Are there times when you hear so much writing advice that it overloads you and leads you down the wrong path? Or maybe the well-intended advice loses all meaning and mires into one gigantic mess? It’s happened to me, being a workshop junkie, and here’s how “heart” pulled me through:
“Write what you like to read.” You’ve heard this classic piece of advice, right?
I liked mysteries. I had cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, like everyone else. I thought I, too, could write a mystery. Why not?
“Write what you know.”
Okay, so I was a Spanish teacher, and maybe conjugating verbs wasn’t all that thrilling for most people. How about martial arts, instead? That’s exciting! I was training in the martial arts with my daughters and teaching the Little Dragons. So I decided I would write about an amateur sleuth who was also a karate instructor.
“Start with action.”
No problem. My character would have plenty of action to dish out. She was twenty-something, lean and mean, confident and super talented. The star of her dojo, she could take on 2 or 3 opponents, and still go out dancing the rest of the night. She was nothing like me, but so what? It was exciting action.
That first draft only went a couple of chapters before fizzling out. It had no heart.
“Write the story that only you can write.”
Excellent advice, but I didn’t know what it meant at first. If I write the story, I’m the only who wrote it, right? I input my word choices, and I choose the story elements, the various characters, the setting and so forth. How could anyone else write it?
It’s more than that.
It means that writing takes a piece of your heart.
When I finally realized that my story needed a piece of my heart to become the story that only I could write, my character jumped off the page. She is a middle-aged mom who draws strength from the martial arts to face her mistakes and fears. She is determined to do her best. She is part of me. She has my heart.
If all other writing advice fails, at least listen to your heart. A little heart will get you out of any pickle!