Writing Just for Fun

If you don’t feel a thrill tingle through you when you see a blank page, try again.

“Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” -C.S. Lewis

Think of the possibilities a blank page holds. Forget about word counts, forget about readers, and write for pure joy.

Repeat.

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Title Tricks for Your Story

Your title is important. It’s the first words a potential reader sees, and your first chance to draw them into your story. How does a writer go about finding the right title for their story?

Titles Don’t Come First!

In my experience, writing a story for a title just doesn’t turn out well. It’s too constraining. Usually a title is made for a story, not the other way around. I’ve written multiple stories now that remain title-less even after the plot is full fledged, and are just waiting for some title TLC.

Titles Take Thought

Sometimes they come easy, but with longer novel-length stories, often they don’t. It helps to really know what your story is about. (If you’re like me and prefer to write off-the-cuff, sometimes you don’t know what your story is about. Someone once asked what the NaNoWriMo novel I’d written was about, and I said, “I don’t know, I haven’t read it!”) Titles take thought, study, critique, and revision. When something catches, you’ll know it.

Titles Should:

  • Reflect the essence of your story
  • Have meaning for the reader before they read your story. If your book is fantasy, you may be tempted to write fantasy words into the title, but my advice is to keep this to a minimum. The title should communicate something about your story to potential readers who have no knowledge of your story whatsoever, thus enticing them to pick your book off the shelf.
  • NOT give away too much. They’re just a glance at the worm on the hook. The first paragraph should get the bite, and the first chapter reel them in.

What are your tricks for titles? Writers don’t get much chance to practice these. A great way to learn is to pay attention to your favorite stories, study the titles, and see what works for your tastes.

Codebreaker

“Do you have it?”

He stared at me, perspiration dripping from his temples. I looked at him, wide-eyed.

“The box, do you have it!”

“The box?” I whirled around, facing the jungle we’d just emerged from. “Cathy has it.”

“I told her you had it.”

“What – I don’t!”

A ripping crash tore through the canopy close behind us. Mark and I had been here too long not to know what that meant. I darted into the greenery without a second thought, and knew Mark had done the same.

Cathy. Cathy has the box. Mark, you fool! I dodged vines, swatted leaves, ran fast as I could without losing my footing. The best Cathy can do is keep up. We agreed.

Suddenly I stopped. Listened. Heard nothing but tree frogs, a toucan, the quietness before a rainstorm. The sky was invisible, obliterated by towering kapoks. The low whir of helicopters. The distance was sufficient.

A moment’s hesitation, bracing myself against a mossy trunk. I had to go back. Mark was too inept. Cathy too trusting. No one had the walkie-talkies, and that was just as well since we’d never developed the Code.

That box was mine. Without it we’d reach the south gate and have nowhere to go. It held the keys.

I took my hand from the tree, silent as a heartbeat, and crept back toward the Tower. Silence was my only chance to retrieve what was ours. I could do this without Mark, but Cathy – I would have liked her by my side.

Lens

Some people need a lens to see the world through. I’m one of them.

Without glass, everything is out of focus. Without the lens, memory fades.

This piece of magic will hold sight for you, and sound. It’s your eyes and your ears.

The editor will tell the story, weave together the memory as you saw it.

A new angle and everything is new.

Different light, different scene.

Without the lens, it’s all a blur.

Look through the lens, and see.

“The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness”
-Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Meadow Pond

In a dip at the edge of the hayfield on the top of a hill
past the rippling grasses, thigh high
and the grasshoppers and katydids humming away this warm summer evening
past the open sky and distant hills
down into the side of this small prairie
is a pond.

Small pine trees planted around it in the shadows. Reaching rays of orange sunlight shifting through the trees, their leaves the dark green of deep summer. Night comes closer here on the cool Northwest side of the hill.

Silent slice of sky in the grass, still reflecting pool. Glass broken by the toes of waterbugs, skimming the surface, leaving ripples in their wake. On the far side of the pond, a fallen aspen reaches out over the water, half submerged, half child’s jungle gym. White and black bark, shimmering leaves in the slight breeze from uphill.

Deep woods beyond the manmade pool, beyond the cliff that supports its downhill side. Ancient hemlock. Darkness and shadows and nightfall, wood-pewee, pine boughs and needles over the soil.

Like the dragonflies, I hover by the water.

Only One Story

I’ve long been a proponent of cranking out words and upping your word count. That’s what writers do, right? Keep writing, and you’re bound to come up with something good among all those keystrokes.

This approach definitely works sometimes and for some writers, but there are other approaches too, and these can be refreshing. I was talking with a writer friend recently who reminded me that some writers have a limited number of stories inside them. Indeed, many authors like Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame only published one book, and found success.

It was a relief to me to consider the idea that a writer has a limited number of stories to tell. After my first NaNoWriMo success, I’ve been disappointed with my other attempts partly because I see myself telling the same story all over again. But perhaps this isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s because that one story is my story. Maybe it’s my only story. And that’s all right.

Lesson of the day: don’t force it. Sometimes, forcing a story or word count is helpful, but in the end, writing has to feel natural to read natural. You don’t need to write a billion words to be a successful writer, unless that’s your thing. Only one story told well, in a way that pleases you, is enough.