I’ve been summoned to present writing tips…
Where do I begin? First, I’ll give a brief bio so I don’t seem like a quack.
My official ‘freelance’ fiction began in1998/1999.
By 2000, after several rejections, my first short story saw print.
I published another story by the next to last issue of same fanzine before it closed.
Fast forward, now a writer’s guild member (An actual guild. Not an RPG guild, though that would be twice as nice), six published stories in four different publications (some in journals and e-zines), including artwork.
My college’s online magazine also published some paper art and essays (Yay! A lifetime dream realized! I’m an essayist!).
As well as having my articles featured in this venue *Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge*.
So, what can I tell you about writing? I’m not prolific, yet try to be varied.
Also, being an artist gives me a kind of split personality (known as “dissociative identity disorder” to you pysch majors): that of juggling and straddling the line of story in prose and visual – which is why I find comic books and illustrated children’s books greatly appealing.
One of the first things I do when I get an idea, I draft it. Write it out longhand, or start a new file and begin to type away.
Yet, because I’m an information-junkie, I tend to overdo research, but let’s not be hasty! Research need not be the stuff of college English term papers in MLA or APA format.
We often treat research as an enemy, but it can be one of the most powerful tools/weapons in a writer’s utility belt.
Research can be the empowering spell in your magic deck, or the artifact you achieve on a game’s level to not only rack up invulnerability points, but to reach that boss battle.
As an example, I won’t use someone else’s creation, unless I’m foolhardy or want to incur wrath, so I’ll use one of my stories instead.
The original title was “Down Copper Sphinx Road”, which became my gaming avatar (“CopperSphinx”) and a chapter break.
While drafting the story, I knew sphinxes would play a major role, so I researched topics about ancient Egypt in numerous books.
In the TimeLife series “Myth and Mankind”, I came across a brief passage about a late-first-millennium BC sphinx.
Inscribed on its base: “I protect the chapel of thy tomb, I guard the gate…” the rest of the inscription described in four more sentences basic orders on how this particular sphinx would defend its ‘master’!
Much of what I needed the sphinxes to be, that of seraphic guardians, this five-sentence inscription helped to complete the story idea and the manuscript.
I was sold!
And later, so was the editor.
“I Guard the Gate” became the official title and was published in 2005. I used the reference as a footnote when the journal came out.
(Sorry, that’s college English class all over again: “Footnote, people, footnote!” As instructor whacked us on our heads with a paper fan. No. That never really happened.)
In 2010, the story became a podcast with a different publisher.
I stress to other writers to draft the story first, don’t get bogged down by all the wonderful references and resources one can find, this will drag down the creativity like a vehicle mired after a storm.
Know what your story is, and do that by writing it out – I don’t mean FINISHING IT, the story may not want to be complete, or it may end, but have much of your preliminary ideas in longhand, in folders, journals, or stored on flash drives.
Once you do that, ideas that were stuck can get unstuck, as you begin to pinpoint WHAT and WHERE you should research.
Of course, we writers are all different, and what I suggest here has worked for me, but may not for others.
However, research, done the right way for one’s sake, can help a story idea tremendously, and take your ideas to where you may not expect.
I hope this helps get you to Carnegie Hall, kid.