Things I Learned: Writing Fiction

It’s been fun sharing with you things I’ve learned with writing. Now for the biggie—in size, at least. Today, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about writing fiction. First, I have a confession to make. I didn’t seriously think I could pull off writing fiction. I make scarves, not blankets. Jewelry, not quilts. I write devotions and hymns, not fiction. Right? Well, three novels later, here’s what I learned:

  1. Never say never. When faced with writing and all seems much too difficult, give yourself a moment to read Ephesians 2:8–10. Frankly, it’s not up to you. God’s going to use you how He wants to, and He’ll give you what you need to do it.
  2. One bite at a time. There’s that proverb somewhere about eating an elephant. Every time I thought of an entire book, I began to panic. But when I thought of a chapter, I could better focus on the task at hand. Just sit. Write. I usually could only write for short periods at a time, but it worked, and a book materialized—one chapter at a time.
  3. Plan how you plan. The fact that I focused on chapters doesn’t mean I had no direction. I gave myself a very rough outline of what I wanted to happen in the trilogy. And I had a basic outline of what I wanted to happen in the novel. But when it got down to writing, I would ask myself: what needs to happen by the time I finish this chapter? Then, I would start the music, sip my beverage, and get to work. I know other novelists who write like this. Others spend huge amounts of time outlining and preplanning and etc. Figure out what works best for you, and adapt as you learn about your writing style.
  4. It’s emotional. All writing is emotional. It’s scary business sharing your heart with others. But if you’re one of those people who cries while reading or who lives in the world of a movie days after you’ve seen it (raises hand), you will live in two worlds while you write. You’re going to feel the joy and pain of your characters. You’re going to feel confident and terrified and energized and exhausted as a writer. I don’t know that there’s any good way to avoid this emotional roller coaster, and I don’t think it’d be helpful if there is.
  5. Surprise yourself. There’s this great infographic somewhere on the Internet in which Pixar gives some excellent advice on plot. The tidbit I loved the most was where it recommends changing up the plot at random times. If you know where the story is going, it might be too predictable for the reader. If you can surprise yourself (within good reason), you’ll surprise the reader too.

There are more lessons, of course, but this’ll do for now. There’s more to come! In the meantime, if you have questions, just ask. And keep writing!