What Every Writer Should Do For Their Writing

What Every Writer Should Do For Their Writing 4
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What Every Writer Should Do For Their Writing 4

When I was in college, all I wanted to study was writing. It made sense at the time: Writers need to know how to write in order to write. So I didn’t study anything else that would distance me from my writing.

I only read the classics to study the craft of the story. I only read nonfiction books that elaborated on the art of writing.

These are great things to do as a writer. But it’s not the only thing you should be doing.

I went straight from undergrad to grad school (in writing, of course). When I sat down with my cohort for the first time to read our stories aloud, I had a reality check.

One peer shared his story about living at Yellowstone and hitchhiking back home. Another shared his story about balancing fatherhood and a full-time job. A third shared her story about finding her biological mother.

They were all doing something that I wasn’t. They were living life.

It seems simple when put that way. But writing books zoom in on adding alliteration and commas, not getting the writer out of one’s comfort zone. Novels and classics are screaming about it from cover to cover, but writing students are so focused on a specific scene that we miss the whole concept of plot development.

What makes writing so enjoyable to read are the experiences brought to it. Creative writers need to understand human interaction, see new places, and try new activities in order to create well-rounded characters and climatic plot arcs.

Nonfiction writers also need to apply life experiences. Historical writers visit ancient landmarks, technical writers practice building and medical writers watch surgeries and studies.

I had my eye on the prize to become a writer. I put my life on pause and went to school to bring myself a step closer to it. But I didn’t have any experiences to write about until I pressed play.

So this is my blog post explaining why I have been absent for three weeks. I was experiencing life. Life didn’t get in the way of my writing. Instead, life called me to step away and absorb what was happening in the moment in order to bring perspective to my writing.

I packed up my car and drove 2,000 miles across the country. And I saw this.

What Every Writer Should Do For Their Writing

And this.

What Every Writer Should Do For Their Writing 2

And this.

What Every Writer Should Do For Their Writing 3

How does this story end? I can’t tell you that yet. I’m only in the middle of it myself. But I can tell you that I’m not afraid to live the story.

How has living life impacted your writing? Share your story below.

Is It A Story Or A Story Idea?

Is It A Story Or A Story Idea?
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Is It A Story Or A Story Idea?

Credit: churchsermonseriesideas.com

As I creative writer, I hear this often: “I have a story for you to write.”

“I’m listening,” I’ll say.

“It’s about a blind man who regains his sight, but then loses his hearing.”

“Then what happens?” I will ask.

“You tell me. Write it!”

But that’s not a story. I definitely appreciate the lead-in, but let’s call it what it is. A story idea. A writing prompt. A character.

So, what’s the difference? Let’s define it.

A story, in simple terms, is a narrative telling of connected events with a setting, characters and plot.

A story idea is a fragment of a story. It’s an idea for a character, a backdrop, a start of a sticky situation.

But what happens next? What happens to the character? What happens at this place? What complicates the situation? How is the plot resolved?

There’s nothing wrong with story ideas. The best stories were born from a story idea. The difference here is that the writer recognized that the story idea was, in fact, a story idea and took the time to grow it into a story.

Even the best of creative writing students mistake a story idea for a story. I know I did.

During my grad school years, I wanted to write a young adult novel about a teenage skater girl who gets sent to an all-girl Catholic school. I was so certain that I had a story that I plunged in and wrote several chapters. But by Chapter 5 and she still wasn’t at the all-girl Catholic school, I knew something was up.

I didn’t write her to be at the all-girl Catholic school because I didn’t know what would happen next. I didn’t take the time to see the big picture because I was so excited about one detail of the potential story.

That’s when I knew I only had a story idea, not a story.

Don’t worry. I was able to shape the first chapter into a short story.

That’s why I’m a big supporter of outlining a story. I agree that freewriting helps in the creative process of crafting the plot of the story, but we creative writers often believe that we’ll be able to write a perfect draft from start to finish without any hiccups simply by having a story idea.

But a story idea isn’t enough. Knowing what happens from start to finish as well as how the characters change and grow is.

At least, enough to know that you’re on the right path towards a story.

Do you agree that there’s a difference between a story and a story idea? Share your thoughts below.