Writing Tips

Basic Training 

For this first tip I thought I'd start very basic. Basic is good though, because I sometimes struggle with the basics. Writing a story, a novel, a biography, etc. can be intimidating when you look at what you're trying to accomplish as an overall goal. 70,000 words, 300 pages, beginning, middle, end, climax, plot, conflict, resolution. If you're starting out on this adventure and you focus only on the end goal, it's really easy to hang it all up and try something else. Most people struggle with writing a book because they immediately discourage themselves by looking at where they're at currently and then not being able to see the finish line anywhere near them. 

My first mini tip is to not place your focus on the end goal. Yes, ultimately, you want to finish a book that may contain up to 70,000+ words, but that won't happen tonight, or tomorrow, or in a month. So, start off small. Goal #1 write a small, manageable amount of words. Let's say 500-1000 words or about 3 double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font pages. This doesn't have to be your beginning, in fact, plan on it not being your beginning or your ending. These first 500-1000 words happen somewhere in the middle of your story.

Now, writing tip #1 - Create a main character. These are the first 3 basic elements you'll need: 
  1. Name - make it catchy, unique (if you want), something familiar to you, a name you like. For me, I wouldn't name my character Frank. Yeah, it's my name, but sorry dad... blah. Now, if I could for one day change my name to something else... I might go with Bridger or Isaac. Why is a name important? Well, for starters, you're going to be spending a lot of time over the next few months with this character. If you constantly refer to them as character 1 or (to be determined later), you create no emotional connection with your character. You have to love your character. Heck, we name our cars, our blankets, or stomachs (in my case)... name your main character, even if you intend to change it later. Very important.
  2. Brief physical description - We're talking basics for starters. Don't get hung up on the minutiae (ity-bity details) just yet. That can come later. You could spend hours creating birth marks, scars, etc. I remember a requirement for a paper in one of my high school English classes was too describe in detail a main character. I swear every one in the class said their main character had high cheek bones and smoldering grey eyes. I'm a simpleton when it comes to descriptions. I don't even know what high cheek bones means. So basic basic. Height, weight, build, hair color, eye color (yes they can be smoldering if you like.) You get the idea. But before we go on to the next element, I want you to think about something unique about your character. If he or she is short, is their height a problem? or vice versa. Or they beautiful beyond belief (gag me.) Or do they come from some extreme circumstances? Like... live in a van down by the river (ah man, I miss Chris Farley.) Decide now on some trait and don't stress about it. You are the master of this story and can chop any character down to size. When we get to editing tips in the near future, we'll talk about that more in detail.
  3. Character's voice - This will be important as you progress through your story. Voice (from my meager perspective) is how your character sounds when they talk if you were to interact with them in person. Are they sarcastic? Do they have any nervous ticks? Are they loud, boisterous, reserved, annoying? When in doubt, use your own voice. Your own voice is unique to you. And that is one way to write your character. It may not end up being the best way for your story, but it's a start. Granted, if you're writing from the perspective of a serial killer and you're own voice is the best match... please stop reading my blog. You scare me. :) Put yourself in the situations you intend to inflict upon your character. How would you react? What would you say in such dire circumstances? Would you be funny? Would you cower away from danger?  If you're own personality conflicts with the direction you want to go with the story, than you should probably go a different route. But for this particular writing assignment, try using your own voice to start.
That's it for tip #1. If you've followed these basic steps, you'll have the start (and an important start) to your story. Who the story is going to be about: Bridger Beans? Isaac Waffleton? No, I will probably never use those names. What they look like: Smoldering brown cheek bones... what? And how they talk. Now, test your character out in a 500-1000 word scenario. If you have one in mind, you can use it. If you don't... hmmm... let's think of one for you. Without getting into too many details, and since I generally write for younger audiences, let's try a scene at a school.

Your character has just been informed of some disturbing news (example: cut from a sports team... no that's lame!

Why not, their single parent has started dating the principal. No? Yeah, I think that happened in one of the Tim Allen Santa Claus movies.

One of their best friends who happens to have a bladder problem is being held captive in the school's main water supply... that sounds familiar to me. I'm not sure why.)

You know what? Create your scene like this: 2 people (one of them is your main character... Bridger) having a conversation (could be heated, just an idea) about something unusual happening at the school (i.e. one of the three things I mentioned above, or your own (most likely better) creation.)

Go with it. Oh, and make this scene mostly about the dialogue. Meaning, don't worry about what's going on around the 2 characters involved just yet. We'll get to that. So, 500+ words. Two people talking. Let the madness begin.