By Lazette Gifford
Writing should always
be an adventure. Every time we start a new story there is usually the same
sense of adventure that some people get when they begin a journey to a new
location. We are exploring, and even the people who go with a roadmap (or
an outline) don't know exactly what they're going to find or what will
happen before they reach the end. Like any journey in life, writing is
filled with surprises.
Sometimes, though, we
find ourselves reliving the same journey rather than taking a new path. If
the writer is not actively exploring new ground, then she might be rewriting
the same story with character names changed, and perhaps a few changes in
locale. Early in the exploration of writing this actually works. We are
not apt to get the story right on the very first try, and reworking it in
different venues can sometimes help define the missing pieces.
However, there is a
time when the writer should move on or risk being stuck forever in the same
This is the chance to
set a goal for 2005 that will help you do so. Why not be a little more
daring? Why not branch out in new ways?
Are you a novelist?
Can't seem to write a story that doesn't come in at 100,000 words, and often
in multiple volumes of that number? That was me until a few years ago. Then
I began to study short stories and I found that not only could I write them,
I could actually sell more of those than I could novels. Short stories are
not just condensed novels. They are pieces of a life, rather than the
entire life. If you can learn to write short stories, you have an entire
new market in which to sell.
Here's a book that
might help: Writing the Short Story by Jack M. Bickham, Writer's
Digest ISBN 0-89879-670-9
Or are you one of
those rare creatures who writes shorter material and would like to do a
novel? The key to novel writing, at least for those who are not natural
novelists, is to plan. And here's a book that can help: The Marshall
Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall, Writer's Digest ISBN
I mentioned the
recycling of characters into new stories. If you find that you always write
about the tough, misunderstood tomboy who saves the world, or the sensitive
cunning elf who helps humans, then it might be time to branch out and get a
few new faces in the mix. Write a male lead instead of a female; write a
human fighting elves rather than an elf helping humans. Give a character a
darker side, or create one who was born an angel in an evil world.
Creating new character
types and making them interesting is a lot of work, but as a writer you will
want to branch out and work with as many different characters as you can.
And yes, there is a
good book for this as well: Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress,
Writer's Digest ISBN 0-89879-815-9
Do you write only
first person present tense stories? Time to try limited third! In fact,
trying different viewpoints can open up entire new vistas for writing.
However, knowing the rules of different viewpoints is very important. What
is the difference between first person present tense and first person past
tense? What is omniscient and how does it differ from multiple third
If you want to
understand more about viewpoint, one of the best books out there is
Characters and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card, Writer's Digest, ISBN
This, of course, is
the big adventure. Do you only write science fiction? Try your hand at
mystery. A romance writer? Try your hand at historical fiction. And
remember that writing in one genre does not always mean leaving out aspects
of another. You could write a science fiction mystery novel, or a romantic
western, or a science fiction western.... This is how we've come up with
such subgenres as steampunk.
There are plenty of
books out there to explain what specific genres entail, but in this case I
think the better choice is to read books within the genre you want to
write. Get a feel for it, and make note of how the story is told, and what
genre-related items you note (technology for science fiction, how magic
works for fantasy, clue presentation for mystery, etc.).
The start of a year
provides both a chance and an excuse for those who like to challenge
themselves with something new. Perhaps this is the nudge you need to make a
leap to a new level. Give it a try. You may find that you have far more
imagination than you've allowed yourself to work with prior to this.
But whatever you do,
be sure to have fun on the journey!