There are no right ways to write good stories, but there are certainly a lot of wrong ways. (That’s the nature of this world: nothing makes any sense or everything makes only so much sense.)
We’ve all been there. We’ve read a book (or three hundred) where the story just wasn’t doing much for us. Our imagination wasn’t engaged, our hearts didn’t sigh, and maybe there were lost opportunities for laughter (three things I can’t live without).
I, however, am not the expert on a good story. In fact, neither are you. Neither is that NYT-bestseller with the waves and the shades sitting over there.
Only you can define a good story for yourself.
The reading experience is really all about you. What you like. What you fear. What you can and can’t live without.
Sure, the more people you can expand that net to include, the more likely your story will resonate with a broader audience.
But it’s much harder to create something authentic if you try to think about too many people liking your work. The fact of the matter is NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOUR STUFF.
It’s an unfortunate AND incredibly humbling truth.
Just take a look at the low ratings and reviews of some of your favorite books.
But as someone who has been writing for a long time, who has published short fiction and writes a serial online, there are some things you can consider when making your story the best it can be right now.
This is my gut-checking list when creating fiction:
- Have I edited ad nauseam? (incl. after another pair of eyes has seen the work?)
- Have I written from my true heart?
- Have I continued my lessons and practiced my craft?
- Have I treated my process with as much respect and enthusiasm as I can muster?
This is the basis for which I craft stories thick with magic, humor, and hope. Stories that ask the strange questions on the roads less travelled. That is my goal whenever I sit down to the keyboard.
I don’t think about becoming a best-seller. I don’t think about what’s on trend and selling right now. I don’t think about which agents will be interested in my work.
I just write. I write with my best tools after taking the time to polish them. I write from the deepest place in my heart, where the magic is just waiting to be tapped…
And then I tear everything down to bare bones and rework it again and again. Until it’s true.
Until it’s true to the things I really care about.
That’s all it comes down to really:
Are you writing what you really care about?
Take the day. Do some soul-searching. Figure out what storytelling really means to you. Why are you coming to this? Write, and write hard, when you’ve answered that question.
You may surprise yourself.
You may find that you’re like Beth, who doesn’t focus so much about getting her work out there, who writes purely for herself. You may find that you’re like Amanda, who can’t see herself doing anything else and therefore needs it as a career.
Everything you need to create is right there inside of you. It sounds hokey, but it’s true.
And like I said, I believe in writing true things.