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Writing fiction: my technique

A lot of people have been asking me recently about my writing technique. So folks, get ready for some pro advise.

I’m joking, nobody cares about me or my stupid writing. But I wanted to write a memoir about it anyway.

Writer’s Block

I was trying to remember when was the last time I got the writers’ block. Probably I still suffer it at some points but the thing is, most of the time, I find it easy to drive a story. I’m not saying they’re good, just that I don’t have problems with creativity on that regard. I can write and write and develop fiction effortlessly, though that doesn’t mean that the story itself is great.

In fact (even though I haven’t done it professionally or even continuously), I have been writing fiction for around 15 years. That’s like half my life.

Not so fast

You must think that I have tons of good material and won lots of contests and got published. But not. First: I don’t have that many stories; as I said, I don’t do it for a living, and only recently have I picked up some pace on production.

Secondly: I also said that my work was not good, and just like in the aforementioned point, it’s basically this 2016 that I have started to develop some sense on how to make good stories. Perhaps not great ones, maybe not even contest winners, but at least plain “good” and fun.

So what are my accolades? I have won a couple of school contest or so, back in the old days, and got a honorable mention once on a real contest. But on my defense: I have only sent my work to probably less than five “real contests”. I can in fact only recall three.


Blank page not blank

Anyway, I think one of the things that has gotten me a bit better at it is the fact that, when I get to the blank page, it’s not really blank. How’s that?

I am constantly taking notes and emailing them over to myself. Why email? I always have my cellphone with me, so I find that the easiest way to take notes is by doing just that. And when I have an idea, which could be any time of the day, in any place, I write it down in my omnipresent phone so I won’t forget. Much like the dreams I like to remember (which by the way, sometimes I use as foundation for my stories).

Those notes are really short, sometimes a few sentences, and each sentence is sometimes just between three and five words. Sometimes it’s just one sentence.

Mental development

When I consider that some of these notes are worthy, I also take a note in my mind. It’s probably not on purpose, but more organically and natural. For example: I have dozens of notes on a WorkFlowy account (btw: workflowy is a great tool for note taking, brainstorming and help get organized), but I don’t know if I will ever develop them all. It’s just a repository of ideas. But when I regard one of them as a good one, I tend to think about it day in, day out.

Then I start expanding on it and thinking how would things go. All this just in my head: the story is already in the making, days, weeks, sometimes months (some times even years) before I type it. So when I get to that damned page, I just have to pour down what I already know.

And most of the time: the first draft is finished in an hour or two. I tend not to leave an unfinished story once I start writing. It will obviously change, as I edit and fix along, but the base is there before I move on to other things. This is certainly possible because I’m not writing (at least not yet) novels. They’re short stories.

Not always so

Of course, not every single time has the story been completed in my mind before, and obviously, things may change on the go, or even take 180 (and sometimes 360) degree turns.

Sometimes I start typing a description, so that five word sentence becomes a pair of paragraphs. On later days I come back to it and unfold it. Other times (perhaps less often than what I consider I should) I develop characters’ history and context, even if it’s not going to be implicitly on the text.

And by the way, I’ll probably be doing more of that (characters’ context), now that I have begun experimenting with audiovisuals, and translating some of my short stories into film scripts.

Workshop it

And last but not least: the workshops. That place where me and other aspiring writers gather and, led by one of them who is wiser and more powerful, read each other’s texts and tear them apart.

I admit that it is when I’m enrolled in one of those that I make most of my writing. That means: I don’t usually write when I don’t have this additional motivation. It’s like homework, an assignment, even obligation that helps me out put myself to produce.

And most important of it all: the feedback. The fact that there are other human beings reading my stories and commenting on how to improve them, is priceless.

I can fairly say that, thanks to the current workshop I’m attending (Interior Seis), I have become a better writer. The bulk of what I consider my best writing, has been done in the context of the gathering of this sect.

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Every day, the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, keep on getting brighter

—Sally Jupiter