I received an email the other day from a friend that isn't feeling any motivation to sit down and do the hard task of writing.
With the pandemic she isn't motivated to write. Days blend into sameness when you can't go anywhere and nothing new is happening. She says she isn't involved in Social Media. She's written short stories and submitted them to publishers and is getting rejected. She stopped coming to our writer's group even though we continued to meet online on discourse. She was involved in other writing groups and I don't know if she continued those or not.Here's a list of actions I take when I'm feeling sluggish about writing.
Exercise is good for waking up your mind and clearing out cobwebs. A long walk in the sun on a spring day will do wonders for motivation to do tasks.2. Read a book on How to Write.
Sometimes when I read a how-to book on writing, it motivates me to try out some of the techniques suggested in the book. The next thing I realize is I'm writing something, even if it is a practice.
What do I read?
On my kindle I have books by a number of authors, many who use to write for Writer's Digest.
Here are my favorites
Here are several I'm involved with
Each day take out a piece of paper and write for fifteen minutes.
There are plenty of books out there to get you started and quite a few websites to find inspiration.
Do a search on the web for "writing idea starters" or "writing prompts"
Here's a good website : The Literacy Shed
Some writers use these each day to "warm-up their writing skills."
Imagine sitting in your car or at the Mall and seeing people.
My son-in-law is a talented artist. One evening we were watching and listening to my daughter, his wife, play an outdoor concert. The son-in-law has a sketch-pad in his hand and is people watching. He picks a person and then proceeds to draw a small portrait of them on the sketchpad. None of these will become a masterpiece, but it keeps him practicing.
Same with writing, pick some people and practice writing a story about them. You can do this at the mall, at Panera, in the park, at the driver's license facility, doctor's office waiting room, waiting in line, practically anywhere.8. Watch a Mystery, Romance or Genre Related TV Show
I've done this with TV Sit Coms like Frazier and with Mysteries like Midsommer Murders I watch the show and then sit down and write an outline defining the gist of the story. Look at the way the story foreshadowed what was to follow. Sit coms are easy practice, because they're only 30 minutes and the first ten minutes is set-up for the last ten minutes. You can do this with a mystery or romance. Just the act of putting pen to paper gets your mental juices flowing and helps get you out of that writing slump. You learn to be a better writer when you can see the big picture of the story.9. Read Poetry
There are many great poets, but I find it's easier to find music lyrics. Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Elton John, Dolly Parton and any good Country song has a story. I recommend reading the lyrics to Paul Simon's songs. He is able to paint a picture in so few words. Simon and Garfunkel wrote a song titled, America. Two people are traveling by bus and looking at the faces on the bus and making up stories about the people.
"She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy. I said, 'Be careful his bowtie is really a camera.'"
The song Ode to Billie Joe is really a short story. But do more than enjoy the song lyrics, evaluate the paragraphs. What mental images did the writer create with just a few words? Where do these words take you in eleven words? Bobbie Gentry sets the scene for you.
"I was out choppin' cotton, and my brother was balin' hay"
You're on a farm, probably in the South, working hard during harvest season. Your back is hurting, dust is in the air, dirt and hay is sticking to your sweaty skin.10. Outline a Story
Make this Fun - You are't really going to write this story so there's no pressure, you're just having fun.
Without what? I'm glad you asked.
The pandemic is almost over and theaters are beginning to open again. Take advantage of smaller venues, the stories are all the same, so concentrate on the scenes. Can you see the change from Act 1 to Act 2? What was the inciting incident? What happened to spur the character to leap to Act 3? What was the conflict? Who or what caused the conflict?
Just because you submit your short stories to publishers doesn't mean they have to accept them into the book they're publishing. After you've been rejected, buy a copy of the anthology the publisher was creating and see how your story stacked up next to theirs. Zombie Pirate Publishers just closed a request for short stories and received over two hundred submissions. And I've read a few of their anthologies and these people know how to write short stories. A good short story is hard to write. Go back to step 11 above and practice putting a lot of information in a few short words. Make every sentence count.
I'll have to write another article on the questions I ask about my stories that help me get a plan/outline in place.