The Journal, Saturday, 6/10

Hey Folks,

Yesterday I outlined how “writing in public” positively affected my writing. This morning, I had an exciting idea.

You already know I’m preparing a website for my next Writing in Public challenge. It should be good to go before July rolls in.

Those who are interested in reading stories or novels as they develop will subscribe. Then each post will be emailed to them as it’s posted.

I’ve decided to open that challenge to a few other writers. Here’s the nutshell:

  • Basically, you can write whatever you like and post as often as you like.
  • You’ll have your own log-in information and complete control over your part of the site.
  • The parameters of your challenge are completely up to you.
  • The one requirement is that you write “in public.” (Duh. Otherwise it would defeat the purpose of the site.)

If any of you would like to participate, email me to let me know and we’ll work out the details:


I mentioned yesterday that Bryan’s back in wait and see mode with Job Corps. We hope to hear something on Monday.

Topic: Story Starters (and some ways to come up with them)

(Note: This is excerpted from a post I wrote yesterday as an article for a regional writers’ group publication and for the Pro Writers blog. But it won’t post over there until early 2018. I didn’t include this topic in today’s nonfiction word count.)

There are two ways to start a story: with a story starter or with a story idea. Those are not quite the same thing, though they can be.

What I call a “story starter” is a seed, period.

It might be a line of dialogue or narrative that pops into your head. It might be you asking yourself “What if?”

It might be a philosophical thought or a photograph or event and the feeling or thought it evokes.

It might also be a story IDEA, the skeleton for the opening of your story.

The story idea is simpler to define. It’s a character with a problem in a setting. (The problem doesn’t have to be “the” conflict problem of the story.)

The story idea, if it occurs to you whole, can also be a story starter.

But the sole purpose of both the story starter and the story idea is to get you to the keyboard.

Or put in a slightly different way, the sole purpose of both the story starter and the story idea is to cause you to sit down, right now, put your fingers on the keyboard, and start typing.

So how do you come up with story starters?

The typical professional fiction writer would say, “How do you not?” But here are some specific ways that have worked for me.

First, prepare.

Open a new blank document or flip open your notebook and pull out a pen. I use Notepad. Don’t worry about formatting. It isn’t important right now.

Keep that document open on part of your computer screen (or on your lap). Then, in any order,

Browse Photos

Begin looking at photos one at a time.

These can be photos you took, photos you acquired from a stock agency, public domain photos or even photos you see in magazines, on Facebook or wherever.

If you choose a “found” photo — one other than your own or other than those you acquired from a stock agency — you can’t use it for a cover. But you can use it for whatever thought it evokes in your mind. The thought, not the photo, will become part of the actual publication.

Look at the photo and write down the first line that springs to mind. It might be narrative or dialogue. It might be a philosophical thought. That’s a story starter.

If nothing comes to mind, don’t dwell. Set it aside and move on to the next one.


Whether recalling a memory or witnessing a live event, write down the first line that springs to mind. That’s a story starter.

Other Stories and Articles

Read. If you’re a writer, chances are you read.
Often a line from another story or novel will grab me. And often that becomes the basis for my own story or novel. (No, this isn’t plagiarism.)

Sometimes too, comments in a nonfiction article or a description in a travel article will move something in me. And become the basis for a story or novel.

You get the idea. Just read. And keep your pen and paper handy.


Sometimes a title will pop into my head. I have zero idea what the story will be, but I know what it will be about. Maybe even the general direction it will take.

DWS has a voluminous collection of old stories and novels. From those he makes lists of “half-titles.” He writes the first half of a title on one list and the last half on another.

When he’s stuck for a story starter, he’ll browse the list of half-titles, crash two of them together to form a new title, and start writing.

Most of us don’t own a large collection. But you can still go to your local bookstore (or Amazon) and browse titles, right?

You can even lift whole titles if you want (I don’t recommend this), as long as they aren’t trademarked. Titles can’t be copyrighted individually.

That’s just a few ways to come up with story starters. Once you get in the habit of exercising your idea muscle, you’ll come up with many more on your own.

In short, if you want to write, you can write.

1. Get an idea.
2. Sit down with your fingers on the keyboard.
3. Write whatever comes. Don’t edit. Don’t “fix.” Don’t think. Just write.
4. DON’T intentionally write sloppy copy. That’s bad training.

It really is that easy and that difficult. If you haven’t tried this yet, you’ll be amazed at how much fun you’ll have.

Today, and Writing

Rolled out just before 2 a.m. My son drove down from Flagstaff. He got here just before I got up, and went to bed soon after.

I wrote on the novel for a little while, then got caught up in the day and visiting.

Back tomorrow.

Of Interest

Dean has a pretty informative post over at, especially if you missed his posts on the topic. (He links to them and the resulting novel.)

I posted a few pics of a big range fire (the Dragoon Fire) near here on Facebook at

Fiction Words: 1204
Nonfiction Words: 310 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1514

Writing of June Novel

Day 1…… 2248 words. Total words to date…… 4925
Day 2…… 0505 words. Total words to date…… 5430
Day 3…… 1204 words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 32708
Total fiction words for the year………… 325615
Total nonfiction words for the month… 7580
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 97560
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 423175

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 562 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novel Goal (15 novels)………………… 5 novels
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 25
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 3
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 175