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What Should I Write? Tags: writing techniques

Sometimes when I sit down to write I wonder what should I write. How can I create a story that is so original and astounding that readers will be immediately enthralled by it? What sort of story do I need to write to do that? I’m under a lot of pressure before I even pick up my pen or tap the keyboard.  

A writer friend of mine often says that he wants to create edgy writing. Another writer friend of ours says she’s not sure what he means. It’s a term I’ve heard bandied about recently in relation to writing and it seems to be something many of my writer friends are striving for. I think I know what my friend is talking about but, just to be sure, I looked up ‘edgy’ in Dictionary.com.

Here’s the 3 definitions it gives: 

  1. nervously irritable; impatient and anxious.
  2. sharp-edged; sharply defined, as outlines.  
  3. daringly innovative; on the cutting edge.

I imagine my writer friend doesn’t mean ‘nervously irritable’ or ‘sharp-edged’ writing. So I assume he must be referring to ‘daringly innovative’. So, is this the type of writing I need to produce to enthrall my readers? My friend is passionate about developing this writing style but I’m afraid I don’t share his enthusiasm for pushing the boundaries in writing. It’s just not my style. And I doubt many of the stories I’ve written will be ever be described as ‘edgy’.

So what do writers need to do to create stories that will be eagerly read? The answer may seem too simple but I think we need to write stories that our readers want to read.  One of the best reasons for creating a story in a particular style or format is because it’s what our readers want. Writers are encouraged to ‘write for your market’ and this is good advice if we want our work to be read. We need to have a good idea of who reads our work and what they really like about it.

I write mostly historical sagas and the occasional contemporary story. But, no matter what genre you write in, it isn’t necessary to come up with amazingly original ideas that have never been used in that genre before in order to enthrall your readers. Being too different may even displease them. I want my stories to catch readers’ attention not because they are dramatically different than anything else they have read but because their familiarity touches readers’ hearts. I think that readers sometimes just want more of what they already enjoy.

At the heart of my stories there are emotional dilemmas that are common to many of us and I hope my characters’ struggles will resonate with my readers: negotiating mother-daughter relationships, letting down barriers to form new relationships, grappling with fear, dealing with past mistakes and, for those of us who are ex-pats, embracing a new life in a strange land. Emotional dilemmas and the complexities of the relationships between the characters can be explored in most genres and are fundamental building blocks for stories. How they are presented can be molded to fit the expectations of readers in the genre you are writing in.  

Readers often describe my stories as ‘heart-warming’, ‘uplifting’ or ‘cheering’: the kind to be read when you want to be entertained and reminded that life is good. These words are sometimes considered old fashioned but there are still people who want to read this type of story. Others may prefer to be frightened by a horror story or gripped by a thriller. Readers experience different emotional responses to each genre. Writers need to know what readers expect to experience when they read a story. So, when I sit down to write, I don’t have to create something completely original and different than anything that has gone before. I just have to write something that will create the emotional buzz that connects with my readers.

What types of stories resonate with your readers and how do you give them what they want?

 

A Solstice Pep Talk
Category: Writing
Tags: writing goals planning

For those of us in Europe and America, today is the Summer Solstice (for those in Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere it’s the Winter Solstice, of course). Either late this evening or early Tuesday morning, depending on the time zone where you are, we move on to the next season in the year. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter and spring have passed and we are moving into the third quarter of the year: summer.

It’s also almost the end of June. At the end of this month, six months of the year will have passed. Any way you look at it, we are almost halfway through this year.

A writer friend of mine, in a Facebook writers’ group I belong to, pointed out to the group recently that this is a good time for writers to take stock of our writing progress for the year. In Writers Abroad each January Jo sets up a Writing Goals for the year thread on our forums. Some years I post my goals in early January and then forget to refer to the post again for the rest of the year. But last night I re-read my post for 2016. The short version of it basically says that I will devote this year to finishing the third Short Read in The Yankee Years series, edit a novel for the series, work on a couple new Short Reads for it and compile a collection of the Short Reads into a print book. That should keep me going all year.

But how much of that have I done so far? This spring I added another unexpected project to my list and working on it has set me back a bit. So I’ve almost finished that third Short Read for the series and plan to put together the print book this summer. Then I will start work on another new Short Read. And I still have to fit in the revision for the novel. In other words, I did write an extra story I hadn’t planned to write, but I’m a bit behind on my original goals...

If we browse the Writing Goals for 2016 forum, we may find that some of us are super organised and motivated, and have met and even surpassed theirr goals. If you’re one of them – congratulations! But, if you’re like me and have fallen behind, it can be discouraging to look back at the plans we had for the year that seem to be fizzling out or have already gone up in a puff of smoke.

If you read your goals post and feel disheartened by falling short of your plans, you have a couple options. You can sit there and feel deflated. You didn’t meet your goals and it’s too late now. Just forget you ever wrote them – Jo archives the Writing Goals at the end of the year anyway. In a few months no one will ever see them again.

Or you can review your goals and decide where to go from here. You still have 6 months left in the year. Check off those goals that you have accomplished and give yourself a pat on the back, even if they were minor ones.  

Then look at the ones that remain. Analyse them carefully. Do you still want to accomplish all of them? If not, scrub off the list the ones that are no longer important to you. Now look at the ones that are left. List them in their order of importance and estimate how long each one will take to complete. Divide the next six months into weeks and months on a spreadsheet, diary, calendar or even a sheet of paper torn out of a notebook. Allocate the time you need to accomplish each goal on your planner. Be realistic about how much time you have available each day to devote to your tasks. You may not finish everything you originally planned to do in the shortened space of time but you can still salvage some of it. Get your revised Writing Goals for 2016 written and post it to our Writing Goals for 2016 forum – as an update to your original post or a new post if you didn’t post your goals in January. Then get on with meeting those goals during the coming six months. It’s not too late yet.

This Week On Writers Abroad 23rd May 2016
Category: Site News

After the flurry of activity last week when The Third Space was published, things are a little quieter here today.

Monday Muse: Jill has supplied a great mix of sentences drawn from novels to inspire your writing as well as an intriguing image of a young woman and her suitcase. Or is it even hers? That’s for you to decide when you put pen to paper.

Blog: Jo talks about a topic that every writer who tackles longer works of fiction or a series, has to think about: how to keep track of all the details. Jo suggests that a Story Bible is what you need.

Bragging Stool: The seat is cool as no one has climbed up there this week. We’ll hope for more good news next week.

There’s been some activity in Works in Progress and Alison has a story in the May Challenge that I’m sure she would appreciate comments about. Also, if you haven’t done so, please add any comments you wish to make about Honorary Membership to the thread in the Noticeboard.

It’s a little more than a week since the most recent edition of our magazine was released. It has been well received, judging by responses Jo received. But don’t let it slip out of the public eye. Please continue to promote it on social media.

Have a good writing week. 

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