Tag Archives: Writing

Grow a Story

When stories are starting out, they’re tender and undeveloped, susceptible to any hint of criticism and any suggestion about the path they should travel. An untold story needs to be protected by its author, kept out of the light until it’s strong enough to survive on its own.

During this period, no one has the right to get between an author and their story, to disturb the almost sacred process by which the details of plot and character come into being. Anything can kill a story at this point, and to kill a story before it’s even had a chance is murder. Not only that, but to suck the juice of life from a new story damages the confidence of the author. Who knows how many pages die when one new idea has lost its magic in the eyes of its creator.

I still don’t believe writing can be taught, despite taking numerous writing classes. These help a little, but the meat of writing is learned from reading. Anyway, take a storytelling class. Instruct the students to tell you their story before they write it out, to plan out their plot structure like an architect, to release an unformed blob of ideas dripping with creativity into the hands of an editor. This isn’t the way to write something worth reading.

Good stories drag their authors along as they’re written. They’re not preplanned. (At least, I could never stick to a structure while writing. Plans are for ignoring when characters disagree.) Stories should be hidden and protected like a sprout in a greenhouse, never revealed until they’re fully fleshed out with a strong skeleton and leaves and maybe some flower buds. Only after a full first draft has been written is your story maybe, maybe, ready to see the world.


‘Course, they say never to show anyone your first draft, because the deserved criticism will crush your soul. I ignored that advice. Had the criticism come any earlier in its development, my story likely never would have seen the light of day. But after a first draft? You can take it.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” -Stephen King

Get writing!


Here Comes November

There are only a few days each year when Autumn’s leaves are burning up and still on the trees. Summer is hanging on, but in a month or two, it’s going to be cold and grey and gloomy.

That’s novel weather.

Fellow NaNoWriMo adventurers, whip out your pens (if you’re really actually going to try writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days by hand), keyboards, and thinking caps. It’s time to imagine the possibilities! Not just that, but live them through the characters you bring into existence and tag along with as they live out their lives on your page.

Write your novel.

2 Silly Reasons People Don’t Like Writing

I never understood why so many people say they don’t like writing. I grew up writing pages-long letters to my many pen-pals, short stories, poems, long stories, and loving it. I have a need to write. Writing is fun—you get to make up your very own worlds… or not, if you don’t want to. You can tell yourself stories about what’s already happened. Writing can help you make sense of your experience. It can help you remember and become aware of the ideas in your own head. Why don’t more people like writing?

     1) They’ve been taught that writing is drudgery.
If you grow up being forced to write, chances are you’ll learn to hate it pretty quickly. Take the freedom and creativity away, and you’re shackling a seagull on its maiden voyage. If you didn’t get a chance to explore writing (and reading for pleasure) on your own before being flooded with useless assignments, you really haven’t experienced what fun writing can be.

     2) They’re thinking about readers.
I’ve been developing this problem as I write more often in people’s company, allowing them to read what I’ve written. The solution: Acknowledge it and get over it. Forget the readers as you’re writing, and tell yourself a story. Imagine a campfire and wind in pine trees if that helps you. But don’t worry about readers. Just play.

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
-Joss Whedon

Ink Runs Dry

When the ink runs dry
the stories have been told
the thoughts written down
the loose ends tied

there’s more to life
than a book and a pen
there’s more to stories
than writing them down

this is why writers have to get up and live
feel their stories
make their own choices
be fearless like heroes
be a little bit mad
and see what others don’t see

get up and look.
leave the desk and go live.
write every day
but not every day
if life deserves to get in the way.

The stories will stay with you
draw your hand to the pen
but don’t force it
not today
let the ink
run dry.

Words Fall Short

To me, the centuries are yesterday’s wind
I’ll show you the thoughts of ages past
of people gone
of weak and strong
of all who wield a pen.

I am the language of the mind
I am the road thoughts travel down
ideas and feelings
reasoning and reaction
through me is the closest minds can come.

I can’t show you everything.

I can’t bring you the sweet spicy scent of sensitive fern in July sunshine, a smell that is summer and woods and past and light and life.

I can’t bring you the feeling that comes when you hear the wind whisper through a million pine needles in a forest of ancient evergreens.

I can’t make you understand the peculiar squish of moss between your toes, the weird fuzzy sharpness of astringent chokecherries in August.

But I am the language of the mind. A dark, silent, scentless, sensationless inner world that is alive with more than senses could give. I am the bricks and mortar of your world. I am your stories, your thoughts, your memories…

Memories. Those strange things I never quite understood.

Inspiration & Originality: An Interview

   You’re a writer. What, or who, inspires you most?

The one thing that never fails to pull me out of a writing rut is the magic of a favorite story. These stories have a life of their own—they pick me up and make me forget and make me care, and remind me why I tell stories. Books, movies, plays, even music can do it. And once all that greatness has seeped into my thoughts, it’s bound to come out in my writing.

   Shouldn’t you be worried about originality?

No. You’ve heard that all the great stories have already been told. Take Star Wars, the original Star Wars. That was far from original. George Lucas took a good helping of his storytelling from ancient mythology and The Hero’s journey. C. S. Lewis did that too. These authors were inspired by classics, and created new classics that really aren’t new.

Don’t worry about originality, worry about authenticity.”

The point is, if you’re a writer, you need something to aspire to. That’s inspiring. Stories to remind you why you love stories, that pick you up and blow you away and leave you changed. You’ll absorb elements from them, and I think that’s great. What more could you ask for than having the quality of your writing approach that of your heros?

Why You Should Write When There’s No Time

If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do have time for it.” ― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

When I became busy with college, I didn’t like this quote. First of all, as a homeschooled high schooler I’d had plenty of time to write, and write I did. Poems, novels, far-fetched tales of adventure in Africa, and letters—so many letters. Take that, Katerina. I wrote even when I had time.

Then college started. I valued grades over words on the page. All of a sudden, college ended and a career began. I start to see that I’ll never have time to write, at least not in the foreseeable future. What’s a writer to do?

Write when there’s no time. Up to 15 minutes of creative free-writing a day, just to get words on the page and a blog post out. I’ve finally learned that practice makes better, no matter how much raw talent you do or don’t have. Through practice, you can better understand your craft and yourself. No practice, and you’re a seed without soil.

I’ve noticed something interesting about writing when there’s no time. Katerina’s right. After a busy weekday, it’s easier for me to write than on a free weekend. The pressure is a motivator. And, against all indications to the contrary, writers aren’t hermits. A big part of the job is spending time out in the world with other people, interacting with them, exchanging ideas, getting to know the readers.

Even when there’s no time, if you want to write, write. For five minutes. Maybe just ten words. If you love it like I do, this will be enough. It’ll remind you what writing’s like. And if you ever get the time to write more, you’ll be ready.