The first step on the Road to Publication is to write. Obviously, you can’t be published without having a story (preferably multiple stories) to send out. This first ‘mile’ is among the longest and sometimes most difficult of the journey. There are multiple obstacles that a writer can face and a few different ways around those obstacles.
Here the Road splits in two in terms of writing.
1.) Write a story without a particular publication in mind.
This approach to writing a story often involves that fickle thing called ‘inspiration.’ That moment when an idea pops into your head after you stare at a candle too long or eavesdrop on a conversation while riding the bus. It’s a thrilling feeling, as words and ideas drip from your mind and hit the paper (or screen) without any difficulty or struggle. Unfortunately, for most writers that ‘magical’ moment doesn’t always happen without some work. Writer’s block, at least for me, often crops up at this point. I sit there, running ideas through my head, and keep thinking, “eh…that’s been done before.”
By-Pass: To get around the lack of inspiration or the towering wall of writer’s block, there are a few nifty tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
A.) Get a prompt
I’ve started a board on Pinterest specifically for sparking story ideas. I collect cool photos I find on the internet that catch my eye and later come back and write a story from them. If you need an invite to Pinterest, comment below with your email address and I’ll send you one.
I’ve also found a lot of story prompt generators online, like this one and this one. The first lists 346 creative writing prompts, and the second is a prompt generator that allows you to choose the amount of objects/people/settings to be included in the prompt.
B.) Let your mind wander
Sometimes sitting in front of that blank screen can be maddening. Close the laptop/notebook and go do something. Preferably something that doesn’t require a lot of concentration. Go for a walk, go lay on your bed, or my personal favorite, hop in the shower. Something about these activities allows my mind to churn up ideas without the daunting blank screen to distract me.
Once you’ve got that idea, write it. In fact, as soon as you get an idea, write it. Scribble it down on the back of a receipt or try to squirrel away some time to get to your computer. Either way, writing when the story is fresh on your mind is often the easiest. It’s often when you’re the most excited about a story as well.
Now for the other fork of this road…
2.) Write a story for a particular publication
Sometimes I find this the most easy in terms of coming up with story ideas. There are plenty of magazines and journals out there that have specific themes for each issue, and there are tons of anthologies with extremely specific calls that can kick start your imagination.
If you’re like me and enjoy writing for a particular publication, make sure to hit up Duotrope in your search for a good theme/market. If you click ‘calender’ on the top menu bar, it will pull up a list of publications with impending deadlines and list their themes. Incredibly helpful when you feel like writing, but aren’t sure what to write about.
Those are the two paths I’ve personally wandered down in my quest for publication. I can honestly say I’ve had equal success with both. “Four-by-Four“, a science fiction flash piece I wrote earlier this year, was written for AE SciFi’s contest with the theme of “space”. It didn’t win that particular contest, but did get picked up by Interstellar Fiction. Meanwhile, I wrote “Lace Angel” after drawing inspiration from a photo prompt on my Pinterest board. You can now read that particular piece over at Title Goes Here: Web Edition.
So now I’ll ask for a little feedback from you – what methods have you tried to kickstart your imagination? Do you prefer photo prompts or song prompts or none at all? Any particular markets/publications you’ve found with cool themed submissions calls? Do you think there’s more than two paths for this particular fork in the road?
While there’s much more to be said about writing and how to write, I’m not going to go into that in this blog series. Instead, next time we’ll hop on over to Mile 2 – Editing! Thanks for stopping by!