A story doesn’t just fall into your lap. Instead it comes to you in stages and you wrestle with it. It’s something that you love, that means a lot to you but you can end up hating it. You need to understand the creative process before you start writing. That way you can rest assured that you’re not the first writer to go through any storytelling pangs.
It’s all about perspective, about practice, and about relaxing. Storytelling can be an art form but it’s something that we all do on a daily basis too. Find your beginning, your middle, and your end and you’ll likely find that the story takes shape almost by itself.
Let’s look at the creative process then and define the stages a little more clearly.
A fleeting thought
We’ve all had that moment. The one where we think, “That would make a great story.” Often we discount that instinct and forget the story entirely. This hunch is something that you need to listen to, it’s the voice inside that knows a good story innately, and it’s a voice that you need to trust.
Developing a story is a difficult and often unforgiving task but it’s a necessary evil. You don’t just write a story. Instead you carve it out, you shape it, and you hope that the final product isn’t unreadable. And you do it all on the chance that it’s good, that it’s special, and that it’s worth your time and effort.
The point is though you can’t know this until you get started. Give it a go, your instinct has told you to tell this story. Trust it.
Get other opinions
After the initial heady rush that accompanies finding a good story to tell comes the inevitable doubt and questions. Don’t internalise this stage. Instead look for other people’s opinions. You know your friends and family so ask the people that like reading, writing, or watching films. They know a good story so get their opinion.
Make sure that you listen to what they have to say though. A story can be really close to your heart but that doesn’t mean that it’s worth telling. Know when to let something go. It’ll come back around and you’ll find that discarded story sneaking into the next piece that you write.
Anything can be an inspiration
Take a pen and some paper with you wherever you go. Once you start thinking about a story you’ll find that it seeps into your subconscious. This has a wonderful effect as everything you see and hear is contextualised by the story that you’re writing. You’ll hear conversations and think, “That would go well in my story.”
Absorb everything you can and turn it into your own work. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it adds to your story then use it.
Research and tentative writing
You’ll get to a point where you feel ready to write. You’re not. But at this stage it’s worth giving it a go and testing the water. You’ll find quickly though that your story is nowhere near developed enough for the writing process. This is where good researching skills become important.
Identify the areas that aren’t working in your story and research the subject matter more. Often it’s the specifics that are lacking so focus on your characters and their arcs. Make sure that they progress believably and that they are fully rounded and developed people in their own right. (Don’t turn them into a mouthpiece for your perspective.)
Pen to paper
Once the research is done it’s time to get on with the writing. You’ll still have false starts and bad days but the trick is to keep going. You will finish writing your story and any negative feelings will pass. Believe in your story and your ability to tell it.
Work through your fears and remember that even the best authors have struggled with writers block. Keep chipping away and take small considered steps towards completing your piece.
Take a deep breath
Writing can become too much, it can seem overwhelming so if it does, go outside. Going for a walk can be a great way to scatter your thoughts and leave the stress behind. A moment or two away from the computer will rejuvenate your thoughts and lead to a much more productive writing session.
This is important to do every day. You need to set boundaries for yourself and schedule some time off. Writing is mentally taxing and its not something that you should do at all points in the day. If you do you’ll end up burned out and you’ll never finish that story.
Each minor victory is a blessing
Every time you wrestle with a plot point and win you’re one step closer to finishing the piece. Often the tiny break through is needed to settle bigger problems within the narrative. Focus your efforts on resolving any potential problems before they crop up and you’ll have a much easier time writing that story.
Once you’ve hit the first draft stage enjoy some time away from the computer screen. Take a good few days off and forget the story you’ve just been immersed in. The next step is to start editing. Go right back to the beginning of the creative process and do it all again.
Writing is an unforgiving process but the final piece makes it worth the headaches, heart aches, and sleepless nights. Good luck and get in touch if you’d like to share your finished story on my new website.