From a very young age I had a passion for storytelling. When I was older I decided to get serious about my writing, and as I developed my skill ideas began coming to me more frequently. There were too many to keep track of, and I scribbled them on pieces of paper and left them scattered around my bedroom. I’d start a story then get an idea for another, so I abandoned the previous story and started the new one. The cycle of incompletion continued, and the excitement of inspiration eventually turned into mental exhaustion. I was getting nowhere. But after starting a writing course in my adult years, I learned about the following three concepts:
1. The Ideas Book
I wouldn’t doubt that you have heard of this and have started one already. But in case you haven’t, this takes the place of the back of a coaster, a note in your mobile phone or a loose piece of paper. In my notebook I write down my ideas and store them away for a later date. This helps me keep them under control, and results in the satisfaction of a finished project!
When you go out, keep your Ideas Book handy, because most likely by the time you get home to a piece of paper and pen you’ll have forgotten the idea. If you see a person or object that catches your eye, write a description about them! It will give you good practice in painting a clear picture of your characters and settings in your actual stories.
2.The Daily Writing Schedule
I believe that having a daily writing schedule is important for writers at all levels. When you have other demands on your time, it will help you to think about what part of your day you can sit down to write, and for how long. It will help you keep track of where you’re up to in your work, and what your wanting to achieve during each time slot e.g. research for characters, settings and plots, proofreading, editing a draft or starting a brand new story altogether.
Write down in your schedule exactly what you want to achieve when you sit down to your allocated timeslot. Then every day you’ll feel that you have taken one step further toward your ultimate writing goal!
A Monthly Challenge- Decide on a goal you want to achieve in thirty days. Start a new notebook and every day list what you did to contribute to each month’s goal. You can keep track of your progress, and when you feel flustered and are convinced that nothing is moving forward, you can reflect back over the month and remind yourself that you have been contributing to your goal every day!
3. The Plot Planning Sheet
The Plot Planning Sheet basically maps out your story into different sections:
- Beginning, Middle and Climax
- Identifying Key Characters and their roles in the plot
- Determining the basics of what your story is about
Keep any research notes you make attached to your Sheet, so you can refer to them as you construct your plot. In my next article I will focus on this useful document and go into more detail about it.
Material/Research tips for Beginner Writers- For many writers, ideas come easily. But if they don’t for you, look around! The world is your playground. I love to write about people facing real yet unique situations in their lives. For example, one of my favourite Australian films is Cosi, which revolves around an amateur theatre director hired to work on a pantomime with patients of a mental institution. I was inspired by one of the characters Ruth, a timid woman who is saddened because her husband rarely visits her at the institution. Towards the end of the movie the play’s director discovers that Ruth’s husband has left her and moved interstate with his lover. I felt inspired to explore Ruth’s story further; how would it feel to experience your partner abandoning you because of your mental illness? And what about a perspective from her husband? There is no harm in approaching an existing plot with a new angle, or looking at a character’s story more closely.
In this age of technology the Internet is an invaluable research tool. If you need to find something quickly, you can pinpoint exactly what it is you want to know on the internet instead of pouring through books in the hope you’ll find that one sentence which will give you your information. Plus you can do it from your living room!
Referring back to Ruth, lets say you’re writing a story about a sufferer of mental illness. You would want to research as much as possible about the condition. What are the finer details, and what is it like to live with that illness? You don’t want to get bogged down in technicalities but you must know enough about the condition to make the character believable. Talking to an expert in the field in which you want to write about is often standard, especially in genres such as crime writing when there is a lot of detail involved in the job. Watching the television show Crime Scene Investigation is not a reputable research tool! And a person in the real world working in that field reading your work would know if you have not done your research properly.
So in summary, organize yourself with these three steps:
- Start an Ideas Book
- Start a Monthly challenge notebook
- Start utilizing a Plot Planning Sheet
I hope this article has given you some pointers about getting professional about your writing habits. Stay tuned for my next article, Writing for Beginners Part Two: The Plot Planning Sheet!