Tag Archives: technique

New Fiction in Ten Days

I had so much fun last quarter participating in Amy Souza’s SPARK project, that I volunteered again, despite a full work load of two accelerated online college courses and a draft novel in dire need of editing.

My artistic partner this time was the talented Christina Brockett, who uses a camera to capture the world around her in ways that I never could. I reworked an earlier piece for a more contemporary setting that I called “Dockside” and received the following snapshot to use as inspiration for my response:

Photo by Christina Brockett


Ten days – not much time to get an idea, flesh it out into a story with compelling characters and engaging theme, then polish it into a short story to share with the world. You know what I found out? Deadlines are a tremendous motivation.

  • I had my rough idea within the first five minutes of seeing the picture, but how do you turn strange etchings on a gold watch into a viable story?
  • I tried to imagine who would etch unrecognizable symbols on a watch – someone who didn’t want the words discovered by the wrong person, or maybe someone who didn’t have enough room to write everything they wanted. I also realized that a pocket watch is the kind of thing that gets passed down from one generation to another when someone dies.
  • Plot came next: some kids examine an inherited watch and discover strange writing (greek) on the inside lid. They translate the writing and find clues that lead to a website message from a dead parent. Cool.
  • As I wrote the story, minor flaws developed and I made changes like a good little writer. Boys became college students, the clues became plausible links, and the message was properly sad.

At the end of ten days, I had a finished story I wish was better, but it’s done. We exchanged works: my story “Time’s Cruel Sands“, and Christina send me this photograph that I feel really nailed the mood of “Dockside”:

Photo by Christina Brockett


Amy plans to have our works up on her site soon, and I highly recommend that you give it a look. There were 90 entrants this time and no doubt you will find some truly creative works much better than my own. Next quarter, I hope to do this exercise in madness again and maybe we’ll have a chance to work together. Ten days of hell that I find absolutely worth every second.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction

15 minute writing drills

This last three day weekend promised to be a boon to my halted writing, but deciding on where to start proved near fatal.

I’d spent the last couple of weekends nibbling around the edges of my novel rewrite by creating index cards for each of my plotted scenes that still needed writing. On each card was the setting, POV character, some lines about the conflict and goals, and the following scene. All seemed ready for writing, but I still faced the dreaded blank page.

This lone condition is both my writing nemesis as well as my favorite part of writing. It can only be vanquished by sheer force of will, an external deadline, or a crazy exercise I picked up during the 2007 NaNoWriMo.

How does this miracle work, you ask?

Fifteen Minutes

Fifteen Minutes

Simple. Set aside 15 minutes of time when you can work without distractions, choose your topic or scene, and begin writing non-stop until the buzzer goes off. Do not waste time with editing or punctuation; you can fix errors afterwards. Just write what you feel works best, even if you never use the material in your finished story.

Based on this technique, I am proud to say that I have four text segments to start my unwritten scenes. I don’t know what or how I will continue from where each segment ends, but now the page isn’t empty.

The next time you find yourself staring down a blank page; try it. It cannot be worse that not writing at all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized