Ducks in a Row


I’m reposting this from last year because I still think this is excellent advice and I needed reminding!

Do you wait for the perfect time, or place, or circumstance, thinking that once all your ducks are in a row, THEN you will write the perfect story? I do, especially when my confidence is low and/or the world is overwhelming (ok, nearly all the time). So, if the neighbour’s dog is driving me crazy (he doesn’t, he’s lovely, but some days I can’t filter out the occasional barking) I blame that for the fact my writing feels rubbish and I didn’t meet my goals or start the story that’s in my head or finish the one I began a few weeks ago. And the more excuses I find, the less inclined I am to sit down and write. I go downhill fast, lose a day, a few days, a week or two. Oh no! I’m a failure, but how can I be expected to be a creative genius in these (insert your own bugbears) conditions? Sound familiar? If not, well done! If yes, read on 🙂

Sometimes we need to trick ourselves into writing without the burden of producing ‘a perfect story’. As Margaret Atwood says: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

So, let’s try a game of What Next. Don’t start to write the story straight away. Think of (or ask a friend to give you) a situation where a character is faced with a choice. Don’t bother writing anything about the character to start with. Jot down three ways the situation could play out. Example. You find a purse under a bench. A) you pick it up, hand it in. B) you pick it up and open it. C) you leave it there. Now, jot down three ways each of these situations can play out, adding just one sentence. And do it again. Multiply all the ‘what nexts’. After a few rounds, there might be one strand you really want to follow and a voice that’s emerged. Before you know it, you’re writing a story. And it reminds you that it FEELS GOOD to write.

Sorry about the caps, but I really want us to remember that it does, despite everything. So have some fun, take the pressure off and enjoy writing!

Send us your stories by April 24th. We’re looking forward to reading them.