So on a forum I frequent a young man asked about writing a short story. So I figured I’d tell him what I thought about the subject. I must be doing something right because you guys keep coming back. 😉
So here’s my unsolicited advice.
First, go to WritingExcuses.com and start listening to some of their pod casts. DON’T over do it. Listen to one or two a day, max. Why do I recommend these guys? Well it’s an audio podcast of three published writers. They did SOMETHING right to get a publisher to write them a check and they share good info on everything from how to get published to figuring out how your universe works.
Second, you might not outline… I don’t. I do what is called “Discovery writing.” Basically I take an idea and start writing about it and the characters who will be involved in the mess. As I write I find new people, places, and things to flesh out the story. It might work for you… it might not. If you’ve read Alone you might figure out that’s how I write. Hopefully when I re work it I can fix some of the holes I made. 😀
Third, don’t get too hung up too much on spelling and grammar, especially in your first draft. Yes strive to make it readable but it’s much easier to fix crappy grammar than it is a crappy story. Your first draft should really be about getting your ideas, characters, and plot out of your head and onto the screen. Speaking of screens, I like typing into a word processor because I can probably type faster than I scribble.
Try to avoid using too many adverbs like: quickly, sneakily, angrily, hungrily. But you don’t need to remove them all.
Don’t be afraid to break some rules and genre conventions, or mix genres. Just try not to go TOO far out into left field and scare all your readers off. You shouldn’t carbon copy Tolkien, Drake, or Clancy. Tell your own story, because if you copy the formula of your favorite author you’re probably going to fail. Why? Well they’re more experienced than you. Plus do you really want your readers to be constantly comparing you to someone else? No? Well then write in your own style and voice. Find out what that is.
Write what you love… if you don’t love it you probably won’t finish it. If you finish it and if you didn’t put your heart into it the story is probably going to suck.
Show don’t tell. Meaning show what’s going on through dialogue and actions, avoid narrating too much. Narration is best reserved for advancing quickly through time. (See I used an adverb!)
Don’t get caught up too much in the gear, weapons, vehicles etc. Your protagonist isn’t the rifle/sword/phaser it’s the man/woman wielding the rifle/sword/phaser. The props are there to help the characters accomplish their goals. Firearms don’t get scared, and worry about making it back home to the young pregnant wife when the lead starts to fly.
Don’t over do it with describing dialogue. For example.
“What are you doing?” Bob asked angrily.
“I’m building a bomb!” Joe grunted in an evil manner.
“Why?” Bob asked in a hushed tone.
“Because I’m going to blow up the moon!” Joe cackled like a mad scientist.
Okay that was pretty bad. Remember that you don’t have to identify the speaker every time they say something. He said is usually enough if the content of the speech conveys how he said it.
So lets try that again.
Bob ran up to Joe. “What are you doing?”
“I’m building a bomb!”
Joe dropped the soldering iron. “Because I’m going to blow up the moon!”
See what I did there? The dialogue is the same but it flows better. You don’t need to tell the reader how every syllable is said. Notice I didn’t even have to say “he said” Plus I added some actions to break up the dialogue. People usually don’t just stare at each other and talk. Especially if there is a conflict, they’re usually doing something. Especially since Bob obviously interrupted Joe in the middle of his diabolical work.
YMMV I’m not a published author, nor do I play one on TV, just the internet. 😉
No that you’ve read my advice sit down and write something. If you want a writing prompt give this one a try. Finish the scene between Bob and Joe.