Thursday, August 9, 2007

Improve Your Writing with One Sentence a Day

With a lack of time being an big obstacle many writers face, having some tips from my book, Tapping Creativity that will let you get something productive from very little time can be helpful.

When I'm pinched for time, I use a one-sentence approach; it’s painless, minimal, and requires about one minute of each day. Every morning I sit down and write one opening sentence. I have no story to go with it. I don’t know where the sentence will take me, but I make it rich enough to lead somewhere.

Here are some sentences I’ve written, but haven’t put stories to yet. After each sentence is a short list of questions that could get the story moving.

“It’d been long known in the community that Maid to Order provided more than your basic housecleaning needs.”

  • What other needs could they provide? Dog-walking? Drugs? Prostitution? Private Investigation? Or do they donate a lot of time or money to charities and other community needs?
  • What if one of these “maids” fell in with someone whose interests were at cross-purposes to those extra-curricular services provided by Maid to Order?
  • What if an undercover officer got “inside” the Maid to Order circle and befriended an employee, thus jeopardizing his/her police work and leaving him/her with a big decision?
Let’s try another one.

“After regaining consciousness, my brother insisted he was a French ballet dancer and commenced pirouetting around the living room spouting, ‘Merci, Frommage!’”
  • How did the brother lose consciousness in the first place?
  • How does the brother know ballet and French? And why is his French so incoherent?
  • Does this sort of thing run in the family?
  • How old are these people?
  • Are they going to fix this problem before mom and dad get home?
  • Most importantly, will he ever get a, “You’re welcome” from the cheese?

How about something like this?

“It was the final flim-flam.”
  • What was the final flim-flam?
  • How does this flim-flam stack up against previous flim-flams?
  • Why is this one the final flim-flam? Is it because this was the granddaddy of all flim-flams or was it because after the last flim-flam there was to be a complete cessation of all flim-flammery?
  • What type of person uses the word “flim-flam” anyway?
You should be seeing the pattern here. You can use anything for an opening sentence as long as it peaks enough interest to get the reader to the next sentence, and more importantly, poses enough possibilities to get you, the writer, to the next sentence when you have more time to develop it.

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