Finding the Time
Choose how you’re going to write, whether you prefer to carry a pen and notebook, a recorder to speak into, or a portable computer or smart phone that you can type with. Make sure that whatever you choose fits your needs. It should be small enough for you to comfortably carry it with you and it should be your preferred method or medium for writing. With portable tools you can write anywhere; while waiting for an appointment or meeting, during a break or intermission, or when inspiration randomly strikes.
Ideas rarely come all at once. Most come in tiny fragments, like snowflakes. You gather them up, pack them together, and before too long you have a snowball or a snowman. Jot them all down.
1. Events, conflicts, scenes
2. Characters, motives, knowledge, personality quirks, descriptions
3. Topics, subjects that you find interesting
4. Questions, philosophical or moral debates
5. Details, random phrases, moments when you are very aware of what you see, hear, smell, etc.
6. Names, first and last. You can browse newspapers, movie/show credits, business websites, or the random people you meet. Characters need names. Just don’t use the same person’s first and last name, and don’t base the character off of them.
Practice is a big part of writing, but in the beginning it’s better to write short stories rather than novels. This is because all stories have certain universal characteristics regardless of their length: milieu or setting(s), idea(s), character(s), and event(s), also known as M.I.C.E.
Creating a strong story, from beginning to end, takes practice. Try different types of stories, with different characters, genres, etc. Writing short stories, around 3,000 words in length, can help you develop many skills, including how to ration your words. If you can’t maintain a reader’s interest for 3,000 words, it’s unlikely you can do it over 30,000 words.
Read Like a Writer
Read a wide variety of stories. Sample genres you normally wouldn’t. If a story demonstrates broad appeal or lasts the test of time it may have something to teach you.
Take a story you really enjoy and reread it. Create an outline of the story. If it’s a short story write 2-3 sentences summarizing each scene. If it’s a novel write a 5+ sentence summary of each chapter.
For each summary identify the conflict(s). Were the characters actively working towards their goals or reacting to their circumstances? Did the scene or chapter establish any background information? How did character relationships change over the course of the scene?
Answering these questions can help you recognize how and why a story works.
4 Aspects of a Story