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I prefer writing short stories. Over the years, I have learnt many essential skills that I employ in my work. I believe (and this is my personal assessment) that my stories are of good quality (i.e have an intriguing plot, good character development, good dialogue, smooth flow etc.).

I have recently hit the wall (writer's block) and I cannot think of any story ideas. As creative writing is a side interest for me, I am unable to devote too much time to it because of work and family pressures. I read somewhere that these and other factors should not be stumbling blocks because talent is a myth.

I am aware (through blogs, forums etc.) that some people have written more than 100 short stories (in addition to other works!). That is a monumental achievement by any measure.

I have not set any such target for myself but would love to get more stories published. To date, I have published five stories through Amazon.

Question: What can some key things that I can do to become a more productive and accomplished writer?

(I know there is a difference between "productivity" and "accomplishment" but both are important in my case.)

I guess one of the things I can do is to learn how to quickly turn an idea into a plot. I am unsure how other writers do this in a short time.

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I'd like to recommend the answer I gave to this question: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/2100/… There are a lot of tips and ideas there. –  Craig Sefton Jul 9 '13 at 13:21
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3 Answers

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Writer's block is a myth. Talent? Well, it's a problematic and often misused term if you ask me. Replace it with "skill" and then you have something to work on.

Skill you can train, skill you can improve. Read books about writing, blogs, take courses, on and on. There are many ways to get a better writer. That's how you can get "accomplished".

Lauren already answered the productive part pretty well (also I cannot upvote her answer, because I do not think that agents and submitting is still the way to go). Nonetheless let me add how "writer's block" can be replaced with another (better) word: laziness.

Some also call it "resistance". No matter how you name it so, it must be challenged. We are all lazy and we must defeat this laziness every day, whatever we do. Browsing the internet, watching tv, there are so many distractions, all so much easier than doing the work that matters.

What leads us to Landsberg's answer (upvoted this time). If writing does not matter to you, don't do it. If it does, do! What "matter" means, is exclusively defined by you.

So if it matters, grab your pen/keyboard and start writing. It doesn't matter if you have ideas or not. It matters if you want to write or not. Put down letters, form them to words and construct sentences. Ideas will follow.

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"because I do not think that agents and submitting is still the way to go." Ever again? for anyone? Random Penguin should just close up shop? Every single writer on the face of the planet should go through Xlibris and CreateSpace and the Kindle market? –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 9 '13 at 13:29
    
@LaurenIpsum: If you sell your books yourself and show that you have an audience, you have a much better negotiation basis than if you just go begging (submitting). Besides that, what I have read lately about US publishers and the contracts they offer ... well, your choice. I wouldn't sign it. But I'm not American ;) –  John Smithers Jul 9 '13 at 20:54
    
Despite what John Scalzi posts, they aren't ALL like that. Some are... not all of them. I'm just saying that while self-publishing is ONE entirely legitimate venue, it's not the ONLY legitimate venue, and self-marketing is exhausting and expensive. You wind up spending all your time flogging your book and no time writing the next one. –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 9 '13 at 23:17
    
@LaurenIpsum: If you flog you are doing it wrong. Writing the next book is the best marketing. Also for self-publishing. –  John Smithers Jul 10 '13 at 14:03
    
Uh... if you aren't marketing your book, how are readers supposed to know about it so they can buy it? Or buy the next one? –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 10 '13 at 14:23
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Well, "productive" and "accomplished" are two different goals, so don't lump them together.

If you want to be productive, carve out time to write. Period. Sleep less, give up a hobby, write on your commute, write on your lunch break, whatever you need to do. To produce writing, you must write.

If by "accomplished" you mean a better writer, then you have to find one or more good editors, and learn how to revise well. If you mean "published," then you have to start submitting, and perhaps find an agent.

As far as "I read somewhere that these and other factors should not be stumbling blocks," it's true that if you are sufficiently inspired, you will find a way around whatever is stopping you from writing (lack of time, lack of skill). But, as John M. Landsberg points out, if you don't have the fire in the belly for writing, then those are not "stumbling blocks." Those are the reasons writing is a hobby for you and not a calling.

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Thanks a lot. I dont seem to fully understand your last paragraph. What I meant to say in my question was that you cannot hide behind excuses including lack of talent. Please bear with me, as English is my 4th language. –  Javeer Baker Jul 9 '13 at 3:53
    
@JaveerBaker Wow, that's one more than me! Good job! :) I will revise my last paragraph to make more sense. –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 9 '13 at 9:43
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Javeer, I strongly commend you for having published so much already, and for having such a strong desire to write more. But having worked with literally hundreds of new writers, I have often seen the problem you are experiencing, and it very often means something very important, and I'm afraid it's something you might not want to hear. But you should listen to this.

People who have something to write about, write stories. People who don't have something to write about, don't. If you want to write, but you can't "come up with" something to write about, you need to ask yourself why you want to write. Is it because writing is cool? It is because you want to be famous? Is it because you think writers make a lot of money? Is it because you just wish you could escape your stressful life and writing seems like fun? If it's anything like any of those reasons, forget it. You're not a writer. If you have something to write about, and you write stories because you HAVE to, THEN you're a writer. But if you have to struggle and strain just to figure out what you could possibly write about, then you really need to ask yourself why you want to write. It would be like saying you want to build a dog house for your dog, but actually you don't own a dog, and, well, you're allergic to dogs anyway.

Real writers are always being asked where they get their ideas, but real writers don't even understand the question. Why don't they understand? Because real writers don't get their ideas from anywhere. Their ideas are always there. Their ideas are always swimming in their heads, and popping up unbidden, and appearing without warning, and forcing themselves upon the unsuspecting writers' brains, and demanding to be presented to the world.

If you can prove me wrong, if you can say "no, you're crazy, you don't know what you're talking about, you're not going to stop me!" and then what I said gets you fired up and you write a dozen stories and you get them all published, then good for you! So let's see you do it. But if you think about it seriously, and you realize I'm right, then maybe I've saved you a lot of trouble and worry.

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An excellent point. There's a difference between writing because it's a hobby and being in thrall to the imperious Muse. –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 9 '13 at 9:51
    
@LaurenIpsum: "Thrall to the imperious Muse" - LOL, I love that! I have to write a book about it ;) –  John Smithers Jul 9 '13 at 11:51
    
I'm not convinced that you've actually answered the central question Javeer asked: "What can some key things that I can do to become a more productive and accomplished writer?" Certainly in terms of productivity there are things any writer of any level of skill can do to increase their imagination and productivity. While you make some good points, I don't think they actually have any relation to his predicament; it's really not up to us to make a judgement call about Javeer's dedication or drive with respect to writing. –  Craig Sefton Jul 9 '13 at 13:17
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@CraigSefton: Au contraire: Showing that the OP might ask the wrong question and/or is on the wrong track is (almost) always a suitable answer. It is up to Javeer to take the advice as with any answer. We do not know Javeer's drive. Only Javeer knows. And Landsberg hints that there might be a problem. Mayb not, but that's up to Javeer. –  John Smithers Jul 9 '13 at 21:02
    
@CraigSefton I'm glad you made that comment. But note carefully: I'm not in any way making any kind of judgment call about his dedication, drive, intentions, motivations, or attitude. I am, in fact, pointing out to him that it's essential for HIM to make that call! –  John M. Landsberg Jul 10 '13 at 0:22
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