Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writing advice? Love the monster that is your story

Are there tips and tricks for becoming a successful writer?  Sure.  The most common tip is the one that really counts:  Get your backside into a chair and write.  It’s also the advice that is sometimes the hardest to follow, especially when you’re feeling tired or stressed or inadequate.  We’ve all been there.

But I have another important tip:  Write the story you love.  If you don’t love your story, if you’re not invested in your characters and what is going to happen to them, you won’t persevere.  Writing a novel is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  You are going to spend hundreds of hours agonizing over plot and character motivation.  You will be on the brink of despair as you invest yet another block of your precious time struggling with an awkward paragraph, rewriting and reordering sentences, perhaps in the end to discard the paragraph entirely.  You might spend a whole week on a chapter and be proud of your efforts, only to go back to it later to decide that it’s total dreck.

That’s all part of the deal, the way that writing a novel works.  Perhaps there are some writers out there who are consistently serene and always productive, but I don’t know any.  Writing a long work is agony.  It can also be tremendously satisfying, which is why we writers even attempt it, but I can guarantee that there will be times when you will question yourself and the worth of your work.  Sometimes, your story-in-progress will be a monster.

Which leads me to my point:  You have to write the story that engages you on every level, about characters who charm and infuriate you, and you have to send those characters into situations that are terrible and terrifying.  Write the story you are compelled to write because in spite of all the drudgery and discouragement, it’s the story that speaks deeply to you and you just can’t abandon it.  Write the story that you can embrace wholeheartedly in spite of all the difficulties.  Write the story you love. 

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Big Mike said...

And be realistic, not PC, not what you thing someone in the main stream media will smile about, not where there's no anger or pain or true lustful thoughts (least for male characters.) JMTC but be real.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

Amen, sister. Struggling to love my monster this morning - thanks for the reminder!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

All true.

We have to squeeze out the blood to get to the bones. Writing is a painful and painstaking process.