While many of you loyal STORY SPOT readers are seasoned vets in the glorious trenches of story-making, some of you are just dipping your trembling toes into this murky, but enticing, sea. These tips (and a few Davids) may prove valuable to all regardless of where you are in your writing life.
10 Tips for Diving Into A Fresh Story
- Follow your instincts.
There are no rules. If you’re a planner by nature, go ahead and make that story outline. It may help your confidence when it comes to the writing if you’ve taken the time to work out details in advance. But remember that outlines can be tossed; their value is often not what’s on the page but the work you did to get there. If outlines give you hives, don’t make one.
- Trust your voice.
Sure David Sedaris is a laugh-riot and sells a ton of books but unless you’re David Sedaris, you’re not David Sedaris. You’re you. Sound like you. Write like you. You are interesting. It’s true.
- Accept the process.
Even Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most prolific (could she be hypergraphic?) authors of our time probably loathes her prose every now and again. It’s in the writer’s nature to produce the lump of clay before shaping it. Still don’t believe? Anne Lamott will set you straight.
- Ditch the perfectionism.
No story is perfect, even the best of them, because each person who reads, hears, or watches it internalizes it in their own completely different way. David Mamet once wrote: “True art is as deep and convoluted and various as the minds and souls of the human beings who create it.” And he was right. So stop trying.
- Check your premise.
Does your big idea have you up at night? Fantastic. Now dig a little deeper. Is it interesting beyond first blush? Will it captivate you as you tease out the details? Is there enough beneath the surface to grow a good, satisfying story? You may not know the answers but you probably have an inkling.
- Find your location.
Some writers enjoy an elaborate desk in a dedicated writing room. Other take a notebook and head to the woods. Others still need to keep a constant change of place. Standing up or lying down, loud or still, find what the setting you need that will put your writer’s mind at the forefront and keep those words coming.
- Find your character.
The single best thing you can do for your fledgling project is to figure out who your protagonist is. Sounds simple? Not so. They may not be who you think they are. Sometimes the characters that draw us to our stories are not the ones with the most to lose. Introduce yourself then sit down and listen.
- Dance around the subject.
Writing happens when you least expect it. Once your character and general storyline are floating in your creative soup, take a walk, ride a bike, or go dancing. Engage yourself and free your concentration from the narrative so that your subconscious may take over. This isn’t a license to call procrastination “writing” but it is encouragement to breathe.
- Don’t Think. Write.
There comes a point where all the plotting and forethought in the world can’t help you. Why? Because the magic of writing partially comes from your beyond-your-control, non-rational self. Just ask David Lynch. Put the pen to paper and see what happens. Refer to Tip #4. Repeat.
- Be fearless. Be afraid.
Be whatever you need to be just write.
What are your habits when you start a new writing project? Post them here so we can all remember that we’re in this solitude together.
Photo credit: Chris B in SEA on Flickr