Writing The Right Story
We’re going to continue our NaNoWriMo theme. But just so you don’t think that this is only for NaNoWriMo, this advice is going to be, hopefully, solid for anyone who is writing.
What do I mean by the title, Writing the Right Story? Does it mean that you could be writing the wrong story? Or is it simply a play on write and right (there’s a little bit of that)?
What I’m trying to get at with the title is that often as a writer, we are trying to write our best story. We’ll be very gung-ho about one idea and then start to get into it and we’ll realize that we have another great idea as well, and it might be better than the first idea. So we’ll drop one story and then hop onto writing the next one. Then after five years, we’ve realized that we haven’t finished any of the stories and we have twelve that are currently in progress and none of them over ten thousand words.
The struggle is very real, even in something like NaNoWriMo. I like my idea for a supernatural wild west story, but I don’t have it fully fleshed out, and I know that I have a high fantasy story that has been started twice already that I could start for NaNoWriMo. But that would be a bad plan. Writing the right story, in case, means that I need to continue with my supernatural wild west story and not let myself get distracted. I personally have enough half baked and half finished ideas, I could really actually stand to finish one of them, one of these days.
So how do you keep that from happening?
For NaNoWriMo, it’s pretty easy. I have a month to write 50k words on a single story. If I jump over to something else after writing nearly ten thousand words, I’m not going to be able to say that I completed it. I might hit the word goal, but it won’t really meat the spirit of NaNoWriMo.
But how about the rest of the time when I want to write?
There are a couple of things that I would recommend of this. I know that I’ve recommended one of them before already, but it’s very true for keeping on a single project.
Write on a Schedule: The reason for this one, and I kind of talked about it in a smaller sense for NaNoWriMo, is that writing on a schedule is going help you keep making progress. And it’s a whole lot easier to keep on a single story, if you keep on moving forward on it.
Keeping a schedule also means that you know things are going to end. If you keep writing on your first story idea, and you keep moving forward, you will eventually reach the end of that story, even that first draft. At that time, you’ll probably have a dozen ideas floating around in your head about what you want to write next. But it won’t feel like a case where you’ll never get to a new idea if you don’t hop onto it now.
Make it Accountable: How you want to do this is up to you, but here are a few different ideas.
Ask a friend to ask you about it. Now, there are some tricks to selecting a friend who can do that. Make sure it’s your friend who is the most persistent and who you really wouldn’t want to disappoint. Then when you get off schedule, you’ll be more apt to get back into you writing.
Find a writing group. This is probably harder, depending on where you live, but there are options online as well. Find a group of people that you can write with (or at the same time as). Again, they are going to hold you accountable, and you are going to have to be honest about what you do. But finding a writing group has an added advantage, if you can really buy into it, of keeping your motivation level higher. They are also going to be more apt to call you out if you jump from story to story.
Post your writing on a blog. This last one is probably the hardest to do, because you are showing a first draft of a story to the public, and you might have dreams of getting published. But if you can find a good venue to do so, you can create a story online that people are going to be reading. That is going to mean that you have people who are expecting the next part to come out. Maybe you serialize it in such a way that you can do a couple of passes of edits on it, but make a consistent schedule for it. And if you hop around projects doing it this way, people will notice.
One final bonus one, I could edit my previous thing, but that is dumb.
Get Rough Ideas Down: I said that if you finish one story, you will have a dozen other ideas floating around in your head. This is probably always going to be true. But you will probably have some ideas that you really don’t want to lose, and you will lose ideas over time (sometimes in less than 24 hours from personal experience). So when you have a moment like that, jot down a rough idea of what you want to do. Oh, I have a great idea for my epic fantasy story, I can open up a google doc, a notebook, or jot a note on my phone, whatever it is for you, find a spot where you write down a rough idea of a story. It can be as simple as, “Secret society of cats trying to save the world.” I think we all could come up with a story around that, and that might be enough to jog your memory to what your story was going to be about again. But figure out the level of detail that you need to put down, but limit it as well. This doesn’t mean that you write out your first chapter that you have a great idea for. It means that you write down four bullet points so later you can write that first chapter just the way you remember it, once you’ve finished your previous projects.
Do you have projects you want to get back to?
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