Writing Help

Tell me a story. . . . . would you please? Seven Tips I learned writing my first Short Story

STORY TELLERS COME FORTH

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Every single human being that has ever lived was a storyteller. The age old tradition of telling stories has always been with humanity rather it be camp fire scares, fairy tales, tall tales, old wives tales or legends of humans before us .

In addition, every human being alive now is a storyteller. Rather you believe it or not, you are a storyteller. Yes, you reading this blog. I’m talking about you.

Every single one of us tells stories on a daily basis. It could be a retelling of a famous story, a joke, or even a first person account of an incident, which happened only this morning at the grocery store.

For some reason the grocery store is a place full of magical tales.

 

CONNECTION

Stories connect us. It is how we get to know another person. When we first meet a person we try to find common ground. We make conversation about this common ground and ask them questions. Most of the time once they answer the questions you have asked; we respond with either a comment, opinion, suggestion or a story related to their answer.

It is one of the ways we get to know people and the way we understand them. We hear about their story, we learn about them, know them, and eventually fall in love with them and their story.

 

STORIES FOR ENTERTAINMENT

We long to flip pages of a fascinating book, be mesmerized by a film we are watching, sing the lyrics unashamedly of a song that gives us the perfect language for our emotions.

How many times have you heard people say this song is me!

The character is this film is my life story.

This book made me cry, laugh and throw it when the ending was not what I thought it should have been.

I love music, and books but films speak to me in almost a different language. It is like how people always say French is the language of love well films speak to me in French.

Films can remind me of a certain time in my life, inspire me, and even change me. Amazing and brilliantly told films can even connect you with the people in your daily lives.

 

STORY TIME

My father is a person who is not emotional by nature but when he talks to me about certain films he will become passionate and his emotions will rise to the top. It will show me a completely different part of his personality. The film has touched him, it moved him.

In the particular instant I am remembering, it is the film “Courage Under Fire.”

 

SIDE NOTE

“Courage Under Fire” was made in 1991. It is a film about Colonel Serling (Denzel Washington) investigating an incident in war and determining if a fallen soldier, Captain Walden (Meg Ryan) will be the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.

 

My father had not seen this movie in years but yet recently when we spoke on this film tears entered his eyes. The message of the movie and the different events that took place in the characters life resonated with him. One character in particular he could relate to and understand how difficult things in this characters life was.  My father could imagine the difficulty of his circumstance, he related to the character and saw himself within him. This folks is good storytelling.

I won’t, and can’t go into great detail about this film because I will not spoil it for you. GO and watch this film even if you have seen it before it is worth another watch. Word to the wise this film is for mature moviegoers.

To reiterate my point, stories are powerful.

They connect us. They move us. Inspire us. Change us.

 

This blog post is to encourage the storyteller in all of you, embrace it within yourself.

The storyteller capabilities within you could be through:  books, blogs, photographs, music, poetry, anything. I’m asking you to share your stories and art with us all and with the world!

 

MY STORY

Should I join the world of writers?

If you had asked me only a few years ago if I was a writer I would have said, “No.” A resounding no, not a question, no wavering just fact, NOPE.

I have always known I like to tell stories. They are fun to tell and who doesn’t like making people laugh. Or telling them a story that makes them tear up, it bonds you in a deeper way. You have connected with them and spoke on more than the current state of the weather surrounding you. (I never understand why we always talk about the weather, something we can never change.)

Despite my lack of confidence in my identity as a writer, my lack of direction in knowing what to write about, here I am. Completed, written and published 20 blogs all while still trying to figure out where I belong in this storyteller world. As well as, countless other posts I gave up on and chickened out before posting.   🙂

 

THEREFORE,

A writer not only writes but also teaches. It is the saying, “If you can teach it then you understand it.” Or if you prefer the saying of “Those who can’t, teach.”

Either way I am eager in encouraging you in your storytelling endeavors.

My tips will be through the lens of writing as my art form but I am pretty sure most of them can be applied to whatever art form is yours.

 

SEVEN TIPS ON WRITING

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All of My Books on Writing Tips

Every single one of these tips comes from the experience of when I entered my first writing competition last year. As well as a few tidbits from the greats before me.

A month was the amount of time I was given to complete a short story.

Shaky hands hovered over the keyboard determined to go for it and write the words of my heart into the world and wait for them to be exposed and possibly obliterated.

 

1. RESPECT THE PROCESS

HUGE. The process of forming an entire story from your imagination is huge. Therefore respect whatever process you need, sincerely respect it. Be kind to it.

For me, this story took me a significant amount of time to decide the subject, or theme if you prefer to sound more like an author. I also had to have a story that fit the requirements of the competition.

After thinking, mulling over and throwing away every idea in my mind, I found the theme.

Once I had this I knew I could do it. The initial idea is the hardest part for me because I have to believe in my story, believe in the characters and care deeply about them.

SUPERSTITIONS

Superstitions, sounds weird to me.  It is more like good form to get in the correct mindset to write.

First One.

I never write anything without it being in a certain font. If it is not in that font it is foreign to me and feels like it is not my voice at all. It is not my handwriting and it doesn’t work.

Second One.

Always save the current draft I am on before editing.

Reasoning is because on the rewrite I could butcher what I have and be devastated that it is lost. As much as you think you can remember exactly what you wrote. You won’t. Even if you wrote it 10 times, the words begin to jumble and you don’t remember the order they were in.

This particular short story was less than 4000 words. I had nine rewrites. Yep and I could have done more but I was on a time crunch.

 

BONUS TIP

My short story was an emotional one. When writing the sad parts in the story I decided to listen to instrumental music more played in minor chords. It helped immensely for those certain parts in the story.  Youtube has more than enough to choose from.

 

2. JUST DO IT.

You have to put fingers to keyboard. You have to type. It all comes down to actually doing it. Write anything. For me, the blank page is way more frightening then the reality of the blank page.

Even if what you write is horrible, still write it. The real magic comes in the rewrites. I never understood this till I did it. Also, because I keep my rough drafts I can really see the transformation. It sounded like hooey to me before but the real work comes in the rewrites.

Do it like so.

Fingers on Keyboard. Phone on silence. DOOR CLOSED. Designated Time at the keyboard.

3. FOCUS

In the writing process, having a notebook to write in next to you is helpful. When you finally take the time to get the writing done, or anything else you are trying to accomplish a million things try to pull your attention in a different direction.

Everything bombards your mind: laundry, emails, dirty dishes in the sink, thank you notes from three years ago, a birthday to plan, the list goes on and on . . .

It never ends!

This is why you have a notebook, write it down. On the page.  Now, not every person to invite to said birthday party only the highlights and move on to the task at hand. Writing. Did you already forget what we are doing?

BONUS TIP

The notebook has come second nature to me. My newest distraction is in the form of other characters; not ones from the current story I am working on. It seems to always be villains, they are my favorite to write. Either way stay the course and work on your current project.

 

4. TRUST THE GUT

When we are writing we like to let others read it. Even if we are petrified they will not like it we know if they are a true friend they will tell you it is wonderful. We all need the encouragement.

Friends reading your work and saying what is good and what needs work is a blessing. It is no doubt. My advice on the matter is trust your gut.

Even if you don’t think your gut is a realable source trust it.

On my short story I wrote, my friends gave me thoughtful and insightful advice. It was on words not making sense, unclear on who was speaking at what parts in the story and suggestions on title and ending. I also, even made them fill out a survey at the end.

When it came down to after making the adjustments on the story errors; at the end of the day I kept my story the way I wanted it. Trust your gut. It is your story, your art, you are ultimately the one who needs to love it. It is yours.

 

Reality is Always different than the actual thing. On the left it is all perfect. I even have a note encouraging myself that I am an author. The one on the right is my reality. Notes everywhere of names to be changed, bills I need to pay. The reality that I have lost Chapter 3. Happens more than you think. Also, if you look closely on the computer I think I have a note to myself saying I am at the edge of doom!

 

The fact is I almost took a picture of myself and what I look like when I am writing but I was afraid it might frighten you. Every once in awhile I don’t look like a mad scientist but they are few and far between. Either way I still do it.

 

5. NOTHING IS PERFECT

When I am getting close to the end of the project, I begin to hate it. Really hate it like wanting to shred every single paper of the story. I question every word choice, every character movement, the setting ,time, place, theme. Self doubt then comes in, I am not a writer, why did I do this. The reality is in writing as it is in life, nothing and no one is perfect. It has to be let go of and finished. Otherwise it will never be finished.

Know what your signs are when you are getting close to the end.  This is mine, learn your own process. Also, have a timeframe when you need to be done. The only way I finished this short story was by having a deadline. If I didn’t have a time line it would be sitting on my desktop as the fourth rewrite and no title.

 

BONUS TIP

Give it some time to breath. Like people in our life, if you are with them for hours on end you need a break. Give your characters a break from you too.

 

6. TRY AGAIN

Yep do it all over again.

In my short story journey after all the work and after sending it in and waiting for a response. I didn’t win, not even an honorable mention.

The best advice, from Mr. Stephen King. He said he took every rejection he ever received and took it as a badge of honor of those who went before him. He would thumb tack them to the wall.

 

7. LET PEOPLE READ IT.

(not only your friends and family)

This is actually more challenging than the long process of writing the story. The reasoning being everyone has an opinion and I live in the USA where not only does everyone have an opinion, they have a strong one. It is scary for people to read your stuff. The alternative is to never let anyone read it and then it sits in a drawer, or on a computer and maybe for someone else it would have meant something.

When I was attending Bible school, after preparing a sermon I decided to try it out on my roommates. Perfect audience, they have no where to go. 🙂

Afterwards I asked them what they thought of my sermon and if my points made sense and what were they. Each of them gave me the answers and a few suggestions on making it easier to understand. I asked them if they knew the illustration I was trying to make or what was my main theme.

They both knew what it was but each of them said a completely different part of my sermon is what was the most profound to them.

The good part is they both listened to me and they both had a part that spoke to them. You can never control the outcome of what people will like in your story and take to heart. You just hope they take something to heart.

 

In case you forgot,

Here are All Seven Tips I learned in Writing My first Short Story.

  1. Respect the Process.
  2. Just do it.
  3. Focus.
  4. Trust the Gut.
  5. Nothing is Perfect.
  6. Try again.
  7. Let People Read it.

 

On this brave note and to take my own advice I am planning in the next few months to release a Short Story Collection.

It will contain the famous one which was rejected by Writers Digest. I will do number six on my list and let the people read it. 🙂

This way when someone asks the question if am a writer. My answer will be, “Yes. I am. I am a storyteller.”

I hope some of you will join me on this journey of becoming a storyteller. Rather it be through writing or through another medium in the arts.

 

Are you a storyteller? Did you relate to any of the things I wrote? What are your tips you use when writing? Let me know in the comments below.

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