Showing posts with label writing advice.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing advice.. Show all posts

Saturday, September 9

How Hobbies Can Improve Your Writing

How Hobbies Can Improve Your Writing

Do you have a hobby? Something you don’t get paid for but do anyway? I do! I never used to, it was writing, writing, writing all day long. Then I let my writing schedule slip for three weeks and ran right into a wall of writer’s block.

To help me get back into the swing of things I gave the protagonist of my WIP an interest in two of my hobbies: baking and fermenting. I do things like bake pies then serve them with a salad dressed with my very own apple cider vinegar.

You likely have other interests: hiking, running, knitting, working out, inventing, electronics, programming, playing cards, climbing, and so many more!

Today I want to talk about how your hobbies, your passions, can help revitalize your writing.

Picking up a Hobby Can Improve Your Writing


While it's true that giving a character a hobby can help flesh them out, hobbies can enrich your own life as well. The bonus is that, if you're anything like me, writing about your hobby will make you ever more excited about it and you'll find yourself pushing your boundaries—going on a new jogging route, trying a new recipe, and so on. This, in turn, will feed back into your passion for writing.

Which brings us to ...

Hobbies Help Inject Passion into Your Writing—and Your Life!

I’m watching The Great British Bake Off—a LOT of folks love—and by “love” I mean go completely nuts for—a well-baked loaf. Which is great! Why? Passion. I think having passion (or, better, passionS) is the key not only to good writing, but to life.


It's impossible to overstate how important passion is to creating a great story. The goal of all storytelling is to evoke passion in the reader. One thing I haven't talked about as much is evoking massion in the WRITER—in you. But your passion is just as important as the readers'. Perhaps more. Without passion there is little motivation to get up in the morning, pick up your pen and write.

I know, I know, professional writers need to write—DO write—regardless of how they feel. If they don’t then they can’t afford to do nifty things like pay rent or eat. I get that. TRUST ME, I get that! But any little bit of interest, of passion, of excitement, of joy, you can find in writing—hell, in life!—the better.

One way to do this is to give your characters attributes that are fun for you, that you would love reading about, that you would enjoy watching.

Write Yourself, Your Interests, into Your Stories

It’s about taking care of yourself, doing things that feed your soul.

Writers often became tired. Disheartened. That’s natural. What helps us keep on keepin' on ARE our passions. It’s the things we care about, the things we are passionate about, that keep us connected to our characters and their fictional worlds. Writing would be much easier if it was a sprint. But it’s not, it’s a marathon that lasts a lifetime.

I think that, ultimately, it’s our passions that make us who we are. Our characters are no different.

If You Don't Have a Hobby

What if you don’t have hobbies? Some folks don’t. My advice: try something out. Google a list of hobbies and pick one. Or perhaps there's something you've wanted to do but just haven't gotten around to for a number of reasons. For instance ...

Too Expensive or Inconvenient

There are hobbies I wanted to indulge in but they were just a wee bit too pricey. Deep sea diving. Hang gliding. Flying.

Or perhaps your chosen hobby is too inconvenient. For instance, you might live far inland but you've always wanted to waterski.

If I want to give one of my characters these hobbies I talk to people who do deep sea dive, or hang glide, or fly, or waterski. I love doing this! I get to hear their stories AND make some new friends in the process.

Another possibility is to save up and treat yourself on a special occasion. For instance, hang gliding on your honeymoon or a significant birthday.

No Interest

Some folks don’t have an interest in taking on a hobby. And that’s fine! Though if you DO like the idea of giving your main character an interest here’s my advice, such as it is: fake it till you make it.

If you don’t really care about much—and some folks don’t—it’s more difficult to write about it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, writing isn’t about the head, about the intellect, it’s driven by the heart. Even by the gut. It's driven by the sticky slightly disgusting messy bits inside us.

It all comes down to truth

Ultimately, it’s about truth. As Stephen King says: fiction is the truth within the lie. Sure, my protagonist doesn’t exist. Sure the world I’ve created for him was spun from my imagination. But the story is told to communicate a truth—the theme. How my characters react to each other and to the setbacks they've had, those emotions are real. True.

The Lessons We Teach

Stories teach us life lessons. They teach us how to make friends as well as how to lose them! They teach us what happens when you do the right thing.

This, of course, is less about Truth than it is about the framework of values we’ve adopted, the things we accept as being mostly true. It’s the truth about the writer, about their soul, their beliefs.

Every post I pick something I believe in and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I like with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, they put a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I'm recommending a book every writer needs if they want to submit to a traditional publishing house: Writer's Market 2018: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

From the blurb:

"Want to get published and paid for your writing? Let this book guide you with thousands of publishing opportunities--including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards, and literary agents. These listings feature contact and submission information so you can get started right away."

Photo by Nicolas Picard on Unsplash

Tuesday, November 25

Four Tips For Writing Flash Fiction, And Why You Should!

Four Tips For Writing Flash Fiction, And Why You Should!

Once upon a time, I couldn’t write a 2,000 word piece of fiction if my life depended on it. 100,000 words, sure. 50,000 words, fine. 10,000 words, okay. 2,000? Ha! Nope. 

Now I can. 

What changed? One thing: I’d started to write flash fiction. 

I hadn’t thought much about this until a few days ago when a reader left a comment on Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction. Sean mentioned he’d had a similar problem and overcome it through writing flash fiction, stories told in fewer than 1,000 words.

So, today, I’d like to write about flash fiction—what it is and how to get started writing it. (For more on flash fiction and what it is, see: Five Reasons To Write Flash Fiction.)

1. Only write part of the larger story.

Full-length stories have a certain shape. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. In the beginning, the protagonist takes up a quest. In the middle, the protagonist enters the special (and strange) world of the adventure. At the end, the protagonist takes the fight to the enemy, finally overcoming the obstacles to attaining her goal. Or not.

One cannot do all this in 1,000 words or less. The trick is to pick just one part of the larger story to explore. 

For example, one could begin in the middle, before the protagonist’s confrontation with the antagonist and write about their epic battle. Or one could begin at the end, at the climax, and write about how the protagonist defeats the antagonist (or was trounced by them, it’s up to you and the kind of story you’re writing). OR you could take just one event from the beginning—perhaps the Call to Adventure—and focus on that. 

When the protagonist receives her Call to Adventure she often demurs and has to be cajoled. Something has to happen to change her mind. Perhaps a mentor will talk with her, perhaps the protagonist will be given something (in fairy tales this is often a magical item) that can help them on the journey, or perhaps the antagonist will hurt someone the protagonist cares about (think Star Wars) in a misguided effort to intimidate the protagonist. 

Those are just examples. You can pick any part of the protagonist’s journey and spin it into a (very) short story.

2. Use only one or two principle characters.

 In my flash fiction I usually only use two principle characters, a protagonist and antagonist. Other characters may be mentioned or play small parts, but I’ve found there really isn’t enough space to develop more than two characters. (But that could just be me. Experiment!)

3. End in the middle.

David Gaffney has put together a terrific article on the subject of writing flash fiction over at It’s entitled “Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction.” Gaffney urges writers not to put the end of the story at ... well, the end of the story! He writes:

“[...] place the denouement in the middle of the story, allowing us time, as the rest of the text spins out, to consider the situation along with the narrator, and ruminate on the decisions his characters have taken.”

That sounds fun, I’m going to try that the next time I write a piece of very short fiction.

4. End with a twist.

David Gaffney doesn’t say this—in fact, it would seem to go against what he says—but I like flash fiction that ends with a twist. It’s difficult to do well, though.

I’ve shared this story before, but I love it and it’s a terrific example of a super-short tale with a killer twist. The story is called "Bad Dreams":

‘Daddy, I had a bad dream.’

You blink your eyes and pull up on your elbows. Your clock glows red in the darkness—it’s 3:23. ‘Do you want to climb into bed and tell me about it?’

‘No, Daddy.’

The oddness of the situation wakes you up more fully. You can barely make out your daughter’s pale form in the darkness of your room. ‘Why not, sweetie?’

‘Because in my dream, when I told you about the dream, the thing wearing Mommy’s skin sat up.’

For a moment, you feel paralyzed; you can’t take your eyes off of your daughter. The covers behind you begin to shift.

I love that ending!

So, what are you waiting for? The next time you’re stuck in a lineup or in a bus or taxi, whip out your writer’s pad and get started on a lightening fast bit of fiction. What would happen if ...

That’s it!

If you’d like to practice writing flash fiction, I publish a writing prompt every weekday. A number of people who are far more creative than I am poke their head in and occasionally contribute. It’s an open group, so if the mood takes you feel free to come on by.

Another great place to practice the art and craft of writing short is Chuck Wendig’s blog. Every Friday he publishes a writing prompt. You post your work on your own web-estate and drop a link to your work in a comment. (Note: Due to his enthusiastic and creative use of decidedly adult language, Wendig’s website is NSFW.) Here’s an example: Flash Fiction Challenge: Superheroes Plus.

Photo credit: "One of these Things is not like the others." by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.