Before you do anything else this month—like polish your plot, or finalize your ending, or bulk up your characters’ backstories—pause for a moment, and consider one thing: write from the heart.
When I say, “write from the heart,” I don’t mean unleash a messy, tear-stained, heart-wrenching sob story onto the unsuspecting blank pages of your word processor. (Although you can write a sob story if you want.) What I mean is this: write as who you are, using the voice that feels the most natural to you, about things that you have personally experienced.
This will involve lots of humble self-acceptance, and realizing that as much as we want to we can’t be J. K. Rowling, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or any writer whom we admire. We are who we are—just like they are who they are, if you think about it—and we have our own journeys and opinions from which we can glean to create stories that are uniquely our own.
If you’re still struggling with finding what to write about this year, look back at your life so far. What have been some things that you have struggled through, or pondered at length, or have been really disturbed by? Find a way to transform that into social commentary. Any oddball or embarrassing memories? Use it for the basis of a comedy! And don’t feel limited to writing stories set in reality. The same principles can be applied to sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, etc.
Find ways to incorporate emotions too. Ever felt the sting of jealousy? The bitterness of a betrayal? The elation of victory? The swell of encouragement from knowing you have the support of a loyal friend? Have your characters wrestle with them, be overcome by them, triumph over them.
Writing from the heart is I think the most important thing a writer can do. What does it matter if you come out with a kick-butt story by copying someone else’s style or experiences? Write from the heart—even if your end product has, uh, room for improvement—and you’ll have created something that no one else can replicate. (Unless, of course, you really do just write like [insert name of established/published author] by nature. In which case … I dunno. Consider a hobby change?) And who knows, maybe you’ll come up with something entirely new and refreshing in the process! (Please, please do. We really don’t need another book about vampires, or werewolves, or bondage.)
So as you hunker down in the next few weeks to come up with a story, or polish the plot you’ve already been working on, give it a try—write from the heart. And let me know how that goes.