Hello, and Happy December!
NaNoWriMo is officially over! I wasn’t originally going to do it this year, but changed my mind at the last minute so I could work on the last of a trilogy I’ve been chipping away at for the last five years. I managed to “win,” despite one huge obstacle: I had no idea what the plot of my story should be.
I have often felt like sort of a fake writer because of this problem. So often I hear writers—both professional and aspiring—talk about how they have so many ideas, so little time. They have notebooks full of dreams, phone notes filled with story seeds, or so much real-life inspiration they could drown in it. Ideas are never the problem as much as choosing one is.
I have never felt this way. Never. Finding a story idea I like and care enough about to write is the hardest part of writing for me. I search my cavernous mind and scrape at the sides for any fragment of an idea that might have been left behind, and often come up empty. I have wanted to be a writer since my age was in the single digits, and yet have often despaired that it will ever happen because…aren’t writers supposed to have story ideas? Like…a lot of them?
I don’t really have advice to give if you happen to be a writer like me, because, obviously, this is something I struggle with currently. But there are a few things I do to keep myself writing even when the story well runs dry, and who knows—maybe they’ll help someone else too.
- Think of a theme instead. This is probably the biggest thing I lean on when I feel like there’s no story to be had in my failing imagination. I may not always have ideas for a solid plot, but I do care about many things that are a little more intangible: love and relationships (not just romantic—sincere love between friends is so amazing and important and I adore anything that captures it well), finding balance in yourself/being true to yourself, finding the good in the world and in people where it isn’t immediately apparent—these are all things that I want to exist in my stories.
- Think of a character. I’ve mentioned before that character creation is my favorite part of any character-based activity—DnD, RPG video games, and writing. I don’t have to have a story to invent a person. So I will think of someone I’d like to write about or explore, someone who can struggle with my chosen themes or illuminate them in other people. Someone I’d like to spend time with. I will create them, with all their quirks, and place them in the empty void of my nonexistent story.
- Just write anyway. With nothing more than a vague concept and a character in hand, I often just force myself to write. This is the barest form of “pantsing.” (“Pantsing [also known as winging it] is the term Wrimos use to refer to writing without a fixed outline”—Wikiwrimo). Three of the four book-length drafts I’ve written have been done in this way. I would not recommend it—it basically means you outline by writing a novel, which you then rewrite later into something halfway decent—but if you’re like me and seem unable to outline because you HAVE. NO. STORY…it’s a viable option. It’s definitely led me through some twists and turns, storywise, and surprised me in ways that are both fun and unexpected. It’s been excellent writing practice, and I’ve become a better writing just through doing it. And, somewhere in the mess, I usually find the story I couldn’t find before. Sometimes, you just have to put down words.
So, what about you guys? Is there anyone else out there who struggles with finding a plot for your story, or even just an idea? Let me know—I seriously feel like I’m the only one sometimes! What are your tips for finding your story?
‘Til next time….happy writing!