The advice “write what you know” can be disheartening. If you’re like me, you probably feel like you don’t “know” much. How can we write what we know if what we know has been mundane and ordinary?
I’ve got good news for you. You know more than you think.
We all know that transforming characters and a driving plot make for great stories. Something we discuss less is how contrasting ideals—and the conflict they create—can also enrich a story.
This week in the United States we will be celebrating the signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1776. Thinking on the ideal of independence has had me pondering how philosophical convictions play a role in our stories. If used well, they can enhance the narrative allowing the story to transcend the characters and become something more.
In the short time that I’ve been a writer, I’ve learned a valuable secret that we writers don’t discuss often: a writer is only as good as his or her editors.
Receiving feedback and accepting criticism and edits isn’t easy. No one likes being told what they are doing wrong, especially when the thing being criticized is something we’ve poured our heart and soul into it. When I first started writing, I hated getting edits. Now I pursue edits and editors with vigor.
Sometimes writing can feel like a race. We rush to finish the next manuscript or the next novel or the next short story. We try to be factories that churn out narratives that will sell. We jump from one project to the next because we’ve been told consumers demand a constant flow of new things to devour.
This race can be exhausting and discouraging. In the midst of it, we can lose sight of the fact that writing, like any art, is a craft that needs to be practiced to be perfected. There is value in slowing down, taking a break from larger works, and practicing small things.
You’ve spent countless hours pondering the plot, creating the characters’ voices, and building the perfect twist at the end that will leave readers speechless. Once everything is as good as you can make it, you publish your writing and wait. . . .
But no one reads your masterpiece.
Unfortunately, in our content-saturated age, if you don’t grab people by the throat, pull them in close, and yell, “Pay attention to me!” with your first paragraph, they won’t stick around to read the amazing story you’ve crafted. Here’s how to write an opening paragraph that will draw your readers in and keep them reading to the end.