31 May 2018

Writing tip & task 3/7: Simplify your story in two sentences

Lisa O'Donnell, author and tutor
by Anna Davis Events, Writing Tips

Day 3: The third writing tip and task in our 7-day challenge are provided by Lisa O’Donnell – fabulous tutor of many of our online novel-writing courses – and mentor of best-selling and award-winning Jane Harper, as well as quite a few more of our published CBC alumni. Lisa famously asks all her students to write their story-line on a post-it note and stick it to their computers so that it’s in front of them the whole time they’re writing. And she believes that if you can’t do that, there’s something wrong with your story … Here’s her tip, in tweet form:

Over-complicated storylines make dull narratives and slow pens. Simplifying your story to a few sentences, and jotting them down on a post-it-note to stick in front of you while you work, will keep you focused on what you’re writing

And here’s her task:

Think about what’s at the heart of your story; what’s really essential to it. Write your storyline in no more than two sentences. You might like to put it on a post-it note too – the way I do

Bear in mind, for this task, that we’re not asking for your elevator pitch – this isn’t an exercise in selling your novel, so we don’t need you to talk about genre or use selling-language. This is a way of getting to the crux of your story and keeping that clearly in view as you write. This one’s for you, to help you figure out what you’re really writing about. If you’d like to see more of what Lisa has to say about the importance of story, take a look at her blog.

Lisa O’Donnell is teaching our next six-month online course – you can find out more and apply here. The course also offers the Marian Keyes Scholarship – a fully funded place for a writer with low income.

Or you can browse our full range of creative writing courses here.

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