Step 1: Begin

One of the hardest things to remember in any part of your life is to stop and return to the beginning. Think about it for a moment: You’re deep within a plot of a story you began with so much excitement. You’re staring at the words but you get frustrated because something isn’t right. Maybe the characters are flat, your protagonist isn’t doing what (s)he’s supposed to, or perhaps you can’t figure out where to go next.

Any of this sound familiar?

When I mentor, one of the things I try to convey is how to keep connecting things. Connections are a constant reminder to your reader. It says, “Hey, pay attention”, and it gives tiny fireworks of moments to the readers mind.

They don’t have to be big things. It may be a secret thought, something subtle and delicate, connecting your character and the reader. But it makes the connection personal and intimate, and in turn, unforgettable.

It can also create a three dimensional version of your character, allowing the suspension of believability to become stronger.

Example: Your character seems to know a lot for their age.

Go back to step one. The character knows a lot because…?

  1. Maybe they were a gifted student
  2. One of their parents taught them things at an advanced level due to their own level of expertise
  3. They were part of an experiment which enhanced their learning capabilities
  4. They are supernatural (vampire, werewolf, etc)

Do you see how it gives opportunity for storytelling? You know these things about your character. Now you have to create this for the reader without a boring info dump.

Which is more engaging?

Marie was smarter than most girls at her school. She was always getting A’s without ever studying.

Or

Marie glanced at the page. Her father taught her to speed read as a child, allowing her to take in more information at a rapid rate. She smiled when she overheard her classmates making up wild stories of how she never studied.

In the second example we are in on the secret. We know Marie’s dad taught her to speed read, she enjoyed the speculation from her classmates, and it increases our perception of who Marie really is.

When I write, I like to create time lines. When your eye has a guide, it stays focused. I know where my story starts and where it ends. Everything between must connect the two points. If I get stuck, I slide back to step one.

Who is my main character?

What is the connection between the main character and the story?

What is the conflict?

What is the resolution?

Asking these questions will always circle you back to the beginning. Knowing your roots is only the first part. Letting them expand and settle into the earth is a skill we can all learn.


If this article has helped, please pass it on and comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Get Serious About Writing

Image result for quill and ink

Having done enough conventions and literary panels this year, I wanted to address the question I seem to get most often: How do I stay on track?

Many authors, especially those are who “new” to the craft, struggle with this but it is not exclusive to them. Veteran authors have this issue, too. So how do we stay on track? Stick around! I’ll break it down for you in a couple ways which have worked for me. These aren’t guarantees, nothing works for everyone. Take what works for you and discard what doesn’t.

Comment, share, and re-post if you found something helpful!

Exercise


Physical exercise works for a lot of people but what I’m talking about right now are mental exercises. You have to write often if you’re to get acquainted with the process of writing. Oh yes, there is a process.

The writing process is complex and intricate. You have a singular idea and you must tell it in such a way your readers are able to follow. The trick-no, the skill, is to not allow your reader to be removed from the story. It involves having engaging characters who they can relate to in some way, rhythmic flow and cadence, and making every word count.

Dedication


Work ethic is imperative to becoming a serious writer. Deadlines can be crippling to some authors, and some are invigorated by them. Either way, deadlines are a real thing and a part of writing, like it or not. If you’re writing for “fun” deadlines don’t figure into the equation.

Depending on how long your story is, dedication is required to get through an entire length of story. Day in and day out, you must spend time with the characters you brought to life. It’s a relationship which doesn’t end until the story does.

A writer’s dedication is test when they go through the editing process. You may think you’re done when you type “The End” but the end is only the beginning. Refining your words is the crux of many authors who put in the time, only to go through it all over again. Repeatedly.

The biggest challenge to dedication is your own resolve. Are you committed to this? Yes? Ok, great! Now the real work begins.

Critique/Mentoring


Though these are two different things, I put them together because you must go through at least one (both preferably) to earn your quill. No one shits out gold. Everyone requires editing and critique of some form.

We know what the story is from our perspective. Now, we need to know what others get out of it. This does not mean you must write to appease everyone. If you try, you’ve failed before you’ve put a single word down. What I mean is you must understand how your words form images in other people’s minds. If you have to explain it to your mentor/critique person, you’ll more than likely have to explain it to the readers. This is my mantra and you should also take it into consideration. It’s always better to have several eyes on the story.

Read Your Work Aloud


This is an important skill to learn.

Why? Because

  1. if you’re looking to get published, you’ll face live readings.
  2. it helps you connect the words you write with the flow of natural speaking/cadence/flow

If it doesn’t sound right to you, it most likely does not sound right to readers. I think this is pretty cut and dry.

Having a timeline or outline helps, too.  More in the next post about that.

Read all the time. Read Everything.


Reading works of other authors is non-negotiable. Pull from what you read and learn from it. What works? What doesn’t? What did you love? What did you not like? How can you do better?

Some authors use the excuse, “I don’t want to be influenced by what I’ve read.”

If you’re writing fiction, read non-fiction and vice versa. There’s a way around the “influence” card. Read a shampoo bottle, read up on marketing, check out a book on “How to write” in your own genre.

And oh yeah, last but not least …

Stop Making Excuses


Write every single day. It can be 50 words, it can be 1000 words. Don’t let anyone tell you what your own goal is unless they suggest you aim to be better than you were yesterday.

Excuses are road blocks you set up for yourself. Without them you can accomplish anything.