Flash Fiction?

So, I’ve been exploring different forms of writing/genres/lengths of writing in order become a more rounded writer. Since most of my writing time lately (what writing time I’ve been doing between school assignments!!) has centered around editing a short story I’ve been working on, when I saw a pin on pinterest about a flash fiction story contest, my interest was piqued. I REALLY want to put most of my efforts into working on my short story, but it gets a little monotonous working on the same story without any other form of creative imagining. The general consensus for the length of flash fiction is anywhere from 300 to 1000 words, which is the perfect length for getting some creative juices going without becoming incredibly invested in a new project while I’m working on my short story.

I’m looking to start writing a couple of pieces of flash fiction a week to create some better structure for my writing schedule, and I would like to challenge you, dear reader, to try your hand at it as well!

Establishing a Daily Writing Routine: AKA the thing all the “experts” say you have to do

If you’ve read anything on how to become a better writer, how to publish a book, how to become an author, etc. you’ve most likely come across some form of the advice: “YOU NEED TO WRITE EVERY DAY!!!” And, you do. Well, kind of. More accurately, in order to produce enough content to learn how to write better and write something worth publishing, there isn’t some tip or piece of advice where you can wave a magic wand and suddenly your writing will be incredible and everyone will love it and you’ll be published and get awards yada yada yada. In the end, it all boils down to hard work, aka actually sitting down and writing. You learn by doing. So in order to learn how to be a better writer, you have to write. A lot. All the time. When you don’t feel like it. When you’re busy. When you’re bored and tired of writing. When you have “better” things to do.

But, that’s easier said than done. If all the experts say that you need to write daily, well, how do you write daily? Now, buckle up. Some of these numbered bullet points will be completely contradictory, and that’s okay. Everyone learns differently, and everyone writes differently. These are some suggestions to get you started, and I would encourage you to at least try most of them to see how they work for you, but remember that some of these WON’T work for you. That’s just how things are. But use these ideas to figure out how you best work and how to motivate yourself to become a better writer.

1. Establish a routine

Whether it’s an ambiguous, “I’m going to write five days a week,” “I’m going to writing in the morning,” or “I’m going to write at 7 am every morning,” tell yourself that you are going to write and do it!

2. Give yourself a goal or reward

Whether it is a short term goal like, write for at least 4 days this week and I’ll get a milkshake or watch the new episode of my favorite show, or a REALLY short term goal like, if I write for 30 minutes I can make a cup of tea, setting more tangible, immediately accessible goals than, if I write today, eventually I’ll publish a book, will help motivate you.

3. Start small

You aren’t going to be able to immediately start writing every single day for 2 hours at a time (unless you’re Superman or something). Start with a smaller goal of 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Or 45 minutes a day, 2 days a week. Whatever seems doable to you so that you won’t feel like you’re drowning if you miss a day’s writing.  (Side note: Also, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day! You want writing to be exciting, even though a lot of times it won’t be, and a surefire way to make yourself not want to write is to feel guilty about not writing the day before)

4. Avoid distractions

If you have a hard time getting things done with people all around you, vying for attention, get someplace where you don’t have those distractions while writing! Of course, it may be hard to get completely away from all distractions (its a little impractical to have to go someplace like the park or the library to write everyday unless they’re right across the street), but try staying away from main centers of your home while you write, or go into a room and put a sign on the door to let others know not to bother you.

5. Use distractions

However, sometimes staring at a blank, white screen while you’re sitting in a room with complete silence can make it pretty hard to write too. Again, it may be hard to go somewhere like a coffee shop everyday for the background noise of people talking around you, but not talking to you, but you can try writing in a part of the house off of one of the more trafficked rooms where you aren’t immediately apart of whatever is going on, but can still hear things going on. Another option is to go to a site like Coffitivity, and let it make some background noise for you! (music works too, but that’s a whole separate post!)

6. Use a timer

Deciding to work for a set amount of time can really help writing regularly seem much more manageable. Instead of working toward a word goal everyday which can be effective, but makes it hard to measure when you are working on editing or brainstorming, which are both perfectly legitimate uses of  your writing time, using a timer keeps you on task and focused for a fixed amount of time, helping you to make your writing time more efficient.

7. Work at your desk

Working at your desk tells your brain it’s time to get down to work. A clean desk holds much fewer distractions than trying to write in other places.

8. Don’t work at your desk

Working at a desk can also feel stifling. If you feel like you’re not able to get anything done when you sit down at a desk, find somewhere else to write!

 

April Camp NaNoWriMo is OVER

IMG_0310[1]As the title states, the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo has come to an end. And guess what? I met my goal of 75,000 words AND I finished the second draft of my novel “Snowfall”! And let me tell you, that was exhausting, but not as bad as I thought it would be. I’m super proud of myself for actually making all 75,000 words and even though my manuscript still needs (a lot of) work, I can already see it start to come together like I want it too! 😀

April Camp NaNoWriMo

Midnight begins the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo! If you did not already know, I’ll be working on draft two of the novel I wrote in November, “Snowfall”. You can read about it here and here.

I’ve gathered my Camp NaNo Survival Kit:

  • A laptop
  • A flashdrive
  • My outline
  • My music playlist
  • My Kindle
  • Post-it notes
  • Fountain pens
  • Multi-colored inks
  • Leather notebook
  • Candy (yum!)
  • Coffee and blueberry tea
  • “The Emotion Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
  • Purple binder
  • Corkboard of inspiration!

and I’m ready to go!

Outlining

IMG_0166In preparation for Camp NaNoWriMo (only three days away!) I’ve been furiously outlining. Now, this is my second draft of this novel, but I’m finding it funny how completely differently I’m approaching this stage of editing. I’ve found in the past that outlining really didn’t help me much, and usually it actually ended up hurting me as I felt kind of trapped in a little box and I didn’t let myself run around following any littleIMG_0165 plot bunnies I chose. However, since my novella for Creative Writing class is turning out so well using an outline, I figured I’d give it a shot while I started getting ready to re-write my NaNoWriMo novel from November of last year (Snowfall).

Now, I haven’t started writing yet, but I’m really, really excited about how all of this is going to turn out. I’ve gone through a couple of phases of outlining (as detailed in the pictures) and now I’m down to eight pages of printed outline for me to refer to as I write. The big reason I decided to do such an intense outline when it’s never really worked for me before the Novel Project is because I’m attempting to write 75,000 words in the month of April. That’s equivalent to 2,500 words a day. In order for it to even be possible for me to make those kind of numbers every day, I need to have a very specific IMG_0164idea of what I’m supposed to write next before I start writing. Thus the giant outline.

With three days left before the bell sounds, I’ve finished up my outline, made up my pinboard, and all I have left to do is flesh out some character and setting details. I’m super excited for April!

Camp NaNoWriMo!

It’s almost that time again! Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is almost upon us! I know, I was just talking about this a few short months ago in November of 2012, but the first Camp NaNoWriMo of the year is starting the first of April, and I’ve decided to take the challenge again! This will be the seventh NaNoWriMo event I’ve participated in, but this time I’m diving into an entirely different type of project than any I’ve done before. In April I’ll be working on a SECOND DRAFT.

Though I managed to make it to the finish line of 50,000 words in November of last year with my novel “Snowfall”, there was a great deal of the plot missing in the middle. However, I love the characters and the setting and most of the general plot, so I’ve decided to try to fulfill its potential by completely outlining the whole thing and rewriting a second draft. This will be a pretty big undertaking for me–for one, I’ve never gotten far enough to really complete any serious editing of any of my previous novels. I also have never written such a large project using an outline I made up beforehand.

However, I’ve been learning a lot from my Creative Writing class this year, and one of the things I’ve been learning is how helpful an outline truly is. Before I began the Novel Project we are doing for class (a short, 30 page novella we are writing over the rest of the semester), we were told we needed to write up an outline for our story. At first I was really skeptical. Whenever I’ve written a novel before, it’s always been in a meandering, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of way. When I started, I would have a general idea of where I was going with it, and I would already have a fairly good idea of the ending, but the middle, the meat of the story, I came up with as I went along. Now, that has certainly worked fairly well for me before–I’ve come up with some of my best ideas on the fly–but this story was so short that we really needed a good solid outline in order for us to be able to finish the story in 30 pages.

So I wrote my outline, and as I wrote, all of these ideas started to come to me, filling my head; and filling my outline. I toyed and prodded and rearranged until my outline made me super excited about the story it was going to help me produce. There’s character development in all of the right places, and action to help speed things along and keep people interested, and the characters are so much more complex for the time and effort I’ve spent working on them. So, now that I’ve learned so much about the advantages of outlining, why wouldn’t I use my newly acquired skills to help me fill plot holes before I started working on the second draft of my novel?

 

Theme

“When you are describing

A shape, or sound, or tint,

Don’t state the matter plainly

But put it in a hint

And learn to look at all things

With a sort of mental squint”

~ Lewis Carroll

Definition

The theme of a story is the main message or life lesson that the author is trying to teach about life, society, or human nature. It should have universal appeal, regardless of age, race, or gender.

Examples

Pride comes before a fall.

(From the story of David and Goliath in the Bible)

Strength of character knows no gender.

(From Mulan)

Slow and steady wins the race.

Persistent effort pays off.

(From the “Tortoise and the Hare”)

Believe in yourself.

Accept others’ differences.

Honesty is the best policy.

Notes

  • Theme is the cornerstone of any written work. Theme should be hinted at or implied throughout the whole story. You can have more than one theme, as well as major and minor themes.
  • Theme in story is related to thesis in essay writing.
  • Theme is the “answer,” even when the answer may not be very clear; the question motivates the unfolding of your plot.
    Why do bad things happen to good people?
    God is in control.
  • Conflict and theme are directly related. Whatever the main character is struggling with and needs to learn is generally the theme of the story. Conflict is easier to determine than theme. Once you’ve identified the conflict, you should be      able to easily identify the main theme.
  • For good ideas to write about, consider the fruit of the spirit or the seven deadly sins.
  • Often themes are highlighted best by coupling them with their antitheses:
    Pride/Humility                                   Good/Evil
    Love/Hate                                           Innocence/Experience
    Life/Death                                           Liberalism/Legalism
    Joy/Sorrow                                          Aging/Youth
    War/Peace                                           Wrath/Mercy
  • The most effective way to use theme is to highlight a current hot topic or controversy:
    Why do we have war?
    Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in (insert belief).
    Fighting is never the answer.

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/patten/theme.html

http://www.suite101.com/lesson.cfm/16712/259/3