How to Write a Story

How to Write a Story

Bravo! You know an amazing, inspirational woman who rocks, and you want to write a story about her. Maybe you admire her from afar, maybe you know her personally - she may even be YOU! So where do you to start?

One of many ways

We started by researching (hey - that's a good place for you to start too!), to find out what the best writers in the world say about writing. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of international best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, says:

“Nobody can tell you how to succeed at writing (even if they write a book called “How To Succeed At Writing”) because there is no WAY; there are, instead, many ways. Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently – sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess.”
(For more of Gilbert's inspirational thoughts on writing, click here. For our five-step way to write a story about the amazing woman you know, read on!)

Step 1: Find out more about her
This is the research part. It gives you a foundation upon which to build the story. It should also generate ideas and get your creative juices flowing.

  • Make notes, write your ideas down.
  • Get her CV, resume or “bio” and/or “Google” her
  • Read / watch / listen to other stuff about her
  • Ask her friends and relatives about her
  • If you know her, reflect on your personal experiences with her and what she has meant to you and others
  • Experience her (e.g. go to where she volunteers or works, look at her art, visit her shop, buy her products, read her book, talk to her kids, taste her food, listen to her music, etc.

Step 2: Ask yourself what makes her special
This is also research. It helps you to focus your ideas and gives you a framework for the interview. It should get those creative juices flowing even faster!

  • What interests you about her?
  • How is she different from other people?
  • What impact has she had on you? Family? Community? Country? The world?
  • Has she achieved things that are unique? Faced many challenges? Overcome particularly difficult circumstances?
  • Does she have an area in which she shines above all others?

Step 3: Prepare for and conduct an 'interview'
If you’ve never done an interview before, don’t worry, it’s just like a conversation, except one person asks more questions and listens more than the other!

  • Agree a time and place that’s relaxed and comfortable for both of you
  • Make a list of questions you would like to ask (based on the research you’ve done in Steps 1 & 2). Basic questions include who, what, when, where, why, how, how many and how much? (To download a list of interesting questions asked by William Elliott in his wonderful book Tying Rocks to Clouds, click here.)
  • Conduct the interview/have the conversation.  You don’t have to stick to the questions you’ve prepared, use them as a guideline, let the conversation take you where it will. Make lots of notes. You may also want to record the interview (audio and/or video), so you don’t miss anything.

Step 4: Write the story
It doesn’t matter if you've never written a story before, the important thing is to try. Let the words flow from your heart. Write like you talk, don’t worry about style, grammar or mistakes.
    •    Start anywhere. Write one word. Then another. Then a sentence. Keep writing until you feel you have said all there is to say about her.
    •    Describe her and her achievements.
    •    Within the larger story, capture who she is by telling small stories that show the qualities that make her special and different.
    •    Quote her using her own words.
    •    When you’re finished, put the story aside for a few days.

Step 5: Edit, edit, edit, then submit!
This is when you polish your story and give it final touches that will make it “sing.”
    •    Chop and change, reorder, expand on interesting parts, delete “fat.”
    •    Use active sentences, descriptive words and vivid language.
    •    Shorten sentences, shorten words, be concise.
    •    Ask someone else to read your draft and make suggestions.
    •    Do a spelling and grammar check, make final changes and submit!

Read other stories on AWR to get more ideas.
Your story doesn't have to be a masterpiece of modern literature.

Simple words spoken from the heart create lasting impact.

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