Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The One-Sentence Foundation

Once you've figured out your heart and voice as a writer, you can move on to the work itself.  This is the part that looks so easy and often turns out to be so hard...maddeningly, discouragingly, heart-breakingly hard if you're not careful.  It doesn't take too long to figure out that there's more to it than just sitting down and writing.  You have to have a plan.  You wouldn't start building a house without a blueprint or hop in the car and drive somewhere unfamiliar without directions.  Jesus warns us in Luke 14:28-30 against building a tower without counting the cost.  While that passage refers to discipleship, the concept can apply here as well: If you try to start writing without a plan in mind, chances are you're going to have an unfinished tower of your own.  I know because I've been there, done that.

Fortunately, I've learned a good way to help plan my writing, and now I want to pass it on to you.  The first step is a one-sentence foundation.  Start out with one sentence that captures the main idea of your story, like a little blurb.  You probably should try for something longer than 5 words but shorter than 20, give or take.  Like a good blurb, it should not give away the ending.  It should be tantalizing, making you want to know more--and it's as much about tantalizing yourself as it is anyone else.  You have to make it something that you want to go back and build upon.  Here are a few examples:
  • A pro wrestler issues a challenge, only to have it accepted by an unexpected foe ("The Alabama Hammer").
  • A street preacher learns that the end of the world is coming much sooner than he expects ("Doomsday Falls on a Tuesday This Year").
  • A depressed young man develops a bizarre obsession with a flea market trinket ("Enamored").
The next step, of course, will be to build off of that one-sentence foundation, which we will discuss next time.  Until then, Philippians 4:13.--SMS

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