If You Dont Write Your Story It Wont Get Written

Writing a story is not a task you can delegate. In the process of creating a story, you bring your own insights, experiences, and imagination to bear. Whatever the genre, whatever the subject matter, no one else could possibly write the same story that you would write. If you don't write it, no one will ever have the pleasure of reading it or the benefit of sharing your vision.

There is a saying among writers: "I don't want to write; I want to have written." Wouldn't it be wonderful if the rewards of writing could be ours without all the nasty hard work that goes into earning them?

Unfortunately, you can't reach that second place without going through the first. You never will have written unless at some point you actually sit down and write.

A common error would-be writers make is to hang back and wait for inspiration to strike. But writing is nine-tenths perspiration. The writer and teacher Larry Menkin always said the most important advice on writing he could offer his students was this: "Apply seat of pants." Apply the seat of your own pants to the chair in front of your computer or desk, and start writing.

The fact is, inspiration is most likely to tap you on the shoulder when you are actively involved in the writing process. Like many writers, you'll probably find that when you're working on a story, fresh ideas for that story and new ones will bubble up most readily.

So, as we move on to look at the basic ingredients of fiction, remember the three things you should do if you want to be a writer of short stories:

2. Write some more.

3. Keep on writing.

Exercises: Generating Ideas

1. Open a book, copy out a single sentence at random, and close the book. Without referring to its context in the original work, begin with that sentence and keep writing. Let the words flow; don't stop or put down your pen. Try this three times, taking off from the sentence in a new direction each time.

2. Pick a photo in a magazine or newspaper. A photo with two or more people in it will work best. What led these people to this moment? What happens next? Come up with three possibilities for before and after. Select one and write a scene describing it.

3. Choose three articles from today's newspaper. For each one, write a single sentence describing the basic situation. Without referring to the real people or circumstances involved, play the "what if..." game to develop the situation into a story. Write a scene that could belong in each of the three stories you come up with.

4. As you go through your day's activities (on the bus, in a restaurant, at the library), notice an interesting-looking stranger whom you are unlikely to see again. Playing "what if...," and without speaking to the person, guess why he or she is there, where he came from, where he is going next and who else is involved. Come up with three possibilities, and write a scene from each story.

5. Ask yourself the following questions and write down the first answer that comes to mind:

a. What is the most exciting thing you can think of? What is something that, if it happened to you, would be just incredibly thrilling, or wonderful, or fun?

b. What is the most dangerous thing you've ever been seriously tempted to do?

c. What is the most embarrassing or humiliating situation you've ever been in?

d. What is something that makes you really angry? What really makes your blood boil?

e. What is the most frightening thing you can think of? What, if it happened to you, would have the most devastating effect on your life?

Pick one answer, and write a scene using that situation as its basis. However, don't place yourself or real people you know in the scene; create new characters for the events to happen to. Use the "what if..." game for help.

6. Write about what would have happened if your favorite childhood dream had come true. Think of three positive things that might have resulted. Then think of three negative things. Choose one of these possibilities and write a scene describing it.

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