to write, fast to compose (well, faster than books), and they get published every single day.

Writing & selling short stories and personal essays by windy lynn harris book cover

This post is by my guest Windy Lynn Harris, author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide To Getting Your Work Published (Writer’s Digest Books, 2017)

storyaday graphic divider

Writing a short story is a worthy mission. Short stories are fun to write, fast to compose (well, faster than books), and they get published every single day. Here’s a quick guide to help you craft short stories like a pro.

Before we get started, let’s put ourselves in short story mode. Your goal when writing a short story is to deliver a satisfying narrative in a very small package. Short stories aren’t tiny novels. They rarely have any subplots at all. Instead, the action revolves around one main conflict. The theme is revealed through a character and his or her obstacles. Tension keeps the reader invested in the stakes all the way through to the resonant ending.

That might sound like a lot to manage all at once, but if you break the artistic process down to three steps, you’ll find your way to a satisfying story without wandering off the map.

Continue reading “Write A Short Story in Three Easy Steps – Windy Lynn Harris”

Why Can’t You Write That Story?

dyslexia
Sometimes its hard to write.

Even when you want to.

Even when you’ve started a story.

Maybe your story wanders off the point and you get lost in the mushy middle. Or maybe your story immediately wants to become a novel. Perhaps you get interrupted and lose your mojo.

I’d love to hear from you. What happened last time you started a story and didn’t finish? What stalled you last time you sat down to write and couldn’t.

Leave a comment here and let’s get a discussion going about what goes wrong and what we can do about that.

 

Making February Flash – A Round Up

Here’s all my best advice on writing flash fiction…

This month has been all about Flash Fiction. It’s a fabulous way to:

  • Tighten up your writing in longer projects
  • Practice writing quick stories, for StoryADay May
  • Rediscover the joy of finishing stories

Here’s everything you might have missed at the blog this month: Continue reading “Making February Flash – A Round Up”