It’s in the 40’s, dark and rainy, but there’s a nice breeze going on outside. I had to step outside. So here I was, standing on our front porch in my bare feet and loving nature greeting me. It was only my human rationality which finally encouraged me to pull the doorknob to reenter the house, even though it was irrational to my soul. What would the neighbors think?
I thought that if I had my dream writer’s shack (a tiny camper), I’d have as many windows as possible, and all of them opened wide as I wrote away to the sounds of the wind in the trees, the patter of rain, the occasional bird and scampering squirrels. Of course, if it were nighttime, there would be deer and racoon and opossum wandering near.
All of my stories are set in the out of doors. For that very reason, sometimes it is difficult to write…inside. It would not be wise to leave windows opened inside the house when the outside temp is below fifty. Inside, there is the constant hum of the computer in the closed-in den. Leaving the room, there is the refrigerator hum, the lights humming, the kitchen clock tick-tocking away, and the furnace or furnace fan clicking on and off. (In the summertime it is air conditioning.) Of course, other neighborhood human reminders include loud lawncare machines, or airplanes or boats or racing cars or motorcycles. It makes it very distracting to ride a unicorn through a mountain meadow, seeing the tiny high-altitude flowers immediately below, the azure-blue sky above with falcon cry, the rocks and ranges extending to the horizon.
Rizzz. Rahhh. Zoom. Hum.
Oh, fiddlesticks. I’m going back on the porch for a while. At least there, in the dark, in the rain, standing in my bare feet, natural noises give competition to the human-created sounds.
We have all heard about mixing into our stories unexpected twists and cliff hangers (or “To Be Continued” as the Kdrama “W-Two Worlds” puts it). Making a list of “What ifs” is another good writing-shaker exercise. I’m sure you know about these, and hope you continue to use them to push your reader further into your story. But by Shake Up Your Writing, I am not talking about any of these good things. I’m talking about turning ninety degrees from what you normally do, and go off on a designated writing tangent.
Last spring, a friend invited me to a GoodReads writers group. They have monthly, themed short story contests. I don’t normally write short stories, but I like my friend. She was hosting the contest that month so thought I’d encourage her efforts by joining the group and writing a story for her. Anyone of the 140 members can vote each month. You just can’t vote for your own story. That first month I won first place.
Huh. Did I mention I don’t normally write short stories?
I’ve remained in the group even though I don’t participate each time. The result is that this fall, I will have three of my stories published in two different anthologies. I hadn’t thought about anthologies (or short stories) for a long time. In 2012, two of my short stories were published in an anthology put together by a former writing group (The Black Hills Writers Group). And about five years before that, a non-fiction article got published in another anthology. My WIPs are novels. The present one is a l-o-n-g series. So the DWT (designated writing tangent) of writing short stories has served me well. It has stretched my brain. It has been a lovely distraction so that now I am ready to get back to my poor wandering hero with his war unicorn.
Whether you try your hand at non-fiction, or picture books, or biography, shake up your writing! Then get back to work.