Archive for the 'Short Stories' Category

The importance of revising your writing

A love of writing

One of the reasons I am a writer is that I really enjoy the process of writing. I love the creative process that occurs when an idea pops into my head. It does not matter if it is a poem, a short story, a novel, a blog post, a non-fiction article or even an email to a family member, the same joy of creating is there. This joyful feeling is what keeps me going. It has enabled me to write almost three and a half million words in the last twenty-four years. It has kept me pressing on while spending over twenty thousand hours at my computer keyboard.

The unexpected creative process

One of the exciting things I find about writing, especially when writing fiction, is that I discover unexpected outcomes via the creative process. I might have a general idea of where the story is heading, I may even have a clear plan of the plot, when suddenly a character does or says something unexpected, out of character or just plain startling. The plot can take some bizarre and unplanned twists when this happens. I even find that my thoughts can be railroaded into a side-track when writing blog posts or other forms of non-fiction. It’s all very exciting.

A Problem

As fascinating as this is, such a sudden turn of events, or change of direction, or unplanned content to one’s writing can have a serious repercussion. The writer can get seriously off-track. A short story about a woman’s struggle with depression (yes, I have had one such story published) could take off in the direction of telling all the woes of her childhood. This is back-story; it is probably not necessary in a 2000 word story. In a 100,000 word novel – perhaps.

The importance of revision

I have discovered over many years of writing that revision is crucial to the whole process of the art, as is rewriting, editing and proofreading. I should write articles on all of these aspects of writing – and I probably have over the years. (You can find them by using those terms in the “search” box at the top of the page.)

In this article, want to focus just on “revision”.

What is Revision?

The process of revision can include the following:

  • Reading back over the piece of writing, checking for errors of fact, especially in non-fiction. It can also be crucial in fiction, too; you can’t have a character using a mobile phone if the story is set in the 1960s – unless it is a time travel story, but then, the phone wouldn’t work.
  • Correcting the wrong use of words, or constant repetition of words and phrases.
  • Recasting sentences which demonstrate poor grammar.
  • Checking for spelling mistakes and typos (though this is usually regarded as editing or proofreading, two other important processes of writing).
  • Deleting a sentence, a paragraph or even as much as a whole chapter which is unnecessary to the whole work. In one novel I wrote, I had to delete large chunks because it read like a travelogue and didn’t advance the plot.
  • Rearranging the order of sentences, paragraphs or chapters to create a more logical flow.

How other writers revise their work

I have included only a few ways in which one can revise your writing. There are many different ways of doing this important process. Each writer is different, and individual writers can vary their own approach, depending on what they are writing.

I recently came across an article 12 Contemporary writers on how they revise. Each writer has a different approach to the same process. At the end of each writer’s segment, there is a link to further articles on that writer, including blog posts, podcasts, interviews and more. I hope that you find it useful.

Further reading:

 

 

More short story starters

Over the years, I have posted many of these articles. They have become some of the most popular posts on this site.

These story starters are designed to get your creative juices flowing. We all have those dreaded times when we just can’t think of an idea to write about. These story starters are designed to get you going. You may end up not using the exact wording I have given. You may even change any names I have used. The setting I have proposed could also change. It is really up to you. Accept my ideas if they suit you; change what doesn’t ring true for you.

These short story starters could be used exactly as I have suggested. They could be the start of a story which you finish, polish up, rewrite, edit, proofread and send off to a journal or magazine or even a writing competition. Or, you may just use some or all of these ideas just as writing exercises – warm-up writing attempts to flex your writing muscles before your work-in-progress gets attention for the day. It is entirely up to you how you use these ideas. Or not.

Short story starters:

  1. Frank found what he was looking for, but not where he had expected. He felt totally perplexed. How did it get in the washing machine?
  2. It was moments like these that Greta enjoyed. The sudden appearance of her best friend in the cafe opened up the day to untold opportunities.
  3. How on earth could Harry complete this task in the time allotted? He knew that his fate was in his own hands. What he did in the next hour would determine the course of his life, one way or the other.
  4. ‘What are we to do now?’ asked Ingrid. ‘That was the last chance we had.’
  5. Finding her husband lying on their bed in his pajamas was the last thing Jenny expected that day.
  6. Karen raced to the check-in desk and stopped. Hardly able to breathe she waved her boarding pass and waited to be served. ‘What if I’m too late?’ She suppressed the thought and smiled.
  7. Tony and Lauren knew from the first day that it was going to be a struggle. Despite the challenges ahead, they stepped out believing that they were up to the task set before them.
  8. At the beginning of the week, Murray had believed that he was on top of the workload for the month. What he hadn’t foreseen was the accident.
  9. Naomi blinked. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed.
  10. The children ran screaming towards the open door. They crowded around the visitor, jumping and reaching towards the box he carried.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.

Trevor

Writing prompts: Who lived here?

Who lived here?

Who lived here?

During our tour of Morocco some years ago now we came across many beautiful buildings. Many of them have exquisite tiled floors, decorated walls and ceilings and were architecturally very interesting. As we travelled through the Berber regions in the southeast of the country, through the Atlas Mountains and the intervening valleys, we came across many abandoned kasbahs, similar to the building shown above. In fact, this photo was taken on the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs.

Writing prompts:

  1. The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs has an exotic and interesting ring to it. Write a story explaining how this road came to be so named.
  2. Ask yourself the question: ‘Who lived in this kasbah?” Write about their lives, their romances and perhaps why this was their chosen place to reside.
  3. Write about how this particular kasbah came to be deserted sometime in the distant past.
  4. Write a series of love poems about a person who had lived in this kasbah, and how their love had been thwarted by political or family events.
  5. Research the history of the Berber people or the kasbahs in this region. Incorporate some of your discoveries in a story of fiction, weaving real events into your fiction.

 

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.

Trevor

10 more short story starters

Popular articles

Over the last few years, the posts in this series have remained some of the most popular articles on this site. You can use the search facility at the top of the page, or the cloud of topics on the sidebar to search for more of these writing hints.

They are designed to get you thinking before you write. Use any of these story starters to get you going whenever you are struggling to come up with an idea for a story. I have received plenty of positive comments from writers (and teachers) who have used these ideas.

Over to you.

Short story starters

  1. Adele froze on the spot. The eerie noise continued to come from somewhere just ahead of her. She had no idea what it was.
  2. Before Betty could react, most of the ceiling collapsed onto the furniture below, except for the spot where she stood.
  3. Carl sprinted down the path in the direction of the explosion. As he ran he fumbled with his phone.
  4. It was almost midnight when Dave finally dragged himself to his bedroom. As he slowly undressed, he was aware of a presence in the room.
  5. On the first day in this strange land, Ella’s stomach was jittery with anticipation. She could barely wait to explore her new surroundings.
  6. As the storm clouds gathered to the north, Harry lengthened his stride as he hurried towards home. Flashes of lightning lit up the dark cloud, and the thunder cracked ominously.
  7. ‘How could I ever think so poorly of you,’ asked Julia, ‘when I have done so much for you these last five years?’
  8. Katie stood and stared at the sign. ‘Oh, no! Not today. Of all days – this has to happen. I can’t believe my rotten luck.’
  9. As Nola opened the old book, a paper fluttered to the floor.
  10. ‘Can it get any better than this?’ said Peta. ‘This has to be the best place ever.’

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.

Trevor

Writing prompt: you call that a bridge?

IMG_3187

Is that a bridge?

You call that a bridge?

No way.

That was my first reaction when I saw this structure over a river while on a holiday a few years ago. I was hiking through some interesting country with a small group when our leader took us to this location. He told us that this was where we had to cross the river.

We all hesitated at first, but our leader was adamant. We had to cross here or face a three-hour trek back to our starting point. It was either cross here or go back.  Our bus was waiting on the other side of the river, a short 50-metre walk. The only stipulation was that we had to cross the bridge one by one. He couldn’t guarantee that it would hold up more than one person at a time.

Great.

My wife, daughter and I were enjoying this adventurous holiday. That was part of the reason why we were there, faced with this little challenge. Thankfully, the bridge looked far worse than it actually turned out to be. All in our party crossed safely and we were soon on our way on the bus, heading for the next adventure.

Writing prompts

Use the information I have already given to kick-start your own writing. If this has not prompted some ideas already, use – or adapt – one of the writing prompts I have listed below.

  1. Relate the most adventurous thing you have ever attempted – successfully or otherwise.
  2. Write about the most dangerous activity you have ever undertaken.
  3. Has anyone else ever put you in a dangerous or potentially disastrous situation? Write about what happened.
  4. Use the photo as inspiration for a poem.
  5. Use my photo as a starting point for a flash fiction story (under 500 words – or whatever limit you place on your piece of writing).
  6. Imagine that you had been in the hiking party with me. Write about how I fell off the bridge and how you came to the rescue – or the bridge collapsed when you were crossing.
  7. Write a page or two leading up to this point where you have to cross a bridge. As you approach, someone blows up the bridge. Write a story featuring the events which follow.
  8. Imagine you are a poor farmer living in the place featured in the photo. Write about your life and struggles and how this bridge is critical to your survival.
  9. There is a path leading from the river crossing. Write about where you think that this path is heading, and what you will find there.

I haven’t stated where the photo was taken. I don’t want to restrict your thinking by telling you. If you really, really must know, use the “Contact” form at the top of the page to send me an email, and I will reply privately.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now get writing.

Good writing.

Trevor