Monthly Archives: June 2014

Wreak havoc in just 15 minutes a day

Few of us have more than 15 minutes a day to write. But a good story, especially when you’re Future Rock Starstarting out, is rarely about “churning out 100 words 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 the chores 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 when words clog between the seat and keyboard.

Whether you’re busy living life or stuck for inspiration, don’t 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.

This 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, I sketched something completely unrelated and beat myself up over losing focus. But the 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 writing triggers different thought processes.
  • Keep a scribbler, bedside. Don’t lose the train of thought and the cadence.
  • Are your notes just a rehash of the same, stuck scene? No problem. Different approaches to 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 the uncomfortable or pivotal or mundane scenes we all wish would write themselves. Break the scene into snippets and tackle each one during a short block of time.

Use your rare, unbroken time to knit the snippets together.


You’re in a hoarder-intervention frame of mind.

A good cut session should enable you to remove words that don’t fit and thoughts that stall the action, and to insert bon mots that maintain and enhance your story.

  • Try not to lose the cadence, voice, and tone of your piece. A lyrical piece can quickly become a goose-stepping paragon of efficiency or verbose, alliterative mess.
  • Be mindful of your mood - make surgical incisions, not hamburger.

Before an editorial  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 your climax, you can repurpose that two-page slow dance you removed from the (much faster-paced) start of the story

Inject conflict

If your character is facilitated at every turn, add a Minotaur in the labyrinth – or have the easiest step suddenly become impossible. For instance, the “send” key collapses the communication system. Find opportunities for 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 – foster conflict.


Methodically identify every event in your story.

When you read through your story as a list of “beats“, it’s easier to see what’s likely to happen next (or whether you need a twist) and sketch out what will precede or follow.

This technique helped me 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 the climax.

Proof continuity

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 was simultaneously, “stuck”?

Track down inconsistencies – be brutal. Identify research projects (would a surfer be caught dead living in Washington, DC?) and keep your story on track.


Clear roadblocks before you hit them during a daydream  session.

  • Do you suspect there will be cops? Nail down the police policy on handcuffing so you’re ready to toss your hero into a hot cruiser.
  • Does your hero commute by plane? Cruise youtube to find preflight procedures and flight simulations for the Beech Baron 50 she favors.
  • Lay out your hero’s neighborhood and even the floor plan using Google Earth and current MKS listings. Maybe there’s not a sidewalk in sight – or maybe there’s a spooky 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.