You may know I run two writers’ clubs at the local library. One weekly one for adults and one monthly one for children. I had a great session with the kids again yesterday. They’re all girls, and some are born writers. I can’t believe how they absorb what I teach them like a sponge, and how prolific and creative their minds are.
The adults seem to have more problems putting pen to paper. Yes, they have more chores and responsibilities that take up their time. I don’t deny that. One lady, though, has a particular problem with writing stuff down (you know I’m talking about you, lovely lady X 🙂 ). I’ve tried all sorts to get her to write a full story, including the ending. This post is to share with you all the creative ways I’ve come up with to get a story written.
1. Set aside a specific writing time
As adults have less spare time than kids, it helps to set a specific time aside for your writing. The adult writers’ club runs every Wednesday afternoon, so I set every Wednesday morning aside for my short story writing.
I’m lucky not to have to go to work every day, but if you do, you may have to get more creative. Get up an hour earlier or work later into the night when you’re family is still/already asleep. Perhaps you can get your story down during your lunch break or while you’re commuting by bus/train/walking?
2. Just ‘write’
This is my way. Each week we pick a few keywords and write a story about them. As soon as I know the words, I usually already know the major direction my story will be going in. I don’t always know the ending. In fact, most of the time I don’t. I like to surprise myself.
It doesn’t matter how you write. It can be with pen on paper, or typed on your computer, laptop, or phone. Any which way will do. You could write it in the sand with the tide coming in. You could even record your voice. The thing is to not let the inspiration slip away from you.
It also doesn’t matter where you write. I sit at my desk, but I have a friend who stands at his desk. Desks are not a requisite, though. You could be sitting in public transport, or like I mentioned earlier, walking to work or walking your dog (obviously, you’d be recording your voice as writing while walking is rather difficult and, quite frankly, dangerous). Some people go on holiday to write and get inspiration. You could write your story on a mountain top!
Two years of writing short stories has given me the experience to write a full story within one thousand words, but this may not be the case when you’ve just started writing. The 5-Finger Pitch may possibly help you.
3. 5-Finger Pitch
It can help to know more specific what you’re going to write, when you know the major characteristics of your story. We used the 5-finger method to do this, and these are the five points you need to know before you start writing:
I learned this system during an online creative writing course and have adjusted it a little. I changed the last ‘finger’ into the twist part. I love twists. Nearly all my stories have a twist at the end.
For some, knowing these five points is still not enough to get to the ending of your story. In this case, you may want to plot your whole story before actually writing it. There are a lot of authors out there that plot every little detail of their novel before writing one sentence. I did this for my third novel and didn’t like it. Like I said before, I like my characters to surprise me and take me into directions I haven’t thought of before.
Apart from the 5-Finger Pitch, you may also need to know the following points to get your story written:
- Setting and introduction
- Change of status quo (at about 25%, i.e. 250 words)
- Midpoint/Resistance (at about 50%, i.e. 500 words)
- Lowest point of MC (at about 75%, i.e. 750 words)
- Climax building
Knowing roughly where the major turning points in your story are help you stick to the one thousand words.
5. Snowflake method
The above method does require you to know the ending. If you can’t make up your mind on how to end your story, or keep changing it, maybe the snowflake method works better. With this method, you start with writing the whole story in one sentence. Then, you divide this one sentence into three, giving you the beginning, the middle, and the end of your story. Next, you divide these three sentences each into three, more detailed ones. And so one until you have a story of about one thousand words.
Yes, this forces you to know the ending beforehand as well, but also forces you to stick with it. Well, technically, you can change the ending as soon as you’ve split it up from the rest of the story, but you’re not supposed to!
6. Start at the end
When all of the above didn’t work for my writing buddy, I racked my brain on how to get her to write a full story. As endings are her problem, maybe starting with the ending was the way to go. So, for next week, we’re writing a story starting with the end. It doesn’t matter how detailed or how far ‘back’ you go as it’ll always have an ending (which actually is the whole point of this post).
Next week’s story is going to be a murder mystery, so it’s going to be interesting!
Now, I know these methods don’t address the character arcs or tension building, etc. But that were not the issue here. These are six ways for those who have a problem writing things down and getting a full story happening. You can work on the other stuff once you have words down on paper. Like they say; you can’t edit a blank page !
If you know of any other methods of getting your story written, please do let me know. I’d love to hear them, just in case No.6 also doesn’t work…