On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, September 28, 2012

How To Start A Story

Randy Ingermanson is my hero. This article discusses something I often find people wrestle with in the critiques I do: balancing the characters' having a life before starting the story, versus spending too much time describing this life before the action begins. Randy, as usual, is articulate as he goes through one important aspect of HOW TO START A STORY. See what you think.


Creating: Life Interrupted

Reading a novel is fun. But what's it like to BE INSIDE a novel?

Generally, it isn't nearly so much fun. Characters in novels get pushed way outside their comfort zones.

Being a character in a novel is a major inconvenience. It disrupts your life, and in many novels, one or more of the characters never really get back to the way things were.

I've been reminded of this recently because I'm editing my novel DOUBLE VISION for rerelease as an e-book.

In the first scene of this novel, mystery novelist Keryn Wills is brainstorming the method of killing the victim in her next novel. Keryn's book is due in only a couple of months and she's horribly behind on her writing schedule.

Keryn desperately wants to have a productive Saturday writing. Her entire life right now is focused on meeting her deadline.

Then life interrupts. First, her mother calls and interrogates her about her date last night. Keryn really doesn't want to talk about it. The date went well, but it was a first date and she's had plenty of first dates that never went anywhere. She's not holding her breath that Dillon will be better.

Then life REALLY interrupts. Keryn's boss calls and he sounds worried. Keryn has a day job with a small startup technology company and things have been rocky lately, but predictably rocky. Now Keryn's boss asks her to come in for an emergency meeting. And he tells her, "Don't panic."

He's wrong. Keryn should be panicking. The financial wheels have just come off the company. But there's a chance to save the company with an amazing new secret technology that's been under development for months and is almost ready to announce.

Very soon, Keryn is going to realize that this technology is so valuable that it's a hazard to whoever owns it. Within days, Keryn and her coworkers realize that Somebody Bad knows about this technology and is willing to do anything to get it.

And the story's launched.

But what about Keryn's novel? That was the big thing in her life before the story started.

Keryn's novel goes on hold. She's too busy trying to stay alive. There's no time to meet her daily word count quota.

Her novel doesn't go away. Her deadline is still looming, getting worse every day. But in the grand scheme of things, it's irrelevant.

If and when Keryn solves her life-and-death issues with Somebody Bad, that novel is going to come roaring back as an issue, worse than ever because she's neglected it for days and days.

This is a general principle for writing fiction. When the story starts, your characters have no idea that the stakes are about to be raised. They're living their lives, dealing with things that seem important.

Then the inciting incident for the story breaks in on the characters, and now there's a whole new game to be played. What seemed important yesterday suddenly isn't so much today.

I see two common problems with the work of beginning novelists:

* Not giving their characters any life at all before the story starts. This makes the story feel like it happens in a vacuum.

* Spending too much time explaining the ordinary life of their characters before launching the inciting incident. This bores the reader and risks losing her completely.

You need to strike a balance between showing too little and showing too much of that ordinary life. Let's look at some examples of how it's done well.

In the recent self-published e-book hit ON THE ISLAND by Tracey Garvis-Graves, the two lead characters are on their way to a remote island in the Indian Ocean.

Anna is a 30-year-old high school teacher who's been hired by a wealthy American family to tutor their son for the summer.

T.J. is a 16-year-old boy who's recently survived cancer but now is way behind in his schooling.

The plan is for Anna to spend the summer tutoring T.J. so that by the fall, he'll be caught up to his high school classmates. Anna is at the tail end of a bad romance with a boyfriend whom she's expecting to dump at the end of the summer. T.J. is just starting a crush on Anna -- he thinks she's smoking hot, even if she's fourteen years older than him.

Both of these characters have a life. Not a great life. Plenty of struggles. But both of them hope this summer will give them a chance to move forward a bit.

Then the pilot on their tiny plane has a heart attack and crash-lands just off a remote uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean.

Now the story starts. The pilot is dead. Anna and T.J. have to survive until they're rescued. This trumps everything else in their life.

Until they solve the survival problem, nothing else matters. As they learn how to live on their own in tropical paradise, their old lives start to resurface, bit by bit.

The important point here is that they have old lives to resurface. It never feels like their lives began on the day of the crash.

In S.M. Stirling's dystopian apocalyptic novel DIES THE FIRE, one of the lead characters is Mike Havel, an Idaho back-country pilot. Mike's job is to fly people
places. Today, his customers are the Larsson family who have a ranch in Montana.

The story begins with Mike meeting the family. A dad. A mom. A pair of 18-year-old twins, boy and girl, both pretty full of themselves. A Tolkien-obsessed 14-year-old daughter with a bow and arrows. An obnoxious cat.

The goal is to fly a few hundred miles and land safely. Standard procedure. Nothing complicated. Mike's biggest problem is ignoring the undercurrent of bickering between the various family members who probably love each other but don't seem to like each other. And, oh yeah, ignoring that the older daughter is gorgeous.

Mike is a cautious man and he works through the pre-flight checklist with care. He packs in his usual survival gear and herds the family onto the plane. Then they're in the air and on the way.

This is Mike's life, pretty much the same every day, but with different faces. Then comes the massive interruption.

The radio picks up news of a giant storm back east. The news people have never seen anything like it. It escalates in intensity and then --

A white flash. A blinding bolt of pain. Silence.

Silence, because the engine has gone dead. The radio has gone dead. The lights in the plane have gone dead.

Mike Havel is six thousand feet in the air with the lives of five people and a cat in his hands. He tries three times to restart the engine. No luck.

Now he's got no choice but to glide the plane down to an emergency landing wherever he can. It's dusk on a chilly March day in the middle of nowhere. Mike now has plenty of problems.

It gets worse. After a difficult landing in a rocky snowmelt river, Mike and his clients learn that physics
and chemistry have somehow changed. Electricity doesn't work. Gasoline has lost its explosive power. Guns don't fire.

It's not just Mike's problem. He doesn't know it yet, but the change is global. And permanent.

Most of the technology developed in the last five hundred years is now useless. The seven billion people on the planet have to survive using skills most of them no longer have. Most of them won't.

Somebody or Something has interrupted life and nothing is ever going to be the same again.

Again, the important point is that we know what that ordinary life has been like. We've seen just enough of it to know that the new life is wildly more dangerous and infinitely more interesting.

Now look at the novel you're working on right now. There are two questions you need to ask.

First, what is the ordinary world for your characters? Do your characters have some sense of purpose in that ordinary world? Some direction? Do they think they know where they're heading in life? Do they have some sort of plan to get there?

If they don't, then you've got a problem. Then it feels like your characters have been concocted solely for the story, created out of thin air. They had no life for your story to interrupt.

Second, how long does it take for the story to interrupt that ordinary world?

If it takes more than a few pages, then you've got a different problem. You're running the risk of boring your readers.

Fiction is about interrupting the ordinary world. Your characters must have a Normal Life that the story is violating. A Normal Life they want to get back to, with its petty little plans and ambitions.

You must show enough of that ordinary world so that your readers know what Normal Life is.

But Normal Life is boring. As soon as you can, interrupt that dreadful Normal Life and get your story rolling.

Your readers don't want Normal Life. Your readers want story.

Your characters may think they don't want Normal Life, but they will as soon as it's been interrupted by the horribly inconvenient story that you've plunged them into.


This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pushing the Story

When you're writing your story, tension must be in every chapter, every paragraph, and even every sentence. A good definition of tension might be: The uncertainty of at least one issue.

Tension is not generated when the writer describes exciting (or not so exciting) events that the protagonist wrestles through, but in the end these events don’t push the story along. They simply add word count. For example, a POV character will find a chilled bottle of water, unscrew its tight cap, take a few sips of the cold liquid, then screw the lid back on and wipe her hands on her black summer-cloth-weight Capri pants, feeling refreshed now. If the character has arthritis then her method of opening a bottle might give a grace note to her character, but otherwise this is throwaway stuff.

So how might one push a story along? There are many techniques to do this. Perhaps the most reliable device to add tension is to include a ticking clock: a time limit to accomplish a goal.
The core principle is to consistently raise the stakes for the protagonist: put more in jeopardy, make it uncertain that the protagonist can accomplish a goal that is vital to him and for the long-term success for the story. Everything counts, including little actions. Who cares how the character opens a bottle of water? But if the character isn’t sure that she will be able to sneak a sip of water to calm a cough before she has to make an announcement, it might become more interesting.

When you write a sentence, paragraph, scene, or more, ask yourself, “Do these words and events matter to the story?” If not, get rid of them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Only Six Words

The idea goes that Hemingway once wrote a story in six words:


Six words, surprisingly, are enough to convey a potent idea, whether a story or a life.

I've found some six word stories from Not Quite What I Was Planning.  The follow-up volume is It All Changed In An Instant. These 6-word jewels may inspire you to write your own, and even just reading these may help you break through writer's block.

See what you think. Then... (here's one) Give it a try. It's fun!


After Harvard, had baby with crackhead.

70 years, few tears, hairy ears.

Watching quietly from every door frame.

Catholic school backfired. Sin is in!

Savior complex makes for many disappointments.

Nobody cared, then they did. Why?

Some cross-eyed kid, forgotten then found.

She said she was negative. Damn.

Born in the desert, still thirsty.

A sake mom, not soccer mom.

I asked. They answered. I wrote.

No future, no past. Not lost.

Extremely responsible, secretly longed for spontaneity.

Joined Army. Came out. Got booted.

Almost a victim of my family

The psychic said I'd be richer.

Grumpy old soundman needs love, too.

Mom died, Dad screwed us over.

Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.

It all changed in an instant.

Woman Seeks Men--High Pain Threshold.

My first concert: Zappa. Explains everything.

Aging late bloomer yearns for do-over.

Girlfriend is pregnant, my husband said.

Just in: boyfriend's gay. Merry Christmas.

 Let's just be friends, she said.

Alone at home, cat on lap.

Hope my obituary spells "debonair" correctly.

Wasn't born a redhead; fixed that.

Gave commencement address, became sex columnist.

Mormon economist marries feminist. Worlds collide.

Still lost on road less traveled.

Palindromic novels fall apart halfway through.

Cheese is the essence of life.

Wandering imagination opens doors to paradise.

Who knew drowning looked so beautiful?

Envy a beautiful mind of colours.

Who cares? I matter. You don't.

Boots too tight. Cape long forgotten.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Baby Names for Your Writing

Watching how names change is fascinating. I found a website that gives baby names -- both top names for each year, and tracking the incidence of a particular name over a number of years. How fun! This is a great reference site for your period stories, in which you can verify that your character names are consistent with the time.

Source: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/


John  /  William  /  James  /  George  /  Charles 
Robert  /  Joseph  /  Frank  /  Edward  /  Henry

James  /  Robert  /  John  /  Michael  /  David
William  /  Richard  /  Thomas  /  Charles  /  Gary

Jacob  /  Michael  /  Matthew  /  Joshua  /  Christopher 
Nicholas  /  Andrew  /  Joseph  /  Daniel  /  Tyler

Jacob  /  Mason  /  William  /  Jayden  /  Noah
Michael  /  Ethan  /  Alexander  /  Aiden  /  Daniel


Mary  /  Helen  /  Anna  /  Margaret  /  Ruth 
Elizabeth  /  Florence  /  Ethel  /  Marie  /  Lillian  /  Annie

Linda  /  Mary  /  Patricia  /  Barbara  /  Susan
Nancy  /  Deborah  /  Sandra  /  Carol  /  Kathleen

Emily  /  Hannah  /  Madison  /  Ashley  /  Sarah
Alexis  /  Samantha  /  Jessica  /  Elizabeth  /  Taylor

Sophia  /  Isabella  /  Emma  /  Olivia  /  Ava
Emily  /  Abigail  /  Madison  /  Mia  /  Chloe

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fire and Paperwhite Kindles

It's that time of year again when Amazon offers its new Kindles for the Christmas season. The Kindles this year look like impressive upgrades of older models, and promise to continue Amazon's dominance in the e-reader field. Even though I am ambivalent about Amazon, I have to admit I couldn't imagine life now without my Kindle. Not only does this device allow me to free valuable bookshelf space, and offer me almost instant purchase of any book I might be interested in (crack cocaine for a bibliophile like me -- I really DO have to stop spending so much money), but I even have an incorporated light on the case that allows me to read anywhere whenever I like.

I started with a white Kindle 2 in May 2010, and have since owned each new iteration. My parents wanted to join the Kindle revolution with something easy to navigate (they preferred the K2's stick cursor to the Keypad's box) so I gave them my K2 and started using the Kindle Keypad. This was my favorite version. My parents then decided that they wanted a second Kindle since they fought over who could read it on trips, so bought a Kindle Touch. After a week my mom called me in frustration that she couldn't work it, so I traded my Keypad for that one. This is a trade I still regret, although the Touch is certainly fine -- I just prefer buttons to navigate. Also, the Touch case is covered with thinnest leather that was chewed by my purse within a week. I preferred my sturdy Keypad case. Oh well.

I always got a 3G connection, without ads, which is the most expensive Kindle no matter the version, but what I wanted. I prefer 3G because WiFi is dicey and limited in connection possibilities, and no ads just because the thought of these bothers me (even though I know they had good offers...). When anyone asks me about purchasing a Kindle, I always recommended that they get a case as well, any case, because it's too easy to imagine a catastrophic screen breakage from a careless bookbag placement on the floor.

So now, ta da, here is the next generation. Amazon is offering two different types of Kindle: Kindle Fire and Kindle Paperwhite.


The Kindle Fire -- this is a tablet-type device whose low price competes with the Apple ipad and others. Amazon first released the Fire (7" screen only) last September and has since sold out all of its first generation $199 devices. This new generation has four choices:

8.9" 4G Fire with 16 GB HD for $499
8.9" WiFi with 16 GB HD for $299
7" WiFi with 16 GB HD for $199
7" WiFi (8 GB) for $159

The only real difference in the Fire from the first generation, it looks like, is that there's more memory, and larger versions with 4G for one. If you can afford it 4G is the way to go because you're not dependent on WiFi limitations, but it's also pricey. Up to you.


The Kindle Paperwhite is the new iteration on the Kindle reader. Let's see, K1 came out at the end of 2007, K2 is 2nd generation (2009), Keyboard is 3rd generation (2010), Touch is 4th generation (2011), so the Paperwhite (2012) is 5th generation. The Paperwhite boasts a bright white screen. A reading light isn't necessary since this Kindle has an LED grid above the screen (no glare) with I think ten settings, that allows you to read in ambient light ranging from bright sunlight to dark room. The biggest negative is that this version doesn't have TEXT TO SPEECH which is simply wonderful. I've used TTS often on long drives, folding laundry, or knitting. I wrote to Amazon to tell them I was disappointed, although have about zero confidence that they'll care. Oh well.

The Paperwhite has four versions:

Paperwhite 3G without special offers (ads) for $199
Paperwhite 3G with special offers (ads) for $179
Paperwhite WiFi without special offers (ads) for $139
Paperwhite WiFi with special offers (ads) for $119

As with the other Kindles, there are a variety of covers. This time a lighted cover is not needed or available. (NOTE: I consider a light of some sort essential, and the integrated-light covers for older Kindle models are so convenient). Some covers for the Paperwhite fit both Paperwhite and Touch, but most don't. The Amazon default choice cover, which looks beautiful, runs $39.99.

So there you go. If you don't yet have a Kindle, I highly recommend you consider one -- the Touch is no longer available (sold out) but there are still a few Kindle WiFis with touch screen for $69 (with ads) or $89 (without ads), and lighted covers for them in black, brown, olive green, or wine purple, for $59.99. (NOTE: if you get one of these covers, wrap it in a cloth of some sort to protect it from being nicked -- I speak from experience here). There are also a few Keyboard Wifis for $139 (with ads) or $159 (without ads). Only the lighted black cover is now available, but it's not bad looking and runs $49.99.

My recommendations for Kindle e-readers:

If you're all right without TTS and can afford it, consider the full boat Paperwhite: 3G, no ads, and cover, all for $240 ($200 + $40).

If you can live with WiFi only and want TTS, you have a few more choices:

Keyboard WiFi WITHOUT special offers (ads) plus a lighted cover for $210 ($159 + $50)
touch-screen Kindle WiFi WITHOUT special offers (ads) plus a lighted cover for $150 ($90 + $60)

If you can live with WiFi only, ads, and want TTS you have more choices:

Keyboard WiFi WITH special offers (ads) plus a lighted cover for $190 ($140 + $50)
touch-screen Kindle WiFi WITH special offers (ads) plus a lighted cover for $130 ($70 + $60)

NOTE: I've heard good things about the Nook as well, and don't want you to feel I don't recommend considering them. I simply don't know much about them, since I've always had a Kindle. I know that Amazon offers more books than B&N, but also that the Kindle cannot read library and other non-Amazon ebooks (proprietary formatting, don't'cha know).

Hope this is helpful! Do you have an e-reader? What do you think of it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Persistence Matters More than Big Bites

When I tell people I'm an author, often I hear the wistful (or defensive), "Oh yes, I've always wanted to write a book. But I don't have time now. I'll get to it eventually."

Folks, eventually never comes. If you want to write, or run a marathon, or get a different job, or find a spouse, or whatever, you've got to plan for it. Time slips unless you deliberately take hold of it.

One comforting thing I've learned is that persistence matters more than big bites.

I have been amazed to see in my own life how WRITING DOWN GOALS dramatically increases the chances that I will reach those goals. It's almost like magic, really -- the process of articulating, writing, and seeing the goal seems to embed it into my brain. So, for you, step one is to determine what one thing you want to accomplish first, and WRITE IT DOWN. Then, write down WHY you want to do this. Is it to avoid something, and/or to add something to your life? Figure out all the benefits that will come to you if you can accomplish this goal. Finally determine a time by which you WILL have (not want to have) accomplished this goal.

After you write down your goal/benefits/time, put one or more cards with this info in different places where you will be sure to often see them: your bathroom mirror, the refrigerator (my personal favorite :-)  ), next to your computer, taped onto your steering wheel, and so forth.

For the day-to-day stuff, break down the goal into little pieces. For example, if you want to go running later and you have 15 minutes right now, you can do 100 sit-ups or change that broken shoelace on your sneaker. If you want to write, take 15 minutes to list possible plot point solutions or write a blog entry. Don't, instead, turn on the television. You get the idea.

Most important, schedule significant chunks of time for you to pursue your goal on a frequent, regular basis. During these chunks start with running two miles and push it up, or start with writing 300 words and push it up. If you can, make it a habit to work at the same time every day. Don't let other things interrupt. Repeat to yourself why you're pursuing this goal if you're tempted to be distracted.

Keep a written log of your daily progress. Put this log in a prominent place where you often will see it. If you mess up, not to worry -- just start again the next day, and keep up. Remember, persistence matters more than big bites. Keep with it.

Find cheerleaders if you can who will encourage you. But if you can't find those cheerleaders, just do it for yourself.

No one ever reached a big goal without significant planning and dedication. As Nike says, JUST DO IT.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Kernel of Your Story

A common problem that occurs when writing a book or screenplay is that it loses focus. There are interesting subplots, and interesting side journeys, and after awhile it's hard to know what to pay attention to. Yes, ever since Tolkien published Lord of the Rings I know many writers want to do this sort of complex world-building, but frankly I haven't seen too many of these epics actually being published. Even Peter Jackson found he had to cut A LOT of Tolkien's material in order to get a comprehensible story line -- and his movie masterpiece trilogy is 9 + hours long.

It's worse if you're not even trying to branch your story out in 32,853,02 directions.

I'd like to propose a few easy questions for you to answer about your story, that should be able to focus you in to get your story started with minimal trauma. If you can answer these questions, you've got the spine of your story. For every event or character that you want to add, simply ask yourself if it's consistent with what you've already laid out here. If it is, go for it. If not, get rid of it. This includes things like subplots: the subplot should either be adding a component that is necessary for the story usually at the finish, or following a mirror character where the character wrestles with the same fundamental problem as the protagonist, but finds a different (often worse) solution.

Ready? Here are a few questions to help you get at the essence of your story:

1. Who is your MAIN CHARACTER?

2. What external problem does your main character want to solve in the story? This is his OUTER GOAL. For example, he may want to win the big football game, or make a million dollars, or find a girlfriend.

3. Who or what is the chief OBSTACLE to your protagonist's achieving his outer goal?

4. What horrible things will happen if the protagonist cannot achieve his outer goal? This is the STAKES of your story.

5. What is your main character's HIDDEN NEED? This is a lack within your main character that he must solve before he can be happy. For example, he may need to forgive someone, or he may need to become courageous, or he may need to learn not to be selfish.

5. In one sentence, describe what your story is about.

These questions may be easy for you, or they may take some thought. If you're having trouble, simply list, say, 10 or 20 STUPID answers to the question. Then just pick one of these answers and see if you can fit it in; if you can't, choose another. Free-write your ideas so that you can tell a quick outline of your story in a paragraph or so. Figure out the captivating kernel of your story, whether character, plot twist, or something else.

Once you've got the basic direction, the kernel, of your story, you'll find it's much easier to start writing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Shall I Write About? Some Tricks for Overcoming Writer's Block

Some people's story ideas fly from their fingertips onto the computer screen, while the rest of us watch them in amazement. I happen to be one of the slower people, but this is good because I then ponder tricks to get around this problem of writer's block: ways that I can pass onto you that might be helpful.

Here are some tricks to create original, compelling writing:

1. Trick #1: Just Do It.

If you are a natural perfectionist, like me, you may have trouble getting words down because you want every syllable to be flawless as soon as you write it. Sadly, it's never going to happen. A trick I use is the ten minute (or up to an hour) rule in which I decide I'm just going to write my story and if it isn't great I won't worry about it. I'm not allowed to play Spider Solitaire (I'm quite good at this, sadly) or stare off into space. If you are brave you may even wish to consider the NANO challenge in which you write 50,000 words in November. I've been able to successfully accomplish this goal in 2010 and 2011 by writing 2000 words six days per week. Yes, my prose was truly awful, but the word count was there. My NANO identity is Amy_D so friend me if you decide to do this and we can encourage each other.

2. Trick #2: Free Write.

Many people tell me that they don't feel like they have anything to say and so go in circles when they write. A helpful technique for this is free-writing, in which you actually talk to yourself on the page about what you're trying to write and why. You're capturing your thoughts and mental trails that you use to solve a problem so that you don't forget that wonderful inkling you had 30 seconds ago while pursuing another thought. It's not perfect, but it works well.

3. Trick #3: Develop a Personal Resource For Ideas.

A great trick to coming up with story ideas is to create an IDEA FILE on your computer desktop, or you may prefer to write these ideas in a notebook or other permanent place. Wherever you put this file, make sure it's in a place that you put eyes on it often as you go about your daily work. Next, get a small notebook, index cards, or whatever, and carry these around with you at all times. Whenever you come across something intriguing, either a situation you experience or a thought process stemming from a trigger, WRITE IT DOWN. Write down at least two items a day. Transfer these ideas to your idea file every day. When you're dipping for a story idea, take out your file and play with these ideas.

4. Trick #4: A Helpful Idea Triggering Trick.

You can go through the titles of songs and films to trigger ideas for your own stories. These titles are written to be compelling, ambiguous, suggestive, and other neat things. Take advantage. If you find something that interests you, FREE WRITE about it immediately and discuss with yourself why you might like some of the ingredients of the title, and how you might be able to twist it into an original story idea.

5. Trick #5: Tell Your Muse What You Want.

Your muse does have a mind of his or her own, and cannot be reasoned with logically. However, you CAN work with your muse as a partnership to create stunning, original work. You do this by clearly articulating what you want and WRITING IT DOWN. For example, you might be ready for a new story. Write down: I want to write a short love story with an original idea along paranormal lines. Then, listen to your muse -- your muse will manifest as ideas suddenly popping into your head. WRITE THEM DOWN! This way your muse knows you're taking these ideas seriously Your muse might sequentially suggest:

ghosts? too cliched.
reading thoughts? too cliched.
near death experience? not really.
angels and demons? doesn't work for me.
potential realities? maybe...

Pick up what your muse says and continue to follow it by writing down further requests: How might potential realities interact with people? And so forth. These muse-originated ideas don't necessarily come immediately, but they will come if you determine to listen.

6. Trick #6: Be Brave.

This is the circle back to Trick #1. Write. Just write. If you want to plan then come up with your story goal, your obstacles, and why the goal is so important. Then just write. Don't be afraid.


Creative writing is hard. Hopefully these tricks will help you start moving again. Let me know if they help, or if you have your own tricks!