Need One? Write Five!

Here, then, is my best writing advice.  Especially if you’re starting out, and feeling a little unsure of what you’re doing.  There’s a great pressure when it comes to coming up with ideas.  That’s where the write five rule comes in handy.  There’re a lot of reasons why this works so well.  Here are a few of them.

You won’t get stage fright

I get scared when I start thinking up contest ideas.  I’ll readily admit it, because I bet you do, too.  I start to wonder what other people will be entering for a contest, and I’m sure their ideas are so very much better.  Then I can’t think of any ideas at all.

Writing at least five ideas takes the pressure off.  That might sound backwards, but think about it.  If you know, no matter what, that you’re going to write down at least four more story ideas after the one you’re writing now, then this one doesn’t have to be perfect.  It doesn’t have to be great.  It doesn’t even have to be good.  It just has to be. Then, you can write down anything you think of.

The trick, though, is that there’s a very good chance one of those ‘these are shit’ ideas is actually a pretty good idea, but if it stood alone you might not have liked it.

Your first idea might not be your best idea

Sometimes, though, I fall into the opposite problem.  I write the first idea that comes to my mind.  There’s no guarantee that’s the best one, though.  In the past, I’ve thought up a story, and written the whole thing out, only to find the premise of the story was awful, I couldn’t stand it, and no amount of editing would ever make this piece of dredge worth reading.  (Remember, editing can fix bad grammar, bad writing, bad dialog and bad word choice.  Nothing in this world can fix a bad idea.)  I had to start over from scratch, and there’s nothing I hate more.  You might ask, if the story was so bad, why did I finish the first draft?  Because I didn’t have another to fall back on, and I had a deadline, that’s why.

Once I started my write five rule, I found that it was often my fourth or fifth ideas that were the best.  The reason why is obvious now that I’ve thought about it.  My first ideas tend to be the cliché, obvious, everyone’s already done that idea.  It’s only after I’ve ruled those out, once I’ve seen beyond the obvious, that I come up with someone truly good.

You can always use an idea cache

And sometimes, not always but sometimes, I come up with two really good ideas.  When I get so lucky, I write both stories, and use the stronger of the two for the contest.

But I keep the other one.  These days there’s no end of places to submit short fiction online.  I post them every week for a reason.  And, of course, if I’ve got the choice to come up with two great ideas instead of one, I’ll always go with two.

My write 5 rule works well for just about any writing stage.  I’ve used it while revising scenes in my book.  I’ve used it of course when writing the first and last lines of a story, which tend to stagger my creative juices.

So, the next time you’re stuck for an idea or line, try writing five instead.

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