Despite my resolutions to read more essays, non fiction articles and factual pieces, fiction is and I think will always be my favourite form of the written word. Settling down before bed and frantically swiping the pages on my screen fills me with the kind of delight no other type of entertainment has been able to do but, trying to write it has been a totally different experience. November was the first time that I took my ambitions of writing fiction seriously. Yes I would labour away at the pieces of creative writing I did at school and every summer I would find an empty notebook and declare that I was writing a book, but my ongoing NaNoWriMo project is the only serious story writing project that has ever lasted more than a couple of months. It’s been an experience to say the least, one that for the most part has been enjoyable but I’ve certainly learnt more about writing in the past 5 months than I thought was possible. So as part of my mission to never let an experience good or bad go to waste I thought that I would share some of those lessons here with you .
Do it because you love it not because you aim to gain something from it
I have these beautiful and slightly misguided writer’s fantasies. I’m not saying that I sit in bed imagining myself doing author talks at conferences and 20 minute long standing ovation worthy TedTalks about writing fiction, but I’m not saying that I don’t. When I began NaNoWriMo my goal was to reach the word count, to be able to walk away at the end of the month able to say I’d written 50,000 words in 30 days and finished a novel before my 18th birthday. I didn’t, but a few months later, after forcing myself to write more regularly and planning out scenes whenever I had a spare moment, I found myself falling in love with my story and the characters. I was slowly beginning to realise why November had been such a struggle. I started writing fiction because I loved to, but somewhere along the line my preoccupation with ‘success’ and if I’m being quite honest fame began to take it’s toll on my passion. Once I returned to writing out of love and a desire to tell the story that had been placed in my heart, the words just began to stream out and in the moments where it was difficult I was able to continue out of love.
Don’t stick with a story that your heart doesn’t flutter at the thought of completing
Life is too short to spend hours slaving away at a story you don’t love.
Write a combination of what you know and what fascinates you
My life is really not that interesting. For an 18 year old I’ve had a limited number of ‘teenage experiences’ and in comparison to my friends and the characters whose stories I’ve enjoyed the most I felt as if I wasn’t interesting enough to tell a story. Whenever I was looking for writing advice I always came across the phrase ‘write what you know’ which would frustrate me to no end. I would try to write these extravagant stories of adventure and tragedy but I just had zero experience with that leaving my writing bland and unbelievable. With the story that I’m writing right now, instead of writing something I think other people will find interesting I’m finding a lot of inspiration from sitting in front of a screen or notepad and just writing my own internal monologue mixed in with the things; love, friendship and restlessness that occupy my thoughts and interest me. Rather than dwelling on the reasons why my life is not interesting enough to write about, I’m drawing on the little events and momentary feelings I’ve experienced and magnifying them to create something that I think is great.
There is no person or obligation that will push you to work harder than your own desire to create
Word count goals and writing buddies are helpful but, if you’re not pushing yourself to write none of those things will have a significant effect on your work.
There’s a whole world of stories outside of your comfort zone
I don’t want to say too much about what I’m writing because if I’m being honest I change a major part of the story each week, but one of the things I’ve done that I never thought I would was write from a male point of view. I’m not a boy and I have no idea what goes on in their heads but a few months in I knew that in order for my story to feel whole and carry the tone I was going for I needed to write from two perspectives. Doing so has proved to be even more challenging than I first thought, but it’s also allowed me to really grow as a writer and learn how to see the world from a viewpoint that I will never truly experience, hopefully the risk will pay off.
Love and Light