Archive | March 2014

Good story, or just a good idea?

I consider myself very lucky when it comes to inspiration. On any given week, I’ll be struck with 10-15 ideas for fiction begging to be written. I’m happy to say that my notebook is now filled with enough stories that it would take me two or three years to write them all. Now, before you think I’m boasting, I’ll tell you that the process wasn’t always this easy for me.
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen. However, I wasn’t able to concieve a single worthwhile story to tell until I was about 28 years old. At that point, I wrote my first novel (which is still sitting in first draft in dire need of a rewrite) and then went stagnant for another two years. Luckily, when I turned thirty, my inner storyteller blossomed and started feeding me an endless stream of stories.

Not all of my ideas are good, of course. More importantly, not all of my ideas are stories. Sometimes an idea is just an interesting character or a factor of the environment. When these elements hit you, the key is to write them down and save them for future use…or if you want to put them to use, brainstorm around them.
Say you have a character idea that pops into your brain and you think “holy crap, this guy needs a story.” The next thought in your head should always be CONFLICT.
Conflict is everything. Conflict is story. So you have a great character…now who hates him? Who wants to stop him? What is he afraid of and how can you make him face that fear? If you can answer those questions in a way that’s as interesting as the character himself, then you have the start of a story.

Remember, if you’re having a hard time getting inspiration for your own stories, I highly recommend reading outside of your comfort zone. As I’ve said before, I force myself to read Grimm’s Fairy Tales on a regular basis because I can’t get through five pages without coming up with one or two good story ideas.

NaNoWriMo: Procrastination dies now. (Unless you put it off.)

I was talking to my friend and fellow writer Gary Pinnell (yourherosjourney.blog.com) when the subject of NaNoWriMo came up. He threw out the idea of forming (another) writing group, specifically dedicated to attacking November with an unwavering fervor toward actually finishing a novel-length manuscript by the start of December.
First off, let me say that Gary and I seem to be polar opposites when it comes to publishing. Whereas I’m all about independent artists, self-promotion and self-publication, Gary still resides in the camp of “if you can’t get your manuscript picked up by a legit publisher, then it’s not good enough to print.” This disparity aside, Gary has been very influentual to my writing career. His words of wit and wisdom (or sarcasm or laughing at me) might be interpreted by a lesser person as inert banter…but many of the maxims that guide my approach to writing have passed through his beard on their way to my brain.
So, we’ve established that Gary is a sort of Obi Wan figure in my sphere of influence (although if I ever see him sitting in Panera wearing a robe, I’m leaving.) Back to the recent conversation, we go.

He made a fairly relevent point concerning NaNoWriMo. If someone is legitimately planning to write a novel (say, 50,000+ words) during that month, then they damn well shouldn’t start working on November first. The simple fact is that you’re going to have to crank out almost 2000 words a day, and you won’t have time to stumble over plot holes, come up with characters, research and brainstorm.

If you want to write a novel in November, you should seriously consider starting now. Not the actual writing, mind you, but the groundwork. Hone your concept, write your ‘story bible,’ brainstorm plot twists, and for the love of blog, WRITE YOUR OUTLINE.
In this case, you don’t have a choice. If you don’t have an outline to work from, you will not be able to write a good novel at the pace of 2000 words a day. (Caveat: if you honestly, truthfully can do it without an outline, then stop reading my blog and go make millions of dollars. Donations are appreciated.)

Be prepared. When you go into November, all jacked up and ready to write your best-seller, you’re going to be very glad that you planned ahead. Nothing kills the flow of writing prose like having to stop to research how long the deck of your character’s yacht is or how they made windows in the 17th century.

Because I love indie artists and I want everyone with a story to tell to write a book, I’m going to try to help motivate and stimulate this year. I offer “workshopping” services on fiverr.com, where I will look over a writer’s outline, plot summary, story bible or what-have-you and give feedback and suggestions. However, for the month of March, I will help any of my readers who want to get a jumpstart on NaNoWriMo pro bono. Simply email me your idea, concept, problems, questions, outline..whatever you need help with to get started. If you’re worried about me pulling a “Gentlemen Broncos,” send me a secure .pdf with a timestamp and copyright information on it. (If you haven’t seen “Gentlemen Broncos,” go watch it real quick before November. If you’re a writer, you have to laugh at this movie.)

I’ll check my mail collector at least once a week in March and offer my support and services to any writer who contacts me. Sadly, I am really busy with my freelance writing business taking off, but I will do everything I can to help you get started.

Email me with “NaNoWriMo” in the subject line: roe@jpaulroe.com
OR…you can use the contact form on my website www.jpaulroe.com. While you’re there, you can ‘like’ it on facebook and help a brother out!

Now, spend a couple bucks and get this movie so when I reference it, you get the jokes: Gentlemen Broncos

Slainte!