Writing short stories
By Jim Watson
I enjoy writing stories. As a teacher, I often tell stories to illustrate a point. I don't know what will come of this, it may be nothing more than a hobby.
I love teaching, inspiring. A website is now my forum, my classroom.
The dream advanced calculus book movie music soundtrack interview talkshows.
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Advanced Calculus
Volume 4: Theorems and figures
For Rocket Scientists, Teachers, and Brain Surgeons, and Astrophysicists
A collection of stories by
James Robert Watson
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Foreword: Most of these stories are inspired by true events. Some names of characters have been changed to protect the innocent and be kind to the guilty.
Dedication and thanks: Jim & Lorraine Watson
Contents: Intro, Chapters, Exercises, Quizzes, Term Paper, Final Exam

Cover design: June 1, 2018
Minimal, clear cover layout to be easily seen from across the room or down the beach.
Vignelli black Helvetica on yellow or white on red.
Opposite of ‘For Dummies’
A book title, Advanced Calculus, that suggests that the reader is academic and intelligent - even while reading a collection of short stories. Great for reading while at the beach, on the bus, at the coffee shop. Instead of a title about a collection of stories, this one sounds quite impressive.

Title that would be impressive while reading in public: on the beach, in the airport, on the bus.

Other title options
(Titles that would  also be impressive while reading in public)
DIY Brain Surgery
Rocket Science . . . for Dummies

Menu of short stories

Story Worksheet
Summary “What’s your story about?”
30-second pitch for an editor, friend, cover blurb and book description.
Premise: interesting enough that the reader
wants to know what the answer is.
Basic plot situation
Name and identity of viewpoint character.
Main character's goal.
Name of major opposition (villain).
Villain’s goal, how they oppose the protagonist.
Beginning (exposition)
Introduce main character.
Create empathy with the main character.
Reveal character’s objective.
Introduce opposition, conflict.
Insure there is a hook so reader reads on.
Middle (development)
Develop characters, relationships, confrontations.
Stretch the tensions, raise the stakes - reader should be worried.
Character/opposition conflict, more significant.
Set up the climax, the inevitable conclusion.
End (dénouement).
Climax - final confrontation, inevitable aftermath.
Tie up loose ends.
* Nice: include element of sacrifice. Writing notes
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The most important habit: daily writing. Even if you only write a page or two. Some days will be good, some will be not so good. Sit down to write. It's you and the words and nothing else. It takes work. There will be days when you don't feel like writing - if you let that stop you, you'll never write a thing. It doesn't matter what you write, or whether it's any good. Just write.
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Short story: Length: 1,000 to 6,000 words. Few events that lead the main character to gain a single important insight. Value of telling stories - shamans, Disney, Help us understand ourselves and those around us. Better appreciate our environment.
"Detail writing is specific and interesting."
I wonder.
Go for the drama.
Show, don’t tell. Be specific.
Make it short.
Simple words. Simple sentences.
Most important part of communication - Clarity. Writer’s job is to communicate clearly. Purity of writing and storytelling.
Most important first sentence:
intrigue, pique interest, capture reader.
Develop empathy for characters.
Some conflict, opposition, barrier.
See through fresh eyes.
Consistent style, tone.
Avoid adverbs - use more descriptive word.
Emotion
An impulse that interrupts/clashes with desired behavior.
Provide a stimulus that produces a clash of desires in the character.
Make the clash so intense that It forces the character to choose among alternatives, each important to the character.
Make the character think (reflective delay) about his or her dilemma,
having to make a choice between the two supreme alternatives.
Describe the character's physical action (response) to the clash of desires.
Make the character's thinking lead to external action that shows which of the alternatives of supreme importance the character chooses.
Scene (external)
Goal
Conflct/obstacle
Disaster
Sequel (internal)
Reaction
Delimma
Decision
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Trite phrases
So, . . .
(I don’t need a bag) Are you sure?
(Sorry) Oh, you’re fine.
And now, without further ado . . .
• Don’t get me wrong.
Sit back and relax
Reach out
Out there (for sale, not in the studio)
It is what it is.
And, last, but not least . . .
I want to give back.
This phrase is a symptom that one is not a thinker, but a follower. The phrase is a trendy buzzword right now that sounds impressive and altruistic. But, for those who give to their community and are thinkers, the phrase doesn't make sense. What did they take? A person doesn't give 'back', one simply gives of him or herself.
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Inspiration tips from authors
Readers believe stories to be true -
they get emotionally involved.
Readers also believe stories are not true.
Author needs to create believability.
Heart of a good story: conflict, suffering, injustice. - John Grisham
I want to write like jkrowling or Stephen King but it's too hard for me. I'm demotivated. I'll never finish my book.
Rowling responded: Don't write like me. Write like you. Nobody else can do that. Finish that book.
You’re an author now. Joe Hight, Best of Books, March 23 2017, 7:23p
• A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper. - EB White
Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work. Writing lies in unrelenting persistence of effort and force of will. - Chuck Close
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. - Jack London
• The difference between those who want to write and those who do - those who do get up every day and do it. - Leonard Wolf
Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. - EL Doctorow
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. - Somerset Maugham
To create and re-create emotional states in a reader is an incredible high. - Packer
If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time - or the tools - to write. - Stephen King
If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things people do. - William Zinsser
Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. - Ernest Hemingway
Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. The old writer's rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. - Joshua Wolf Shenk
Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. - Mark Twain
Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there'll always be better writers than you and there'll always be smarter writers than you - but you are the only you. - Neil Gaiman
Don't say the moon is shining; show glint of light on broken glass - Anton Chekhov
Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out. - Kurt Vonnegut
Revision means throwing out the boring crap and making what's left sound natural - Laurie Halse Anderson
I rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times before I got the words right. - Ernest Hemingway
Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a dark room or overhearing a faint conversation. One writes mainly to rewrite. - Ted Solotaroff
Two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I have stamina. - John Irving
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Things to read
Good writer: John Jeremiah Sullivan
How to Write Better on Facebook
How to Write Better monthly newsletter
Writers on Writing, essays by NYTimes
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Journal thoughts
Thinking of a new career as a short story writer. I enjoy writing stories. As a teacher, I often told stories to illustrate a point. I don't know what will come of this - it may be nothing more than a hobby. Could be exciting. Stories in my head. Fits the notion of coming to NYC to write, while sitting on South Cove bench deciding to buy apt.
Pros: Lifestyle: work anywhere, set own hours; sell stories - make money; its fun.
Cons: Hard to make money, requires self-discipline, rejections.
Writing: escape or liberation.
Antidote to the chaos of the world.
Make a real world through imagination.
Don’t fear I’ll do it wrong.
Good enough can be good enough, at first.
Not the best line, just the next line.
Needs
Overcome fear
Structure, routine
Practice
Discover style
Get more comfortable
Overcome excuses
Why write
Inspire, enlighten, educate
Expression
Entertainment
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Self-Publish hire editor, design cover, marketing, print on demand.
Social: post news, stories, anecdotes, links
Author website
jrw.com, link transfer to jrw.author
Home
Author bio
Publicity photos/cover art, hi-res pdf & jpg
Press releases
Accolades, reviews
Where to buy
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The more you think about your book, talk about it, plan it, research it, read writing tips, etc - the longer your book isn't getting written. You can obsess about your book and be so absorbed in the process of creating it that it feels as though you've done work, when actually it's just sitting there with zero change to the wordcount, week after week, month after month.
A book won't write itself.
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Scott Adams, Dilbert
The Day You Became A Better Writer
Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.
Simple means getting rid of extra words. Don’t write, “He was very happy” when you can write “He was happy.” You think the word “very” adds something. It doesn’t. Prune your sentences.
Humor writing is a lot like business writing. It needs to be simple. The main difference is in the choice of words. For humor, don’t say “drink” when you can say “swill.”
Your first sentence needs to grab the reader. Go back and read my first sentence to this post. I rewrote it a dozen times. It makes you curious. That’s the key.
Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers aren’t as smart as you’d think.
Learn how brains organize ideas. Readers comprehend “the boy hit the ball” quicker than “the ball was hit by the boy.” Both sentences mean the same, but it’s easier to imagine the object (the boy) before the action (the hitting). All brains work that way. (Notice I didn’t say, “That is the way all brains work”?)
That’s it. You just learned 80% of the rules of good writing.
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Emma Coates, Pixar Story Artist.
You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
• You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer.
They can be very different
• Simplify. Focus, Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll fee! like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
• What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them.
• Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously, Endings are hard, get yours work ing up front
• Finish your story, let go heven if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
• When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDNT happen next.
• Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
• Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
• Discount the first thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th - get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
• Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
• Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of?
That's the heart of it.
• If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
• What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
• No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
• Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
• You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can'tjust write'cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
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William Sydney Porter, 0. Henry.
The most important thing is to use characters you've crossed in your lifetime. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. All of my stories are actual experiences that I have come across during my travels. My characters are facsimiles of actual people I've known.
Most authors spend hours even days, laboring over outlines of stories that they have in their minds. But not I. In my way of thinking that's a waste of good time. I just sit down and let my pencil do the rest.
Many people ask me how I manage to get that final little twist in my stories. I always tell them that the unusual is the ordinary, rather than the unexpected. And if you start thinking about your own lives; I'm sure you'll discover just as many odd experiences as I've had.
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Connie Poole-Wesala
Grew up in Enid. Graduated UCO 1967.
Owned the house on 4th Street 2006-07.
MS from University of Minnesota, Winona
Admin Certification Northern Arizona Univ
Creative Writing Certif, Maricopa Comm Col
Began writing after retiring from education.
Lives in Gilbert AZ near her two children.
I had no idea that after I retired I would have published 3 novels. I love writing! I volunteer at an elementary and an after school program which give me a dose of being around students.
I spent a month in Paris last year - my third visit. Oxford, England is probably my second favorite place on earth. My life in the desert is a love/hate relationship - I get out of the heat in July & August and retreat to the mountains of northern Arizona.
I've always enjoyed movies, but this year has been exceptional. I've cried my way through nearly all of them: Lion yesterday, Fences, Manchester by the Sea, and LaLaLand. Now that the book is published, I can get back to my vegetable garden, friends, family, crafts, and reading. And will plan another European vacation.
How to write better Joshua Fields Millburn
Words are tools. Expand your vocabulary to make your writing more precise. There’s no need to use a ten-dollar word when a ten-cent word will suffice, but having more tools in your toolbox will allow you to select the most appropriate tool for the job. Sometimes you need an ax, sometimes you need a scalpel.
Do it daily. If you want to improve your writing, write every day - make it a daily habit.
Punctuation. Is. Pace. To add variety, velocity, and cadence to your writing, play around with different punctuation: periods, commas, em dashes, colons, semicolons. Short sentences communicate tension. Longer run-on sentences, on the other hand, help establish a frantic, hurried rhythm - a feeling that the pace is picking up as the words tumble onto the page.
Avoid throat-clearing. Um. So, Like. Ditch the nonsense and state your points.
Don’t waste the reader’s time. Our time and attention are two of our most precious resources. It is selfish to force a reader to spend 15 minutes reading something you could’ve and should’ve communicated in 1. If you want to earn your reader’s trust, don’t waste their time.
30% composition, 70% editing. For every hour you spend writing, spend three hours editing, shaping your work into something more concise, more powerful - more beautiful. Writing truly is rewriting.
Narrative urgency. Every sentence must serve a purpose: Your first sentence must make the reader want to read the second. The second sentence must propel the reader to the third. So forth and so on until the very end. If a sentence doesn’t move the narrative forward, if it doesn’t make the writing more urgent, then it must hit the cutting room floor, no matter how clever or precious it seems.
Avoid too many adverbs. A sure sign of amateur writing is the overuse of adverbs, especially -ly adverbs. A woman in a story isn’t incredibly pretty - she’s beautiful; the sky isn’t very blue - it’s azure. Find the right words to avoid using adverbs as crutches.
Learn the rules so you can break them effectively.
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How to Write Eric Barker
1) Know where you’re going. When you know what your ending is, then you know what you’re writing. It may change as you’re writing. You don’t have to know every detail of it.
Good stories are built on the word “but”, not the word “and.” This insures that there are twists and turns, and a relationship between what came before and what will come after.
Good writing requires revising and rearranging the order of what you introduce so that the reader can easily follow it.
2) How To Surprise The Reader - defy expectations. Know your genre and what your audience expects - you’ll know what you need to do to surprise them. Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don’t pull the wool over the reader’s eyes, then it’s unlikely to be memorable. It’s precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting. 
3) How To Write Like A Professional
Be a perfectionist, which leads to rewriting. If you aren’t continually identifying what isn’t working you can’t make it better. Flow is pleasurable - but it doesn’t make you better. You’re always working at the edge of your comfort zone, not in a blissful state of flow.
Complete something every day - motivation is the feeling of progress.
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Planning the story
Summary “What’s your story about?”
30-second pitch that you can give to an editor or publisher, what you will be saying at book shows and conferences, and the cover copy blurb and book description.
Produce a brief (<150 words) statement: move story along the change of character:
• Basic plot situation
• Name and identity of viewpoint character.
• Main character's goal.
• Name of major opposition (villain).
• Description of what the villain wants and how they oppose the protagonist.
Structuring the story
• Conflict does not need to be against an external force - can be internal conflict.
• Give the character two things he desperately wants, and make him choose between them (love versus power).
• Character and opposition need to be evenly matched and bonded together – no option to just walk away.
• Constantly escalate conflicts, the climax is the target and the rest of the story is the hero's path.
Beginning (exposition)
• Introduce main character/opposition: situation, overarching conflict, story world.
• Create a bond with the main character.
• Reveal character’s objective.
• Insure there is a hook so reader reads on.
Doorway 1
• Character thrust forward into new life – a key step forward and overall conflict.
• Usually reluctantly - forced into it.
• Always irreversibly – point of no return.
Middle (development)
• Develop everything – characters, relationships, confrontations.
• Stretch the tensions and raise the stakes – reader should be worried..
• Conflict after conflict – thrust from lead character and opposition, getting increasingly more significant.
• Weave in subplots, but only to add to the main plot.
• Set up the climax, it should feel like the inevitable conclusion.
Doorway 2
• Character thrust forward again in the final conflict – the climax.
• Usually a major setback or crisis – which sets up a potential final solution.
End (dénouement).
• Climax of the story - the final confrontation and the inevitable aftermath.
• Need to tie up loose ends.
• Nice to include element of sacrifice.
• Poetic justice works well.
• Endings are positive/negative/ambiguous.
Dramatic question
• The overarching point of the story.
• Element of a character leads to a conflict leads to a conclusion.
• Should be linked to the protagonist's objective.
Premise
Should be interesting enough that the reader wants to know what the answer is.
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John Grisham Suggestions for Writing
1. WRITE A PAGE EVERY DAY
That's about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you'll have a novel that's long enough. Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.
2. DON’T WRITE THE FIRST SCENE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LAST
This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet one who admits to using an outline.
Plotting takes careful planning. Writers waste years pursuing stories that eventually don't work.
3. WRITE YOUR ONE PAGE EACH DAY AT THE SAME PLACE AND TIME
Early morning, lunch break, on the train,
late at night - it doesn't matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door. No exceptions, no excuses.
4. USE QUOTATION MARKS WITH DIALOGUE
Please do this. It's rather basic.
5. DON’T USE A THESAURUS
There are three types of words:
a. words we know.
b. words we should know.
c. words nobody knows.
Forget those in the 3rd category and use restraint with those in the 2nd. A common mistake by new authors is using jaw-breaking vocabulary. It's frustrating and phony.
6. READ EACH SENTENCE AT LEAST 3 TIMES IN SEARCH OF WORDS TO CUT
Most writers use too many words, and why not? We have unlimited space and few constraints.
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Stephen King’s writing tips
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
Stories consist of 3 parts:
1. narration, which moves the story from point A to point B.
2. description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader.
3. dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.
The situation comes first. The characters - always flat and unfeatured to begin with - come next.
Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.
The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a what-if question.
The best stories always end up being about the people, rather than the event.
Avoid the passive tense: something is being done to the subject of the sentence. The subject is just letting it happen.
Talk, whether ugly or beautiful, is an index of character.
Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.
The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
Set a daily writing goal. As with physical exercise, set this goal low at first.
Call that one person you write for Ideal Reader. He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time.
If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.
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Writing
• ”A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper." - EB White
• ”inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work." Writing lies in unrelenting persistence of effort and force of will. - Chuck Close
• "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are." - W Somerset Maugham
• ”Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - EL Doctorow
• ”The difference between those who want to write and those who do - those who do get up every day and do it." - Leonard Wolf
• "To create and re-create emotional states in a reader is an incredible high." - Packer
Writing time
The most important habit you can form is the daily writing habit. Even if you only write a page or two in a day. Some days will be good, some will be not so good. Sit down to write. Block out all distractions, especially Internet and email. It's you and the words and nothing else.
It takes work. There will be days when you don't feel like writing. But if you let that stop you, you'll never write a thing. It doesn't matter what you write, or whether it's any good. Just start.
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Good writer: John Jeremiah Sullivan
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"Detail writing is more specific and interesting."
Theme element throughout stories?
Symbolic items? Minimalism?
I wonder.
Go for the drama.
Make it short.
I enjoy writing stories. As a teacher, I often tell stories to illustrate a point. I don't know what will come of this, it may be nothing more than a hobby. Thinking of a new career as a writer - short stories, blogs. Could be exciting. Stories in my head. Fits the notion of coming to NYC to write, while sitting on South Cove bench deciding to buy apt.
Pros: Lifestyle: work anywhere, set own hours; sell stories - make money; its fun
Cons: Hard to make money, requires self-discipline, rejections
Writing: escape or liberation. Antidote to the chaos of the world.
Make my world real through my imagination.
Don’t fear I’ll do it wrong. Good enough can be good enough, at first.
Not the best line, just the next line.
Needs
• Overcome fear
• Structure, routine
• Practice
• Discover style
• Get more comfortable
• Overcome excuses
Why write
• Inspire, enlighten, educate
• Expression
• Entertainment
Value of telling stories - shamans, Disney, Help us understand ourselves and those around us. Better appreciate our environment.