If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a story haunting you. It’s tapping you on the ‘creative shoulder’ and asking you to be the one to ‘tell’ it.
Or … maybe a setting has inspired your imagination?
Maybe a character or several characters have turned up and they’re showing you what’s happening in their lives. And you’re ready to write what you’re seeing, hearing, and experiencing.
Maybe your characters are struggling with a personal, work or life problem, and now they’ve walked into your imagination, taken a seat on the couch and started talking to you as if you’re their creative therapist!
Maybe, you’ve got something important you want to say through story and it’s the theme that fascinates you. Maybe you’d like to write a story that ‘speaks’ to that theme and what it means to be human.
Or … maybe your story has been brewing in the depths of your imagination for some time now and you’re ready to take the plunge and write.
If you’ve been contemplating writing a story, no matter whether it is a brand new idea or one you’ve lived with for years, no matter if you’re a seasoned fiction writer or new to this writing gig, then I encourage you to get started. But before you dive in and start pecking at the keyboard to bring your characters to life, I’d like you to take a moment to think about why you want to write the story and what it means to you?
But, why ask yourself these questions? Why not just start writing? Who cares why you want to write the story?
Well, even though you may crave to write entertaining and engaging stories that capture your readers imagination and keeps them turning the pages, writers often have a deeper, more personal reason for wanting to tell the story in the first place.
And, it’s a good idea to explore your why so you know why you’ll keep trying even when no-one is asking you to write your novel.
Even when no-one cares that you’re writing.
Even when you’ve finally finished your novel and maybe you’re pitching it to agents and they’re passing on offering to represent you and your story to publishers.
Writing a novel is an long-term creative project for a lot of writers (myself included) and it can be hard to keep going, so knowing your deep and personal reason for showing up and doing the work anyway will help you to keep writing forward for months and years, and especially through the layered iterations and feedback that bring a fully immersive novel to life.
Not knowing why you want to write a novel isn’t strictly necessary to write a novel of course, but as a fiction coach I always ask my writing clients to think deeply about why they MUST write this particular story so they know their deep and personal reason for showing up to do the writing work.
Knowing your ‘why’ helps you to:
- stay motivated
- feel empowered to keep writing
- helps keep self-doubt at bay
- helps you to finish the first draft and many more after that too
- brings insight into the deeper themes and story point you want to explore in the story
- helps you to figure out the point of your story so that every scene in the story speaks to that point and reduces tangents in the story’s cause-and-effect trajectory
- to continue to stay motivated when you’re feeling stuck or fatigued from the marathon of a long form writing project or you just need a boost
- refreshes your creative belief in yourself to keep going and bring your story into the world
Writing a novel can take years and many iterations. I think of it as a layered process, and at times, it can be tough staying with the story that first inspired us to write, so reviewing your ‘why’ will help you to return to the kernel of inspiration that helped you take the leap of faith to write your novel in the first place. That’s empowering!
So, no matter where you are in the writing process, I invite you to consider:
- What does writing this specific story mean to you? Like deep down, or hidden in your heart. Go on, be honest. Get deep and go beyond wanting to make money from it or build a career. Get to the heart of what writing this story means to you.
Right now, I invite you to whip out a personal journal or open a new word document, and write a paragraph about what writing this particular story means to you.
- What do you really want to say to the reader? Get specific. Is there a situation or a message, or a point you’d love to convey to the reader? Go straight there and write a sentence or two about that, and then write WHY this message means so much to you. Think about what it means to you and write about that. Digging deep and exploring the layers of what this means to you will help you to discover a deeper level to why you’re writing your story.
- What will it mean to you to nurture this specific story and bring it into the world? Take a moment to imagine your story complete. It’s a short story or a short story in an anthology, or a complete novel. You’re holding it in your hands. Turning it over and marvelling at what you’ve creatively brought into the world. Now write a paragraph about what it meant to you to go through all the ups and downs of writing this story, and write about why you persevered through all the feedback and editorial corrections to bring it to your readers.
Now, read your answers to these questions. What have you discovered about why this story is important to you? What is driving you to write and keep writing? Have you discovered a deeper message you’re inspired to weave into your story now?
This is gold.
This is your ‘why’!
Keep coming back to it whenever you need to.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope you’ve found it helpful. Keep writing your stories and strengthening your fiction writing craft, and happy writing!
What I’m writing now… for those who are interested!
After completing my coaching certification, I have turned my attention back to writing novels. Each novel I have written so far has taught me so much about the process of writing fiction and sticking with it even in the toughest of times. I’ve also learned that nothing is ever wasted when we write stories, and even if something doesn’t work out, there are learnings that will enrich the next story we write. And as I’ve moved through the coaching course, I’ve learned how amazingly valuable coaching questions are and how feedback strengthen my fiction. I love that!
Recently, I have been writing an ‘inside outline’ for my own cozy paranormal mystery novel. I love mysteries. Especially cozy mysteries (or cosy mysteries for British English buffs). I also love paranormal and speculative fiction elements mixed with adventure and horror beats, so that’s what I’m working on in my story.
I’ve also weaved in romantic elements (which isn’t a full romance because it is a sub-plot not the main plot) into the story and I have been working with certified coach and author of The Red Fletch, Margaret McNellis, to develop my story, characters, conflict and structure of this story, and how I’ve been discussing options on how I can plan for it to become a series too. Writing a mystery is so much fun but it’s complex because characters have secrets, some lie, others refuse to tell the sleuth what they know, and there’s a lot of threads to weave together so the reader doesn’t figure out who did the deed before I want them to find out.
Margaret McNellis is a kind and caring coach who has met me where I am as a writer, and I’ve found working with her to be fun, insightful and her use of tarot has helped bring insight to the story and characters. I loved the experience. It was fantastic. The coaching questions Margaret has asked has helped me to develop my character’s motivations, and her understanding of story has also been invaluable during the process of developing my mystery. It’s been a delight to work with a coach solely on my own story. The investment, for me, has been truly valuable and I’m inspired to keep writing forward.
In recent months I’ve also written two short stories. One is a horror and the other a memoir. My amazing friend, editor and mentor, Lauren Daniels, author of Serpent’s Wake: a tale for the Bitten, taught me how to bring out the emotional truth through the scenes. It was an emotional experience, and I learned so much about showing over telling, and how to get to the heart of emotional truth in stories.
In July, I submitted the horror short story to an anthology call out but it didn’t make the cut … this time! But the experience was excellent. I learned a lot about submitting stories for anthology calls.
Now, I’ve submitted both stories to the Write Around the Murray AlburyCity short story award competition. It’s was an open call with no specific genres required, but the stories had to be original work, not previously published and under 3000 words. Tick, tick, and tick for both stories. So we’ll see how they go.
Overall, I’m very happy with stepping out of my comfort zone and putting my stories in the anthology call out and competition. It’s not easy to put out creative work but who knows, one day they may find a publication that resonates and they’ll both get published. The important thing is mind-set and being willing to be brave. If the stories get passed for publication (that’s nicer than saying they get ‘rejected’), I’ll keep them for the next opportunity, and in the meantime I’ll keep writing new short stories.
That’s it from me. Below is how to contact me if you’re interested in working with me as a fiction coach.
Until next time happy creative writing!
If you’re working on a story and interested in fiction coaching and want some one-to-one help, consider applying for fiction coaching. To do that, head over to my contact page and let me know about your story and what your goals are. Be sure to add your email address and I’ll be in touch with a Q&A form to get more information so I know how I can best help.
Please note: I am based in Australia, but if you’re in another country, I offer email and zoom coaching on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Aussie times. I have worked with writers both in Australia and the United States with ease. We work out a mutual time on the world clock and get to work.