5 Simple Tips for Writing Short Stories
If you are a writer, whether it be on a website, a blog, in a journal or just in a word document for your own viewing, you have most likely gotten stuck at some point in the process. All writers have been there, even the best authors anyone has ever heard of. Yes, even Shakespeare. Having started writing short stories in my free time almost seven years ago, I know all about what some call "writers block".
Along this bumpy road of writing and creativity, I've learned and been taught some good tips for the moments where you get stuck. These tips have always had a 100% success rate to cure that block that's stopped me from continuing with creating the world of my own imagination.
So, how do you get on with your writing when your mind goes blank? Simple.
Tip Number One:
Walk away from it. Yes, I said walk away. If you find yourself staring at the screen for minutes, maybe even hours, contemplating what to type next, where you want the story to go, or even what to name the protagonist, it's time to get up from that chair and take a break. I am in no way saying to quit, as that obviously is not the way to get a story finished, just take a break, step away from the computer screen or the notebook and breathe. Separate yourself from the jumbled mess of words, ideas and names floating around in your head. Go read a book for inspiration, take a walk, watch a movie, call a friend, whatever calms you down. The main thing is to not stress about it. Even if there is a deadline, you aren't going to get anything of worth if you force it out. Writing needs to come naturally and flow easily out to get the best product. Taking a break sometimes brings the best ideas out.
Tip Number Two:
Stop thinking. Again, sounds crazy, right? Did you know that you're worst enemy is yourself? Going back to sitting in front of the computer for ages, trying to force something out, still isn't going to get you anywhere. So, grab a piece of paper, a pen or whatever writing utensil of your choosing and sit down. Look down at the paper and forget about the actual plan at hand. You'd be surprised what happens when you just put the pen to paper and let your hand take over. I've come up with some of my best story outlines by just letting my hand go. Half of it won't make sense, if you've done it right. If you sift around in all those random one liners, names, locations, whatever your hand and free mind came up with you will be surprised how with just a few more additions, you've just come up with the best story outline yet. Sounds crazy, I know but don't knock it til' you've tried it. It can actually really work, I promise. It's okay if it comes out terrible, as well. You can go through all that nonsense and edit it and tweak it into what you had been going for. Don't try for perfection on the first take, that will add to the block and get you no where.
Tip Number Three:
Having trouble coming up with a character? Protagonist, Antagonist, support, whichever you're having trouble with. Go to a name meaning website(this and this site are my favorites for this purpose) and search your favorite name. Whether it be a name of someone you know, your name, a family members name or any name that comes to mind. I like to find the backstory of names, their meaning, where they come from, all of that. A characters name can and really should be much more than just a name. It should have meaning and depth and really fit with the character. In fact, did you know that almost every name used in the Harry Potter series has a certain meaning behind it that fits that specific character? Remus Lupin for example, Remus comes from a roman myth of two brothers, one being named Remus, being abandoned and raised by wolves, while Lupin is literally wolf, coming from the Latin word lumus. Pretty interesting, right? It makes his name that much more powerful. If you're stuck with not just naming the protagonist, look up some names and their meaning. Maybe a certain name meaning will stand out to you and you can base your story around that. That's always a fun and creative way to get some writing practice in. Find a name meaning and write a short story based around that in your free time.
Tip Number Four:
This tip is more for enhancing your writing. Have you ever looked back on something you've written years ago and realized just how terrible you were at writing and how much you've changed since then? Or maybe you're just starting to write and have nothing to look back on and learn from, here's a way to break out of that clump of grammatical errors, improper sentence structure, and syntax errors. Take a very short subject and write it. Say, you turn your walk home from school into a quick little story, maybe spicing it up a bit. It doesn't have to be long, but really put everything you've got into it. Practice, practice, practice. It really does make perfect. If you're upset that your school doesn't offer writing classes, or you're in college and can't get into that creative writing class, so you think your dream of being a writer will never happen because you can't learn the proper techniques, you're wrong. You don't need all of those textbooks and lectures and endless note taking. You can do it all yourself. Just... do it. That's the most simple way to put it. Sit down and write. It doesn't have to be a full length, chapter by chapter story. It can be a 200 word thing about whatever comes to mind. It's something though and it's important that you do it!
Tip Number Five:
Last, but definitely not least; research. I feel like it goes unsaid, that the more you know on a subject, the better your capabilities of writing about it. Even if you are writing about the simplest of subjects, do some internet research anyway. It will not be a waste of time. Look up other stories in a similar genre, read myths or legends, if you are writing something fantasy. Know the history and stories of whatever and whoever you are writing. Even a made up character you can find research on because you can do the research on a person or character similar, just to get a feel or what the character may be about. I'm not saying that this is mandatory but it honestly helps if you know everything about all the things mentioned in your project. Is an illness mentioned? Don't go from memory on the symptoms or treatments, research. And don't keep using the same things over and over again in different stories. Do more research, switch it up. That's another great way to refine your writing skill. Doing research when you don't even have a story outline is a great way to plan one. Look up a subject that interests you. Again, read things similar, draw from it. Obviously though, don't just steal that persons work and claim it as your own. That's not just frowned upon but illegal as well. Plus, use your own creativity, it's much more fun that way. It just never hurts to have a little more of a back story on what you're writing. It really helps with that "writers block" if you know what the most you can about the subject.
In conclusion, just trust yourself. It's all already there inside you. Just relax, calm down, and enjoy it. Don't stress so much or you will quickly lose all of the joy in writing and that really is a devastating feeling to have. You can fight through it though. Don't feel down because someone reads your work and doesn't like it. Ask them why, get feedback and suggestions, and take it all in; use every tip and word they say to push you up that skill ladder and become an even better writer. Criticism is the best way to grow as a writer and a person. If you're always told you're writing is perfect, you'll never learn and get better and where's the fun in that?
Let your creativity run wild. It can take you to places you'd never expect and teach you so much about the world, people, and mainly yourself.
Don't stress, you've got this.
© 2014 Amanda Creely