Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The fiction writer must rely on self-motivation


I think it's one of the things that has kept me so in love with writingno one makes me do it. I choose it each day.

It's also why there are so many people who talk about writing a book without ever actually doing so. Because sometimes the choice is hard. No one will make you get out of bed early to write before you head off to school. No one will force you to edit that scene again because you just know it could be better.

That's why communities like Go Teen Writers, great writing friends, and other writing groups are so valuable. They're the rare place that you can be motivated by others who are working toward a similar end.

What helps you stay motivated?

Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Get In The Way of Good Ideas

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

Stephen King has my favorite quote about writers and story ideas. "We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don't know."



While I think there's a lot of truth in that, I also think writers can choose to put themselves "in the way" of story ideas and inspiration. All around you is great material for stories. Here are a few things you can do to become more aware of it:

1. When you're listening to music, try to think up a story to go with it.

I love songs that hint at a story. How many times have you been listening to a song and thought, "I wonder what that means?" Well, try to come up with a story for it. You could even do that for a few songs, and then see if there was a way to blend the stories.

2. Try to throw together different TV shows/movies/stories you like and see what happens.

I think Jill does this exercise in the class she teaches about high concept ideas. It works like this:

Sherlock meets Modern Family!
Mad Men meets Pride and Prejudice!
Harry Potter meets The Great Gatsby!
Star Trek meets Downton Abbey!

You're gonna get some weird stuff, but this creative thought process can also churn out some gold.

3. Read National Geographic and news stories.

Truth is stranger than fiction, as the saying goes, and you can use that to your advantage by absorbing nonfiction. I like National Geographic because of the diversity of stories and cultures. I'm not a fantasy author, but it seems like it could be a great source for worldbuilding too.

And your local newspaper is great too. A year or two ago, I saw an article in The Kansas City star about three teenage guys from a rather privileged area of town who attempted to rob a bank. Because I was reading the news with an eye for stories, I was thinking, "What a perfect ex-boyfriend for one of my characters!"

4. Listen to people's stories

I don't like parties, but I really appreciate the opportunity they provide to gather stories. (Which is why I'm the weirdo at the party who wants to grill everyone about their profession instead of carry on a normal conversation.)

Interacting with a diverse group of people is a great way to create diverse characters. You have to be careful about borrowing peoples stories, of course, but there's a way to do it respectfully.

5. Ever read a book/watched a movie/heard a story and thought, "I would tell this differently"?

Then do it. I recently read a book that had several plot elements I loved. But the author took the story to some places that I didn't care for. I eventually stopped reading at the midpoint, thinking, "I would have done this differently." There's nothing wrong with being inspired by that and working it into your own unique plot.

Now, I wouldn't recommend you write your own story about an 11-year-old boy who learns he's a wizard and goes away to wizarding school, but it's okay to borrow things that aren't so specific to a particular story.

6. What if?

This applies to all the techniques above. You need to constantly be asking "What if?"

We do it all the time in life when we're worrying (What if this plane crashes? What if the parachute doesn't open?) and as a writer, you get to turn your paranoia into art. My son has epilepsy, and I was able to pour all my what-ifs (What if he's on his bike and has a seizure? Or what if it happens when he's climbing on the playground?) into a story where a character suffers from epilepsy.

On a lighter note, I've often wondered if the movie Monsters, Inc. was born out of the question, "What if there really were monsters hiding in closets?"

But all of these story ideas won't do you much good if you're not able to keep track of them, develop them, and write them. Here are some posts that can help you with that:

How to keep track of story ideas
Questions to help you develop your story idea
Developing your story idea into a list of key scenes

What did I miss? What's a way that you've come up with story ideas?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

WORD WAR: Final Count


Congrats on finishing the word war! So how did you do this past week? Add up your word counts for each day and give the grand total in the comments below. This past week, I typed a total of 11,940 words on my novel King's Folly and 4739 on Storyworld First for a grand total of 17,005.

Thanks to all of you who participated. You really helped motivate me to make the most of writing this week. I'm proud of you all!

Friday, July 25, 2014

WORD WAR: Day Five

Today is the last day of our major word war. It's been fun to see how much progress you guys have made. We will have to do this again sometime.

Yesterday, I typed 5090 words. I started out strong and had most of that done before lunch, but my friend called and asked me to lunch and I went and had a very nice time. Writing is great, but sometimes you just need to leave the cave. How did you all do?


If you're just joining us on the word war (or if today's the first you've heard of it) here's a quick recap: 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. 

This word war began yesterday will end on Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's not too late to join us!

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the weekend goes on!

Here's how you can connect with each other:
1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTW or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can get you approved pronto.)

Looking forward to a long day of writing with you!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

WORD WAR: Day Four

Jill here! I can't believe how great you're all doing on the word war! I'm very impressed. It's been fun watching you all encourage each other's writing.

I had a blah day yesterday. I woke up tired and could not find my groove at all. Still, I forced myself to write. (After I whined to Steph and she so graciously cheered me on.) And I even got creative and switched projects, just so I'd stay productive. Here's what I did:

King's Folly: 1715 words
Storyworld First: 1292 words
A couple dozen marketing tweets for the Rebels release: 326 words
For a grand total of: 3333 words

And then I watched Stardust. What a great movie!

How did you all do?



If you're just joining us on the word war (or if today's the first you've heard of it) here's a quick recap: 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. 

This word war began yesterday will end on Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's not too late to join us!

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the weekend goes on!

Here's how you can connect with each other:
1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTW or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can get you approved pronto.)

Looking forward to a long day of writing with you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WORD WAR: Day Three


My total for Tuesday was 5100 words.

I started out strong and quickly got stuck when I needed my characters to take a ferry across a lake. But it was a great lake, the size of one of the US Great Lakes, so I decided to make it a barge instead. And by the time I'd learned enough to write the scene decently, I'd lost almost an hour doing research.

These things happen.

How did you do yesterday? I am ready for a BIG day today. I'm past the hard scenes. What I have to write next should be fun. Lots of dialogue. I love dialogue because it goes fast!

If you're just joining us on the word war (or if today's the first you've heard of it) here's a quick recap of what we're doing this week at Go Teen Writers: 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. 

This word war began yesterday will end on Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's not too late to join us!

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the weekend goes on!

Here's how you can connect with each other:
1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTW or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can get you approved pronto.)

Looking forward to a long day of writing with you!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WORD WAR: Day Two



How did your first day go? I didn't do so well. I got up early and typed 810 words first thing. Then I had to drive my daughter halfway to her grandma's house. So I was gone for eight hours! I managed to dictate 311 words in the car on the way home. And then I got thinking about Spencer and dictated a 707-word scene for one of the upcoming Mission League books, which is unrelated to my WIP, but, hey, it's words, right?

The scenery on my drive was perfect for my WIP. My story takes place in a desert land, and I live in the high desert. So I snapped a bunch of terrible pics on my iPhone, but they will help me describe things. Here are two of them. There have been lots of forest fires in the mountains near my home. And there are some forest fires in my book. So I snapped this picture of the black ground with the ash.

Burned ground with little piles of ash.
And every-so-often, along the river, there were bright green trees that stood out against the dry, pale landscape. I'll totally be putting some bright green trees in my description as my knight rides a camel north.

I love how bright these trees are in the dry, pale landscape.
Yes, I know. I'm random.

When I got home, I managed to type another 1607 words, for a grand total of 3124 words for the day, which considering how long I was home, wasn't all that bad, really.

But I want more today! And I'm home, home, home! Cracks knuckles.


If you're just joining us on the word war (or if today's the first you've heard of it) here's a quick explanation of what we're doing: 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. 

This word war began yesterday will end on Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's not too late to join us!

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the weekend goes on!

Here's how you can connect with each other:
1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTW or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can get you approved pronto.)

Looking forward to a long day of writing with you!