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16

Two things: I prefer to read stories where there are no overt themes being highlighted by the author (or else they're so subtle I can't tell, or not noticeable because the characters and what's going on are too interesting). Choosing themes first then constructing a story to illustrate them will probably end up sounding contrived. I find when I focus on ...


16

The unfortunate part of any answer to this question is that you have to find what works for you. That said, I have heard from several writers that having a small notebook in a pocket, purse, or other bag that goes with you all the time is an ideal way to keep track of ideas. This might be ideas for starting a story, snippets of conversation that you know ...


12

1) Pick any one item and take it to an extreme. "Organizing is good." Okay, can I alphabetize my spices? (bad example. I actually do that.) Uh, can I sort my vegetable drawer by size and then by color? How about putting the living room furniture in rainbow order? Where do I file the cat, under P for Pet, F for Felix domesticus, or O for Ollie (his ...


11

One thing you can try (something I have just started trying), is the "fieldstone" method (cf. Weinberg on Writing). The analogy goes that when you are building a wall, as you walk in the field if you find a good stone, you put it in your pocket. Writing kind of works the same way: as you go about your day, you read things, you find something that interests ...


11

Rather than focusing on a single point as if you are writing an essay, you may want to focus on an ethos you want to create. View your story as world-building (this is something you will find Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game reference frequently). The world you are building will reward certain behaviors by your characters and punish others. The ...


10

1) Read drug literature, if you get your head right around Naked Lunch, the Illuminatus Trilogy and some of Philip K. Dick's wackier work they should tell you more or less everything you need to know. Burroughs is particularly useful because he wrote even though he was out of his head on drugs, not because he was out of his head on drugs. The Illuminatus ...


9

Don't worry about "it's been done before." Your goal is to do it your way, and never mind what anyone else has done. Your theme (Lack of purpose => Apathy => Failure to adapt => Vicious cycle) is interesting, but I'm having some trouble connecting it to your précis. How does "too much freedom" equate to "lack of purpose"? I think linking it to ...


8

The method I'm familiar with is a writing bible - a document where you're constantly recording any new information you add to the world; any new detail you want to be committed to throughout the book. At its simplest, this is literally jotting down any new concrete detail you add. If your write `"Jurgen's eldest brother Bob was the snootiest accountant he'd ...


7

As justkt said, everyone is gonna have their own method. This is mine: Try to summarize the idea into short, detailed sentences. What works for me is to fit in as much of the premise as possible. Then, following that, put down any minute details that you want to include. The idea here is to include everything you'll need to rebuild the idea exactly as you ...


7

As the other answers suggest, this is largely an approach to be decided upon by the author - will work for some, and not for others. Stephen King said in "On Writing" that he preferred to get the story out and focus on theme afterwards. In fact, he considered it a part of revising and editing. I tend to agree with him, in that I have discovered the more I ...


6

If you have a point that you do want to convey, this is certainly a legitimate practice. You shouldn't make artificial points just to have them, however. It is important to ensure that your point does not become too contrived, as well. There are cases where everything should be a microcosm of your main theme, but they are rare, even in a short story. You ...


6

Applications: I cannot say enough good things about Scrivener, from Literature & Latte (for Mac). It's not a word-processing program, it's a writing program. You can organize notes, drag "notecards" and folders around, block out the rest of your screen, paste in photos and movie clips, and use a virtual corkboard to rearrange thoughts. It was THE main ...


6

One way to start coming up with creative non-fiction stories that are from your own life is by finding lists of journaling questions. For example the author of the blog Live with Flair (who was interviewed not too long ago by NPR) is posting a journaling question at the bottom of her posts daily. These questions can help you think of an event in your own ...


6

The problem I see with writing (and drawing) is that people believe that they should be able to do it without any training. We all learn to write in school, we all can compose a coherent narrative, for example in a letter to our grandparents or a "what I did during the summer holidays" essay for school, and we all have been drawing since we were able to hold ...


5

When I write jokes I'll often begin with stream-of-consciousness "brain vomit," putting every possible thought to paper. I'll mark places I think people would laugh with an asterisk. This is more organic than just trying to think of funny things. After this you can cross out everything that lacks an asterisk, and rework your sentences so that the asterisk ...


5

I haven't read it myself, but I think this book, The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kitely, sounds like exactly what you're looking for. It's got very nice reviews - both in terms of score, and the actual description. Here's the first one that sounded like a great match for your question: The exercises also have an additional dimension to them that most don't. ...


4

"If you want to send a message, use Western Union." - can't remember who first said that. If you find yourself changing anything in a story to make a point, you're probably making the story worse. If you make the story bad enough, nobody will want to read it, and anybody who does will be annoyed at an author trying to pound a point home. If you write a ...


4

There are multiple parts to a query letter. The first part is you. What kind of writing experience do you have? Have you published four books already? Do you have a dozen short stories in various magazines? Have you won any writing awards? Do you have any experience in the publishing world - editing, lit agent, etc. This is where you want to "sell" yourself. ...


4

Not a writing prompt in a traditional sense, but this has worked for me: improv comedy classes. Every time you perform a scene, you're creating a completely new story on the fly. It's a great way to generate ideas. The story grows organically, and you'll get unexpected (i.e. creative) results. It's a fun way to get new ideas for writing.


4

Given your paragraph description, I have to admit to being somewhat unconvinced along a few points. You set up a direct connection between the regime's oppressive control of its citizens and a lack of purpose, but I think you need to nuance that connection more closely. The currently much-analyzed phenomenon of the quarterlife crisis among middle and ...


3

Best way to learn humor is to read things that you find funny. Eventually, humor will organically bubble up in your own writing. This is the best way, as fored humor usually comes off bad. Comedy, as a genre, is hard to get right. Drama is easy. Anyway, the book that had the biggest impact on humor in my writing is this: The Signet Book of American ...


3

Here I roughly translate and sum up some advices from Daniele Luttazzi, an italian satirist (original text here) who learned from the best, like Lenny Bruce and Josh Carlin. (Sorry for any mistake, please edit). The punchline must be a suprise with respect to the preamble. If the surprise is weak the humor will be weak. If the surprise is awkward the ...


3

I think the most important thing is to figure out what kind of humor are YOU good at. Lauren Ipsum's and Cody Hess's suggestions are how THEY get people to laugh. Gmoore's suggestion is a good one, figure out what makes you laugh, what you think is funny, and then try to duplicate that with your own ideas. Look at the way you create humor when interacting ...


3

I've had the same problem, I have overwhelmingly too many ideas and it can sometimes become paralyzing. I tried lots of tools for organizing and keeping my ideas and most of them weren't just 'good enough'. The best tool (method) that I found was what @lynn-beighley mentioned (mind mapping). Mind mapping is great and there are lots of applications available ...


3

I've been using Springpad as an alternative to Evernote lately. I also use a simple to do list program on my Mac called Things that lets me organize the todos into projects. Works really well for keeping lists of edits that need to be made on any given writing project, especially long ones.


3

As FoxCutter has said elsewhere, for many of us Moleskine is hard to beat. You can pick a size that works for you to carry anywhere, ranging from just smaller than an iPad to one that fits in a pocket and clutch. The fact that it is a notebook lets you keep everything in one place. The fact that you can get it in a "to-go" size means you can have it with ...


3

I personally love spiral notebooks when I'm out and about. You know, the cheaper than dirt, back to school sale, 10 for a dollar kind. I love that I can use one per project or destroy them with a latte and not feel bad about it. I end up importing images of the pages into OneNote if I want to keep what I've written. I love using OneNote for a quick cache ...


3

You may benefit from talking to ex-addicts, since ex-addicts are more likely to give an unvarnished truth with regards to their drug taking (if, of course, they're willing to be open to a stranger). I disagree with Indoril Nerevar's answer about not speaking to addicted people. Interviewing addicted people does provide its own insights: how people ...


3

I've found the best solution to improving creative productivity is to practice self-discipline. Discipline is also a skill, so it will take time to find a routine that works for you. Find an hour or so in which you believe you're the most productive and set it aside exclusively for writing, eliminate any distractions or commitments. Every day, go to your ...


3

You identify two problems in your question. One is "how can I effectively develop topics out of thin air without research, or spending hours before actually writing?" This is a "what to write about" question, which is not on-topic for Writers. (Plus, there's no such thing as "developing topics without research." You may have done the "research" by reading ...



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