Have you ever said, “I want to write a novel this year” or “I’ve got a great short story idea but (insert excuse)?” Perhaps all you need is a little motivation and a few techniques to jump-start the process of getting the words onto paper/computer. Here are a few things I like to do when I’m feeling a little less than inspired to write fiction.
One of the first things I try to do when I want to write a particular type of fiction is to read that type of fiction. So if I want to write a romance, I read as many romances as I can either tolerate to read or as many as I can read.
Obviously, if I am only tolerating reading a genre it is probably not a genre I should write in unless I am under the delusion that I could write a better piece of prose than what is out there. I am glad I do not suffer from that delusion because then I would have to read what I don’t want to read in order to write better than what is out there. Darn, double edged swords of reading-writing.
Of course, this is a standard response many who struggle with writing daily or on a schedule receive. Nevertheless, it is critical to writing successfully in a genre of your choice and should be pleasant.
The key to this advice, however, is not to just read the book or story but to evaluate the dynamics of the story. Ask questions as you read about the plot, characters, and the point of views used. Try to diagram out or keep track of the primary elements of the story. Notice how scenes transition into another scene and the balance of telling versus showing. Examine the dialogue between the characters or by the narrator. Then ask yourself, “If this was my story, how would I write it?” Then go and write.
In music, there are rhythms and beats and words that often flow together seamlessly. Music can spark a thought or a response or initiate an emotion that can be adapted to the development of characters, plot and setting. Music can also be incorporated into stories. It is a significant element that most people can relate to without feeling like the prop is pedantic or something just stuffed in to make a point.
When I write, I don’t like to listen to music. Many however, have strong preferences about whether music should be played or not. For some, music helps them focus while for others, it becomes a distraction. There is something about music however, that when I’m stuck or a particular idea is not working out that just by stopping for a few minutes to listen to some music seems to reveal the next step or insight. So whether or not music inspires you to write or if you can’t stand listening to it while you are writing, try to take a music break. You might be amazed at the results you get.
Ben Franklin Approach
I call this the Ben Franklin approach not because it is an actual technique but because it is something I garnered from reading about Ben Franklin. The main idea behind the concept is to study what you want to write and practice it until you get to the level of writing that is considered the best in the field and then try to write it better.
So how I apply this, for example, if I wanted to write horror, I would pick a well established writer in the field, such as Stephen King. Then I would read the best of his books or at least have them in my possession. In my opinion, his best is either “The Stand,” or “It.” Then in a similar fashion to what I mentioned in the section on reading, I would evaluate the intricate details but I would focus more on what makes this a good book or the best book?
Next, I would choose a passage from the book, preferably one that demonstrates excellence in either characterization or plotting or some other element of fiction writing and try to emulate that style. When I understand the technique then I try to apply that to my own writing.
If I am trying to jump start my writing, I might just pick up a good fiction book and randomly choose a passage to read. I then challenge myself to write in that style or voice or to capture a similar concept or idea.
This is a good method to use because you are basing your fiction writing on proven models of excellence.
If all else fails; clean, exercise, or take a short nap. These techniques almost always take my mind off of the problem in my fiction writing and help me to focus on a solution. The worst part of this is once I start cleaning I like to finish the area I’m cleaning and then I’m concerned I might forget the great ideas that pop into my head. If this happens to you too, my suggestion is to have a notebook handy so that you can jot down any inspirations quickly. The more inspirations you get for your fiction stories the more you will start to look forward to sitting down and writing.
Personal Experience and Lots of Reading