It’s no fun to write if you’re not truly and deeply passionate about what you’re writing. It can be done, of course, but it’s not fun. Sure, at some point any writing will be “work.” But, let’s be honest here, you should at least LIKE what you’re writing about at some point in the process. But, like and love are different.
When you find subject matter that you are interested in, passionate about, that deeply fuel your imagination, the stories follow.
One writing coach I had made us write lists of plots, character tropes, themes, and other elements of stories we are drawn to when we find ourselves devouring a book/movie/piece of content. When we put those pieces together, we can create a story that fuels us so deeply that, even though it’s still work, it at least holds our interest. This is what I consider a story-love over a story-like.
If you love what you do, it will still feel like work. However, you will love the work on good days and tolerate it on the bad days. That means, you’ll still show up. To somebody who has a really hard time showing up for their writing, that feels like magic.
Story-loves fill your mind at all times of days. They leave you obsessively scribbling plot notes in the margins of your planner and rushing to your notebook after a shower or while your brushing your teeth. Even during the worst section of writers block, you show up to the writing session to hammer out a few sentences because you know the only way through it is to keep asking questions to find the right key for the door.
A story-like is a story that burns brightly at first then after a few chapters feels like there was nothing more to tell. It’s a few great characters but the wrong plot. It’s a really strong plot through the wrong character’s eyes. Story-likes can become story-loves. It’s all about how much work and communication you’re willing to put forth for it.
Story-like to Story-love
- Know what you want to say and say it clearly – Every story says something no matter if you plan it or not, so you might as well figure it out from the start. Find your themes, your topics, and your tropes. How are you communicating what you intended? Are your themes/tropes/characters coming across the way you want? Are the right questions presented in the beginning and are they answered by the end? Stories have purpose.
- Characters grow – Every character in your book will grow and change. Don’t just focus on your main characters. Everybody is fighting their own battle and sometimes it shows more than others. More importantly, not every journey is wrapped up nice and clean with a bow at the end. Sure, your main story might follow one arc that does in fact have a satisfying conclusion, but that doesn’t mean they’ve figured out how to be the perfect being.
- Make something happen – Cause and effect is how we learn. I’m so bad at making my characters suffer, but it’s how they learn and grow. They say something and hurt somebody else. They betray the trust of the one they love and must deal with the consequences later on. People are not perfect, and they will make big mistakes (yes this will make readers mad, but at least they are feeling something). More importantly, their choices have consequences and if you’re a lucky writer, those consequences will be BIG.
- Focus on what you’re interested in – If you love crochet, don’t be afraid to include it in your book. If you’re super interested in the psychology behind child raising, research it and put it in a book. Love reality TV? Guess what, that too can be worked into your story. Whatever it is that is going to push you forward in working on your story should be what you’re writing. Don’t worry about if it will sell well or if an agent will like it. If you’re not even agented or vying for your next book contract, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. Your main concern is FINISHING THE BOOK! Even if you are agented, going after your next contract, or even writing for a loyal following, experimenting with a story about what you’re interested and what you love cannot be anything but good for your writing. Practice makes perfect, right?
Writing a story that holds content you LOVE will come across so much more genuine than anything written for a specific market. Of course, everything has its reader and some books will be more niche than others. But, I full-heartedly believe that stories find their readers. That’s the magic of them.