Practicing your story

I love to tell stories!  Things that happen to me, things that happen to my friends and family, things that amuse me, and things that come to me in my sleep are all fodder for my stories.  I have a story about room service.  I have all sorts of stories about my travels and adventures.

I was recently at a big event in Orlando where I got certified as a John Maxwell teacher/trainer/coach, and one of the activities was standing up and introducing myself to my table mates in a 5 minute speech.  I had told this story to my family, then to my toastmaster club, and eventually to all of my friends.  I published this story on FaceBook.  I had to tell it that many times to refine it.  I found areas of description that did not advance the story and cut them out.  I found conversations and streamlined them to make them an integral part of the story.  I looked for ways to hold off the end of the story so it would come as a surprise.  I crafted the words for the most impact.  Mark Twain once said, “If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”  Once I have my story just the way I like it, I rarely change my delivery.  My choice for this project was “Don’t worry, I’m a Professional!” and it was a humorous look at my adventures at the last Big Event where I broke my hip.  It came in at 4:47 and I got all kinds of good reviews.

You have to listen to where people laugh.  You have to listen to your delivery.  You have to watch the people in your audience to see when you need to slow down or speed up.  Are they getting the point of the story?  This is a 5 minute speech.  A book is a 5 minute speech stretched out to 3-5 days.  Craft each scene carefully–each character, the setting, the dialog.  You cannot be careless lest you run yourself into a rabbit hole you cannot escape.  Write down your inspirations and expand on them.  Write down your stories and then look at them with a critical eye.  Does it conform to your plot?  Does it get a good reaction from the reader?  What do you want to accomplish with this paragraph?

Craft your stories as you would a vase.  Don’t leave anything to chance, and do not assume you can just wing it and get it right.

What’s on your mind? Write it down!

What IS on your mind?  You have a story you just have to write because you cannot share it one on one with everyone fast enough. You have an issue that needs to be in the forefront of everyone’s mind. You have a ground breaking idea. You have a hero you want to write about. There is something on your mind that you cannot share unless you write it!

Then you sit down to your blank page and write the 1st sentence. Then you erase it. Then you try again, and again, and again. How do you start?  How do you get what’s on your mind on paper?

Every writer goes through a different process. There are some that have not only the 1st sentence but the whole 7-book series blocked out in their heads! There are some that are stream-of-consciousness and just sit down and write, and later organize it. In between those extremes, there are a plethora of different processes. You cannot assume everyone writes the same way. But you have to start somewhere.

The first thing many do is get down on paper the main reason they need to write this story.  Is it to explore a character?  Is it to change someone’s mind?  Is it to place beings into a new and alien setting?  Is it to instruct?  I know one writer that uses this model exactly, and then writes an outline and keeps adding detail until his book is done.  Then he erases the I’s and the II’s and the A,B, and C’s of his outline.  Another author writes down what’s on his mind: the subject of his book.  Then he goes off on bunny trails and collects his stories and illustrations.  He next eliminates or at least puts aside the parts that are irrelevant to his subject, organizes and reorganizes these pieces until he has what he wants.

“That Guy” is a cute little fellow in bright yellow Hawaiian shorts and an unmatching shirt that stands on his front lawn watering his flowers and waving at everyone that drives by.  We will take him through several scenarios and see that in the end, he is a very wise man.

So you think you’re a leader because you are the one with the whip?  After reading this book, people will take a new approach to leadership.  We take a look at who real leaders are and why they command their followers so well.

It was just hours before the second sun would rise and it was already hot.  What kind of challenges would humans face on an extraterrestrial planet with two suns?  We will explore different challenges and aspects of life in a non Earth environment.

Which end do you blow into?  We will explore the first steps in learning to play guitar and be delighted that we don’t have to blow into anything!

Try coming up with some things you’d like to write about on a legal pad and why you want to write them.  See what happens!