So you want to write but don’t know what you want to write about. Here’s a way to help you find a topic. It’s called Freewriting.
I think Freewriting can be summed up like this: don’t think, just write sentences and paragraphs without stopping. It will increase your flow of ideas and your ability to write them. Don’t worry about accuracy, just write. The idea is not to think about what other people will say about your writing because they won’t see it. Just write. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. You can read it later. Don’t focus on grammar. If you can’t think of something just keep writing a word that comes into your head. For example nothing to write, nothing to write, until an idea flows. Believe me, something will eventually come.
Keep writing for 30 minutes. Next, read what you’ve written and see if you can build on it. Try doing this every day, starting with a new idea that comes to mind. Repeat the process until you find something that makes you want to keep writing. Read it and see if you can refine it and keep going.
Here’s some tips I hope you’ll find useful about writing a short story. If you are writing to guidelines always make sure that you adhere to those guidelines. Don’t kid yourself and think but it’s me, they’ll accept my 200 extra words. No they won’t. Keep to the theme that the guidelines stipulate. Writing sci-fi for romance isn’t going to work.
Entering competitions and anthologies will test your writing skills. I’ve entered short stories, poetry and flash fiction for many anthologies and had plenty of rejections as well as acceptances. It’s a good way to see what other people think of your writing.
- Start with an idea/theme for your story
- Who is your protagonist?
- Think of a hook for your first line
- List your scenes
- Research is optional. It depends if you know enough about what you’re writing about
- Write a draft in one sitting if you can. Then rewrite, edit, edit and edit some more.
- Put the draft away for a day or so.
- Read your story again. You may need to add/edit some more.
- Get someone else to read your story and give you constructive feedback.
Then publish your work on a blog or enter a competition or anthology.
If you are writing a poem about an experience you’ve had practice writing it in different ways to capture the feelings that the experience evoked in you.
Poetry speaks to the soul of the reader and evokes feelings in the reader that they may or may not relate to.
Here are some things that will help you:
- Have a theme. For example, bedtime
- Avoid cliches
- Use images, metaphors and similes
- try and see things differently from the way everyone else sees the theme
- use words that people experience with their senses. For example: hot, cold, warm, smell, touch, sound etc.
- Read your poem out loud and see how it sounds. Remember it doesn’t have to rhyme.
Here is an example of a poem I’ve written:
Dreaming of characters in my book
I’m part of the landscape
pulled in by a hook
don’t try and wake me
I want to stay for a while
I’m back in time
reliving it all
wanting to remember everything
when I wake
I’m the protagonist
my life is at stake
Artwork: Christian Schloe
Flash fiction is not part of your novel or a summary/synopsis of your novel. Flash fiction is a short story with a beginning, middle and end that is usually 1,000 words or less. Here’s what you’ll need to craft a well-rounded story:
- a hook
- conflict and tension with your characters
- wrap the story up fast
- Don’t confuse your reader. You need to get into the story and get out.
- When you’ve finished your story give it to a friend to read before you submit for publication.
- it can be in any genre.
A synopsis demonstrates your ability to craft a good story and should make the agent/editor want to read your whole manuscript.
Many authors loathe the synopsis, I know I do. The novel must be condensed and you can’t leave anything out, including the ending. If an editor/agent has given you guidelines as to how long the synopsis should be make sure you follow their instructions. Don’t think they’ll accept more or less words/pages. You need to show the agent/editor that you can craft a well-rounded story. They will be able to pick out any flaws that you’ve made.
Remember a movie that you’ve seen where you were hooked in straight away? You need to do that so that the editor/agent will give it the publisher to have a look at. The best thing to do is use emotive language that makes your manuscript standout.
You can stimulate your creative thought by doing a writing exercise or use a writing prompt. Here are some that may help you.
- How did George get into the house?
- Why did he decide to see Julia?
- What are the consequences for Sandra?
- Why did Bob leave the party?
- How did Eva find her way home without him?
- What did the police tell Bob about his car the next morning?
A writing prompt is an idea that starts the writing process and can be a short sentence, a paragraph, a picture, or a series of words. The main purpose of any of these is to ignite your creativity so you’ll begin writing.
If you’re stuck while writing a short story or novel, try doing a writing prompt for ten minutes. It will help stimulate your ideas and the creative process.
Choose a set of three elements, and imagine a story that contains all three of them:
- A burglar alarm, a love note, and an untimely sneeze.
- An incorrect prediction, two phone numbers and a sleepless night.
- A wedding, a bad habit, and a question better left unasked.
- A Facebook profile, a runaway, and two people with the name name.
- A lost toy, a rooftop, and a potentially dangerous animal.
- A rumor, blue contact lenses and a mouthful of snow.
I hope all of the above helps to stimulate your creative thought.
Have you ever written a letter to yourself?
This is a good writing exercise because it helps you think about your reader as a real person with emotions. You can write to yourself at any age. It doesn’t matter what age you choose.
Make sure you:
- View the younger you as a real and separate person.
- Choose a theme. For example you could offer advice, compassion, or explain something that you didn’t understand then, but you do now.
Start writing and keep going for as long as you can.