Few of us have more than 15 minutes a day to write. But a good story, especially when you’re starting out, isÂ rarely about “churning outÂ 100 wordsÂ every morning.” Random, undirected words rarely make the final cut and even with a plan, it’s hard to stream a story in less than an (undisturbed) hour.
However, short bursts can be as valuable to your story as long, uninterrupted stretches (oh, dream of heaven) of writing time, if you’re prepared.
List theÂ choresÂ you want to knock out in those 15 stolen minutes during your morning commute or while your gas tank fills. Or on the boneheaded days whenÂ words clog between the seat andÂ keyboard.
Whether you’re busy living life or stuckÂ for inspiration, don’tÂ just put words on paper – accomplish something. Wreak a little havoc in your written world and reward yourself, if only with a virtual pat on the back. Remember, you enjoy writing.
ThisÂ list describes some of my favorite chores; hope it helps. Please reply to this post and share some of your own.
Deep in the grip of my first story,Â IÂ sketched something completely unrelated and beat myself up over losing focus. But theÂ snippets I wrote “on the side” became priceless inspiration, helping me back into the swing of writing when I just wasn’t feeling it. Respect your daydreams.
- Leave yourself a voicemail message, or use an app like iTalk. Talk it out with yourself. Verbal writingÂ triggers different thought processes.
- Keep a scribbler, bedside. Don’t lose the train of thought and the cadence.
- Are your notesÂ just a rehash of the same, stuck scene? No problem. Different approaches toÂ the same topic can revitalize a stale viewpoint.
Tackle and Conquer
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Every story thrives on theÂ uncomfortable or pivotal or mundane scenes we all wish would write themselves. Break the scene intoÂ snippets and tackle each one during a shortÂ block of time.
Use yourÂ rare, unbroken time to knit the snippets together.
You’re in a hoarder-intervention frame of mind.
A good cutÂ session should enable you to remove words that don’t fit and thoughts that stall the action, and to insert bon mots thatÂ maintain and enhance your story.
- Try not to lose theÂ cadence, voice, and tone of your piece.Â AÂ lyrical piece can quickly becomeÂ aÂ goose-stepping paragon of efficiencyÂ orÂ verbose, alliterative mess.
- Be mindful of your mood -Â make surgical incisions, not hamburger.
Before an editorialÂ Â session, “save as” a new revision and turn on tracking. You don’t have to view it – just let Word invisibly track your steps. Later, when you’re looking for something to let the audience down after yourÂ climax, you can repurpose that two-page slow danceÂ you removed from the (much faster-paced) start of theÂ story
If your character is facilitated at every turn, add aÂ Minotaur in the labyrinth – or have the easiest step suddenly become impossible. For instance, the “send” key collapses the communication system. Find opportunities forÂ characters and circumstances to oppose the hero.
Find a clear sailing piece of your story, maybe an inner soliloquy that lasts more than two paragraphs, and break it up – fosterÂ conflict.
Methodically identify every event in your story.
When you read through your story as a list ofÂ “beats“, it’s easier to see what’s likely to happen next (or whether you need a twist) andÂ sketchÂ out what will precede or follow.
This technique helped meÂ find my final scene. The “crisis” I’d planned didn’t hit hard enough and when I read through the beat diagram, I found issued I’d implied earlier in the book suggested a different thread that nailed theÂ climax.
Is your senior engineer “buff surfer” and “grasshopper-like” in the same scene? Did the hamster in his head spin the wheel so fast the cogs were smokin’ while he wasÂ simultaneously, “stuck”?
Track down inconsistencies – be brutal.Â Identify research projects (would a surfer be caught dead living in Washington, DC?) and keep your storyÂ on track.
Clear roadblocks before you hit them during a daydreamÂ Â session.
- Do you suspect there will be cops? Nail down the police policyÂ on handcuffing so you’re ready toÂ toss your hero into a hot cruiser.
- Does your hero commute by plane? Cruise youtube to find preflight procedures and flight simulations for theÂ Beech BaronÂ 50 she favors.
- Lay outÂ your hero’s neighborhood and even the floor plan using Google Earth and current MKSÂ listings. Maybe there’s not a sidewalk in sight – or maybe there’s a spookyÂ community hall you hadn’t thought to tap.
- Stuck shopping with a friend? Search out that signature hat or cane, the vintage watch your character wears.