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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Turning Ideas into Stories, part III, Contests

This is the third and final part of my article on techniques to turn your ideas into stories. These ideas work equally well for professional writers and writers in the classroom.

Add dialog to give life to the character. Dialog should sound real, not be real. When people talk, our words usually flow freely out of our mouths and the conversation can be boring reading. We often add uh and um and get sidetracked in our thoughts. Dialog should stay focused.

Develop a plot outline based on your idea. Add conflict and a solution. The outline helps you determine where your story is going and how to get there. Use the outline to help figure out how to get the character out of the mess you’ve created for him/her.

Write the first draft. The first draft won’t be your best writing but it will be a start in developing the idea. The first draft is the starting point, not the finish line. This is the place to let creative juices flow. Experiment with the plot and dialog. You are expected to make mistakes, and lots of them, in the first draft. Follow the first draft with a series of revisions to add sparkle to the story.

Play with your idea and have fun with it. All writing has preliminary stages in which you discard some ideas and keep others. Twist and turn you idea into different plots to discover what works and what doesn’t. Give your ideas time to incubate and grow. If you’re having fun with the story, the reader will too. Figure out the methods that work for you and keep on writing. With writing and revision, you can develop your idea into your story.

Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose
The Eric Hoffer Award for short prose recognizes excellence in writing with a $500 prize and various honors and distinctions. Works of short prose must be less than 10,000 words, previously unpublished, or published with a circulation of less than 500. The winning prose and selected nominations are published annually in the anthology, Best New Writing.
Deadline: June 30, 2010

Details at

Go! Magazine Writing Contest
$500 prize for best short story (fiction). $500 prize for best article (nonfiction).
Special prize for best entry by student writer age 13 through 18.

Go!, an online magazine for 13- to 20-year-olds published by Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation, is sponsoring a writing contest.
We are soliciting previously unpublished work from published and unpublished authors, ages 13 and up.

Details at


  1. Hi Nancy, thanks for sharing Part III.

  2. You can check out the article on Pages in the column at the right.