Recently, I went back through spiral-bound stories I created when I was eight. It was entertaining to see drawings of flowers with superpowers and every other character named Ashely (actual spelling).
However, going through my earliest writing helped me learn something about my own current writing style. In these old stories, the “Ashely” was almost always an ideal version of myself. She wasn’t me, but she was who I wanted to be at the time. And she had no flaws.
She didn’t make mistakes, either. In each story’s climax, the first thing she tried to do to solve the problem was always successful.
Since then, I’ve learned the importance of internal conflict and throwing my characters into situations they don’t always believe they can get out of. But I still sometimes feel myself holding back and making sure my protagonist is okay.
We need to know that our characters will not always be okay. They can face moral dilemmas and not know which way to go. They can experience depression and anxiety like us. They can make mistakes. Our stories become more interesting with these realistic complexities.
I’m trying to learn that I am not my character’s protector. My job is to throw things at her so she can struggle – and maybe succeed – but ultimately grow.
I'm rooting for you
My little protagonist
Facing my fiction
Have you ever faced the unfortunate conundrum of having to stop plodding along on your current story because a new story idea comes by that seems so much better?
This happens to me all the time, and it’s not such a bad thing in and of itself. You can’t complain too much about having too many ideas! You will always be pumped to write something.
The difficulties arise when you start latching on to every new story idea that comes your way and immediately abandoning the one you were working on. I think this is why so many people don’t finish their novels, or other projects, for that matter. It is all too easy to pick up a new idea when the current one is feeling tricky.
Don’t give in to that urge! Unless you can tell that you are truly stuck on your current project, keep with it. Jot those juicy new ideas down in a notebook for later and finish! That! Novel! It may not be the easy thing to do, but your characters (and your future readers!) will thank you for it.
Beneath the surface
All these stories simmering
Aching to be told
One of my crafts on a whim during quarantine was creating a mini copy of my young adult book, One Hundred Words. So of course I had to do a photo op!
As you can see from today’s haiku, my writer dead giveaway is finding near-constant ink on my fingers. Not usually like in the photo, but still. Somehow, even when I work on a project using mostly my laptop, I still manage to walk around with ink stains, and I’m proud of it.
Do you have a writer dead giveaway? A laptop where the letters on the keys are worn off? A desk chair with your imprint in the cushion?
I’ve learned through experience that you can’t be a writer if you don’t write, and write regularly. I think the most important thing you can do for your writing is to create a routine. I haven’t been able to keep up a long-term consistent routine since working on One Hundred Words. This month, I’ve done more thinking about writing than writing itself. Routines are easy to plan, but hard to maintain, so I’m still trying to learn how to do that, even after years. But if I find ink on my fingers today, and then tomorrow, and then the next day, I’ll know I’m heading in the right direction.
Ink on my fingers
Tells the story of late hours
Worlds that stay with me