Tim Sorrensen on Writing

Jack Tyler has asked me to talk to you about writing, about how I construct my short stories, about the nuts and bolts of the craft I love so much.

At first, I refused. After all, I’m the new kid on the block. I’m a student not a teacher. Who would even listen, right?

Then Jack said, “Tim. If you can only help one struggling writer out there, then it would be wonderful and worthwhile.”

So, here I am, sweaty palms and all.

The plan is not to teach you anything. I’m simply here to demonstrate my process of starting with a blank screen and ending up with a story, step by step.

The example story we’re going to use is about 2000 words and is here for your reference https://threadsthatbind.net/tim-sorrensen/

It was an entry for a writing contest. The two-part prompt was a contract and a bounced cheque.

I always write my notes into the drafts, rather than have a separate document for them. The notes are deleted as the drafts progress, leaving only the story at the end. Please excuse the errors in my notes.

If I feel like writing any part of the story, even if it’s not in order, I go ahead and write that part.

The following is what I typed onto a blank screen:


Prompt: A contract/bounced cheque.

A story about a writer who makes a deal with the devil, trading success and money for their very soul. Or what if the story is about a succession of writers, and each one makes a bad contract with a literary agency, for a certain number of books. They get to enjoy their success until the last book is written and then they die and the agency gets their soul. The agent then cons the next family member into the same bad deal, the exact same way and it goes on and on, with the bad guys winning.

Scene1: Shows a very successful author doing his thing. People camp overnight at bookshops to buy his books. Like a new smartphone release.

Scene2: Author number one is dead. The next author in line is his niece, a librarian, like the Brisbane City Council librarian at Mt. Ommaney. She gets a phone call from her uncle’s agent in New York. He tells her about a new book idea that her uncle had and suggests she write the next book.

Scene3: Funeral in the rain. Black umbrellas. The agent bumps into the librarian and convinces her to step up to the plate. He gives a story outline to start her off.

Scene4: (inciting incident: for her at least) She writes the first book and the agent sends her the contracts. It’s a bestseller. She quits her job. Her life changes. She marries a famous guy and they have a boy. They divorce. All her books, one a year, are best sellers. Her boy is now grown up. She gets tired of writing. The agent freaks and tells her she can’t do that. Her laptop finishes the book for her. She dies.

Scene5: Repeat The Incident tool: Repeat scene three with her now dead and the agent cons her son at the funeral (verbatim) to write the next book. Maybe use Mark Greaney’s scene setting tool for scenes 3 and 5 to make them stand out.

S3.  Misty, grey clouds hung low above the cemetery, puffy in the damp afternoon air, and rained a fine drizzle over the ocean of black umbrellas moving towards the carpark.

            The service was over. Some lamenters mingled in solemn groups, catching up with rarely seen relatives or friends.

            Jules Sinclair and Isabel watched the line of departing cars from a coffee shop across the road . . .

S1. (Use writer intrusion tool and break the rules by going from first to third.) What if I told you . . .? I know why some great writers die early. Would you listen? Would you believe?

            Well . . . believe or not, this is how it happens.

            Every time Jack J. Novak wrote a new book, his fans lined-up at bookshops all over the world . . .


That’s all for today. If there is an interest, we can dissect the second draft in the next article. I’m happy to discuss the writing tools I’ve picked up by studying the work of great writers, and I can show you how to make them your own, if you wish.

Any questions?

One response to “Tim Sorrensen on Writing”

  1. Fabulous article, Tim, just what I was hoping for when I conned you into this.

    I first encountered the talented Mr. Sorrensen at writing.com where his ability to add a gut-wrenching twist to a mundane situation blew me away time and time again. If you haven’t read Twenty-nine yet (linked in the post above) I most strongly suggest that you do. I’m really hoping that Tim might eventually talk about those incredible twists as his posts go along; that’s a skill I’d certainly like to polish!

    Tim makes a point of citing his inexperience as a reason not to take him too seriously. Don’t you believe a word of it! His stories show the unmistakable mark of one who understands exactly what he’s about, and anyone, experienced or not, looking to up their writing game would do well to pay attention and take notes. Thanks for answering the call, my friend. I have no doubt that somebody somewhere is going to be a better writer because of your efforts. I hope we see you around again soon and often!

    Liked by 1 person

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