Archive for February 5th, 2010

How to Finish Your Story

February 5, 2010

So you’ve finished a first draft of your short story and you think, “What now?”  Or you are in the middle of it and you wonder, “Should I stop and look this over first?”

1. No.  Keep on writing.  No stopping if you can help it.  The biggest mistake people make when they’re writing a short story or novel is stopping after the first chapter or first half and then changing their minds.  If you do this, you’ll never finish your story.  Finish the rough draft first, knowing that a rough draft is supposed to be ROUGH.  It can be lousy!  Give yourself permission!  Just get the story out.  Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, how messy it is, or if you’ve got a part of the plot you forgot to “tie up.”  You can go back later and fix it. 

2.  So you have your complete rough draft.  Read it out loud.  Yes.  No matter how silly you feel.  I read aloud to my dog all the time.   Tell your parents or your significant other that you aren’t crazy, you’re just a writer.  (In some circles, being a writer IS crazy, but more on that another time . . .)  Read your writing out loud to see when your story puts you to zzzzz.  Hold a highlighter or pen in your hand so you can mark these places. 

Chances are, you were “telling”/ narrating too much in those zzzzzz moments.  If you were, take out the telling and create a scene.  What’s a scene?  It’s a moment where you plop the reader into the action of the story.    Use dialogue, thoughts, and feelings of the main character.  Slow-down-the-moment for the important stuff.   Put in a specific detail or two to make us SEE and FEEL like we’re really there. 

Now read it out loud.  Isn’t it better?    Make sure you didn’t just write it to write it.  The scene must have a reason to be there.   Hopefully it moves your character closer or farther away from his/her goal.  Every scene should have some conflict/ problem. 

If what I’m writing scares you, just ignore the advice and write your story.  At the end of your story, if you know what your character wants more than anything, and you’ve shown this desire in your story, and it’s interesting/suspenseful, you’ve done your job.  Pat yourself on the back.  Reward yourself.  Take a break. 

Then write another story.  It feels great to produce, doesn’t it?