Tips of the Trade

My writing career took off ten years ago: impressive, right? I bet you, my beloved readers, are just bursting with anticipation to listen to my wise writing counsel—that is, until you calculate my actual age minus ten years: ten years ago, I was six years old and learning how to write. Now, dear—robust—Madame with the overly florid face, truly, I had no intention of hoodwinking your respectable self. Let me prove my good faith although it place me in not too favorable a light: I began to write, seriously, a year and a half ago. Not so very eager to listen now,are you? Nevertheless, I shall recount the few, random tips of the trade I have assembled over the last couple—or not even that—years. (2018)

  1. Always, always put thoughts on paper as you plan. I’m not suggesting that you complete a whole rough draft, dreaded research-paper style. Simply, scribble down that ever-evolving, convoluted net of ideas. Instead of racking your brain for a stray thought, you merely need a glance at your planning sheet. Perhaps you prefer an outline, or, like myself, a ten-page ramble. Either method provides clarity of thought—yes, even the ramble, ironically—a clarity invaluable to writing the finished product.
  1. Watch your story. Close your eyes—tight. The theatre lights have gone dim and, suddenly, the movie reel begins: that movie is your story. Run the film several times, adding on, taking away, until you are satisfied. Personally, envisioning every scene helps me bring a tale to life for myself and, hopefully, for my readers as well.
  1. Establish the mood and tone. Honestly, I have only dabbled in these two elements. Sometimes I base my tone and mood off a movie or tv show, such as in “A Western Retelling” where I used Bonanza as inspiration. “In the Green Room” was supposed to continue the unresolved romance from Anastasia (1956). As I wrote it, I listened to the original movie soundtrack, hoping some of the bittersweet, dramatic angst would rub off on me. Finally, in “Just Something to Do with Shoes and Plaster Thrones” I aimed for a comedic, drama-queen tone and thus opted for highfalutin words and phrases. In a way, mood and tone create the feel of a story. Consciously adhering to that feel adds a bit more intentionality to your writing.
  1. Steal from real life. That’s right: I’m suggesting you hold a heist on reality and trundle away as fast as you can with a precious piece of story material. You might have to take a couple risks here and there, reveal your hidden heart, ask permission whenever needed, or stealthily veil the truth behind the story. Despite the possible struggles, grabbing from real-life events or thoughts fashions a more real and moving story, because, to some extent at least, you have lived through it.
  1. Be inspired by the Author. Have you ever studied the character of Kind David from the Bible? He truly was fascinating! Lately, as I read through I Samuel, it struck me that God, the powerful, the compassionate, the awesome, the forgiving—the creator of all things—was David’s inspiration for his musical and poetic endeavors. As he was the man after God’s own heart, I think it would be prudent to follow his example in this! I’m not suggesting you always right poems or songs of praise—or even fables with explicit Christian morals. Simply, point to the good amid evil, the hope amid shadow, redemption amid brokenness: always uphold a Biblical worldview in everything you write. That’s what I pray for myself.

Hopefully, these random thoughts have proved helpful! Down the road, I’ll probably have to add some more tips onto the list as I continue to grow myself. But for now, beloved readers, scatter and create art!