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Author Tip: Is Short Story Writing Something You Should Do?

Why Short Stories

You may not have considered short story writing before, but here are some reasons why you should. This article will also tell you how to go about crafting a short story.

Short stories are for everyone. They are fun and easy to read as well as easy to write. Short stories can be read in one or two sittings, they grip the reader’s attention and don’t let go until the end. They are popular. Remember all of those story ideas that just weren’t developed enough for that novel? These are perfect little critters to get you started writing short stories.

Maybe you are a new author just starting out trying to finish up that first great book. Or maybe you’re an experienced author working on a sequel or at best trying to dream one up. As a writer you need to keep busy and stay focused. Writing is a business, unless you truly believe you’ve only have just that one great one in you, you should be working on ways to expand your business of writing. Here are some reasons you should consider short story writing.

  • You will add more books to your brand.
  • You will improve your exposure.
  • You can write them fast.
  • You will improve your skills as a writer.
  • You will publish more often and have more books out there for consumers.
  • You have the potential to reach more people and make more money.
  • You will experience satisfaction from completing new works.

What Is Short Story Writing All About

What is a Short Story

A short story can be from 1500 words to 30,000.

JK-Rowlings-Phoenix-Plot-Outline

JK Rowling’s Phoenix Plot Outline

How to Develop a Short Story

First, you start with your idea. Now you take the idea and map it out with an outline. Don’t be too serious at first, let the idea guide you.

You develop your short story the same way you do a traditional manuscript. Flesh out your idea with an outline. Start by separating your idea into three acts, the beginning, middle, and end. Each act has a beginning, middle and end as well. These can be chapters. And each chapter has a beginning and middle and end. These can be scenes. By writing each chapter as it unfolds like the flow of a book, you have the power to keep your story strong and your readers engaged.

Story Outline

If you have trouble setting up your outline, the steps below are ones that I refer to and find helpful.

The First Act:

  1. The hook: the first page in the first chapter catches your reader’s attention and convinces them to read on.
  2. The inciting event: the first event that befalls in your story. This is what kicks everything off. What event starts the ball rolling in your stories plot?
  3. The key event: this is what drags your protagonist into the plot. Your character has to be pulled into the mess. This is where your character becomes officially engaged in your story.
  4. The first plot point: marks the end of the first act and the beginning of the second. This is where everything changes for your character. The first act sets up your characters ‘normal’ world and introduces the important characters, the settings, and describes the stakes. The first plot point should rock that normal world. Everything changes and your protagonist will be forced to start reaching to the new status quo.

The Second Act:

  1. The first half of the second act: Your character is going to spend the first half of the second half of the book in reaction mode. For the next quarter of the book your protagonist will be fighting to keep their head above the water.
  2. The midpoint: Your stories second major plot point. This is where everything changes again. But now your protagonist is prepared due to the last shake-up and is ready to start taking action rather than just reacting. This belongs smack in the middle of your story.
  3. The second half of the second act: After the midpoint your character is going to start going on the offensive. They are no longer willing to let the antagonist simply bring the fight to them. They will start implementing their own plans and throwing off their insecurities. This continues to three-quarters of the way through the book and the beginning of the third act.

The Third Act:

  1. The third plot point: this is your final major plot point that changes everything. Whatever happens here is going to force your character to a low place. They will have to analyze their actions and motivations and get down to the core of their own personal character arch. This is where they will start to identify their own destructive or ineffective mindsets and start rejecting the personal traits that have held them back up until now. Begins at the 75% mark.
  2. The climax: this is what it’s all about. Your climax is where your story finally gets down to business. This is the point of the whole story. This is where the conflict must finally be resolved. Although events will be heating up all the way through the third act, the Climax Proper won’t begin until around the 90% mark. The climactic moment itself won’t hit until the very end, perhaps a scene or two from the end of the book.
  3. The resolution: caps your story with finality. This important scene is the exhale to your climax’s inhale. Here you give readers the opportunity to see how your character will react to the events of the climax. How are they a different person than they were in the beginning? How has the world changed around them? How does their future look from here?

 

How Short Stories Can Boost Your Writing Career from the Creative Penn

Get into bookstores

Write short stories and publish them with companies who are already producing titles that you can find in bookstores. There are plenty of short story markets that are available at Barnes and Noble. To find them, simply go down to your local shop and ask about them. The assistant will happily direct you toward their magazine rack or anthologies.

Expand your presence on retail sites

Now that bookstores are digital, retail space is infinite. So how do you stand out in an infinite bookstore? By taking up the largest percentage of that bookstore as possible. The more room you take up, the more likely someone is to stumble onto your work.

Short stories can help fill out your presence on retailer websites. While a novel can take upwards of a year to publish from start to finish, short stories can be written, edited, and finished in a much shorter time frame; and with a smaller budget.

By publishing short stories alongside your longer work, you expand your presence on a retailer website, and thus come up more often in searches and on featured pages. This extra traffic will increase sales of your other titles

Fill in the gaps between novel releases

Novels are hard work. It can take months or sometimes years to get them right. The publishing process might have been majorly simplified by modern tools, but the writing process is still just as arduous as ever.

Short stories, by comparison, are simpler. Not easier, because writing a great short story is still a major challenge. But the process is much simpler. Writing short stories is similar to writing a single scene (or a few scenes) for a novel. Except, you don’t have to pay attention to an over-arching storyline.

Publishing short fiction while working on a novel is a great method to keep your audience reading your stuff and gives you something to promote while you work on your big project.

Experiment with new genres.

Short stories are a smaller commitment than a novel. You can write a short story in a new genre in a weekend and file it away if it doesn’t work. If you put the time in required to write a novel in a new genre, you might feel obligated to then publish it and put your full power behind it. That is a huge risk and most authors simply avoid it.

The risk involved with writing and publishing shorts is much lower. It is a medium that is open to experimentation. I find that a lot of writers are pigeon-holed into the genre they write and feel that if they wrote in other genres, they won’t find success. That is simply not true.

If you’ve never explored other genres and other mediums, you don’t know what will work for you. Especially if you haven’t found the success you’ve been looking for, experimentation with short stories is a great way to figure out what your readers want and to then follow it up with a novel.

Expand your universe.

In addition to all of the previously mentioned benefits to writing and publishing short fiction, the most interesting to me is to use short fiction to expand a fictional universe that you’ve already created.

I’m sure there have been tons of scenes that you’ve had to cut because they just didn’t work in your novel. Why not flesh those scenes out as short stories and put them up as companion pieces? Your readers want to know more about your characters. They already love them (or they should, right?). You can skip a lot of the backstory and reward your true fans with extra scenes that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.

An astonishingly small number of writers actually do this, less than 1%. You’re working hard to write your stories. Don’t just trash every scene that doesn’t fit. Re-purpose it as a supplemental short. Or write that scene that you’ve always wanted to write as a short and give your readers an extra taste of something different. Who knows, it might catch on and be the influence for you to write a new novel with a market-proven hook.

Short stories are a struggling form of writing when compared to novels. But they don’t have to be. Writers who approach writing short stories from a smarter perspective, one that uses insights from marketing and experience in the industry, can revive the short story. It happens one short at a time.

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THE ROAD TO LAUNCH – PART ONE: CONCEPTION

writer

These days, a lot goes into publishing a successful book. This series of articles discusses the stages of writing from conception to launch.

BEFORE THE WRITING STARTS

The Benefits of Getting Organized

As a writer, you may know all too well the disappointment of a project that has gone awry. Without a clear plan of attack sketched out from the beginning, it can be easy to lose your initial momentum. Writer’s block may occur from a simple lack of knowing your next move. Without some sort of map to guide you, your writing could drift, losing clarity and effectiveness.

Knowing what comes next is helpful because it gives you a list of manageable goals and provides you with direction. Planning ahead can help to keep you focused and strengthen your writing. Breaking down your project with an outline is the most efficient way to accomplish your goals and meet your expectations.

There are many steps in any writing project and taking the time to address them beforehand can get you to the finish line in a timely manner – knowing you’ve done your very best.

Build a Community Around Your Ideas

Nothing great has ever been built alone so the community you build in this initial stage will serve as your first buyers, your first reviewers, and your support system throughout the entire process. Find your potential readers and ask them questions. Tell them you have a product to launch and you want to share some of it with them to get their opinion and maybe they might buy it. But in any case, it would be great to have their help while you’re putting it together. Over time it will build you up as an expert in your niche.

There are many steps that go into building excitement and interest for your project before the process of writing begins. It’s a good idea to create a schedule to tackle the following objectives while at the same time, creating a writing strategy.

  • Talk to Your Potential Readers
  • Research Similar Books
  • Practice Strategic Networking
  • Build an Email List
  • Document the Journey
  • Build a Launch Team

Depending on your goals, it may be a good idea to become even more involved with your community. Here are some other options to consider:

  • Join Facebook Groups
  • Join LinkedIn Groups
  • Message Group Members Directly to Create Authentic Connections
  • Do Some Market Outreach
  • Attend Local Meetups
  • Join Relevant Forums

Not only will these methods help grow your network, but they will grow your knowledge base, your understanding of your audience and your genre, improve your skills, and will help expand and refine your ideas.

Create Yourself a Schedule

I know first-hand how overwhelming things can get when you start to take your business of writing seriously. The best way I’ve found to keep it all in perspective is by creating a weekly excel sheet that lists all of my goals for each day.

I record my time spent on each activity to manage my time, stay on task, and reach my goals that much quicker. Like most others, I manage a day job, family, fun, and other responsibilities as well as my writing career.

Prepare a Writing Strategy

For your best chances of success, whatever your subject matter, start with an outline. An organized and detailed plan that tells you what to write about and when. A strategy that can be broken down into manageable parts that can be written each in one sitting.

By creating your outline, you tackle the difficulties of theme, character development, and plot from the beginning. Breaking down your writing goals into smaller sections or scenes makes it easier to tackle one piece at a time. This enables you to know exactly what to focus on at any given moment. Knowing what is needed and when helps keep your writing focused without the stress of the entire undertaking weighing you down or misdirecting your train of thought.

Outlining works with all genres. Keeping pace with an outline that has proven successful in your genre can help you captivate your audience and keep them reading. Although there’s no rule that you have to go with any particular style, so feel free to create your own. Be mindful that it’s a good idea to know what has worked for others before you get started.

Focus on the Task at Hand

Always refer back to your schedule and focus on the task at hand. It’s best to start with the most difficult tasks first and limit your time spent on each. It can all become overwhelming without some degree of discipline.

Consistency is key. Relationships are formed over time through participation. Knowledge is gained by being open to the ideas and insight of others, questioning and commenting on what you learn along the way.

Taking time to create your outline and flesh out your story will make it that much stronger when it comes time to write.

Reward Yourself

Reward not only feels good but reinforces behavior and helps create habits. Create a system of reward for accomplishing your goals, like an espresso or something else that feels good.

Take a Break

As you embark on your journey there will be much to accomplish, all of which requires some hard work on your part. Be sure to take days off on a regular basis to rest and rejuvenate so you don’t run the risk of becoming burned out.

I set a stop time each day no matter what. If something doesn’t get done, it moves to the next day’s schedule. I try to accomplish the most important things first, so critical items don’t get overlooked.

When my weekend rolls around I leave the business of writing on the back burner and give my mind a couple of days to recover.

Making the most out of your off-time will keep you happy, healthy, and more productive.

🙂

 

 

 

Writing Chapter One – Tips from D. Wallace Peach

by D. Wallace Peach

I’ve wanted to write about first chapters for a while, primarily because they’re so important. After all, they’re the gateway to Chapter 2 and getting a reader to Chapter 2 is a fantastic idea.

I did some research and almost instantly the rule-resistant rebel in me kicked in. She’s the writer who scowls at formulas, who insists that form has to fit the story, not the other way around. She’s the reader who doesn’t want to read the same story over and over with different titles.

Well, I suppressed the first-born smarty-pants part of my personality and learned a few things.

First, I learned that there are actually a number of perfectly legitimate types of first chapters. Writer’s Digest has a great article by Jeff Gerke that describes 4 approaches with examples (summarized here):

  • The Prolog – A prolog is an episode that pertains to your story but does not include the hero (or includes the hero at a time well before the story proper begins, when he’s a child). It might not be “Chapter 1” per se, but it can serve as a legitimate opening—if it works.
  • The Hero Action Beginning – In a hero action beginning, the hero is onstage, doing something active and interesting related to the launching of the core story (it need not involve explosions and car chases, but it certainly can).
  • The In Medias Res Beginning (in the middle of things ) – With in medias res, you start at a point deep in the story, show a bit of activity to intrigue the reader, and then you hit the rewind button and spend some or all of the rest of the book catching up to that moment.
  • The Frame Device – The final major way of beginning your first chapter is to use a frame device. In this, your story is bookended on the front and back (and usually a few instances in the middle) by a story that is outside the main story. The primary tale is framed by this other story.

With that out of the way, I went in search of tips that apply to Chapter 1’s regardless of the book, tips that I could apply as I conceive of, write, and edit my stories. As usual, there are exceptions to these tips, and the list is not exhaustive.

Context: Backstory, Setting, and Detail

  • Avoid backstory. Include the bare minimum necessary and trickle the rest in as needed.
  • Don’t overdo setting. Give a smattering of strong, vibrant details to establish a sense of place and time. Then fill in the rest later as the story unfolds.
  • Connect the character to the setting so it isn’t just a backdrop. You might show how the character interacts with the setting.
  • There’s no need to skimp on details that serve the story. If your story is about snipers, give sniper details. Make sure they’re sharp and interesting. Avoid being vague. Write tight!

Structure: Theme, Mood, and Plot

  • Start the book as late in the story as you can. Does your story still work if you start with Chapter 2? If so, Cut chapter 1.
  • Write a great first line. A great first line grabs the reader’s interest.
  • The theme is the argument that the story is making. The first chapter should hint at theme.
  • Establish your mood. Ask yourself how you want the reader to feel while reading the book.
  • Think of every chapter as a short story with a mini-plot and conflict, especially Chapter 1.
  • Avoid telegraphing. Let the immediacy of the action carry the chapter to the end. Keep your pov tight.

 Character

  • Most writing experts will recommend introducing your protagonist in the first chapter. Some recommend introducing your antagonist as well. Avoid opening with other characters talking about the main character.
  • Make your reader care about your character. How is the character at risk?
  • Have your character engaged – active versus passive.
  • Not absolutely necessary, but dialog is a great way to reveal character, and conflict and manage pace.

Conflict

  • Have some sort of conflict – physical, emotional, or mental. Conflict disrupts the status quo. Conflict is drama and it’s interesting.
  • You don’t need to spell out the stakes for the entire book in chapter one, but hint at why the conflict matters.
  • A note on action: Rip-roaring action might be fun, but it’s best if the reader cares about the character. Without an investment in character and context, an action scene can feel shallow.

Hooks

  • End your first chapter and each chapter with a moment of mystery, an introduction of conflict, or a twist of the tale. It doesn’t have to be a huge one; it just needs to be intriguing enough to propel the reader forward.
  • Mystery. While action needs context, one of mystery’s strengths is that it makes the reader wait for context. It’s okay not to explain everything. At the same time, mystery does not equal confusion – find the balance.

Happy Writing!

Thanks for the Tips D  🙂     Source: Writing Chapter One – Tips

How to Get Yourself Back Into Writing

If you are feeling uninspired or timid at thought of getting started, you can use the following techniques to get some words, any words, down on paper… or into your computer. These ideas work for me when I’m really not wanting or feeling capable of getting the words out. They are my tried and true methods of getting back to the business of writing…

Read More: How to Get Yourself Back Into Writing

Get Yourself Prepared to Write

Not every writer has the ability to write on demand. Some people experience writer’s block, a condition that can span for just moments to extended lengths of time, up to years. This can really get in the way of building your platform, creating content, selling your product, or gaining credibility in your niche. Getting yourself prepared to write before you start your sessions is a good idea…

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