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  • Writer's pictureEmma Bradley

I've been thinking recently...

...about stories (shocker), and how we sometimes need to write tales that won't go anywhere to discover ones that will.

You might have one idea and dedicate all your time to it, and if you can do that, brilliant! I admire that level of dedication, but as someone who tends to have 2 or 3 WIPs on the go at any one time, flitting back and forth, I often wonder why I'm stretching myself so thin and getting zilch back.

I've accepted that most of the stories I've written most likely won't end up published, even though I spent time and effort polishing them, agonising over plot holes, dreaming up imaginary extended scenes, picking the cast for the TV show, foraging on Pinterest and making avatars for the characters etc. But they have all taught me two things:

What works

That fizzle you get when something's clicking with a story doesn't lie. Or when your CPs and readers send feedback with lots of excitable !!!'s and you dare to dream again - that's all a sign something is working in a big way. I've learned to follow intuition and several of the stories I've written are fine. They're technically accurate, well plotted, researched, and they hit all the right genre notes. They're also flat. Something is missing. Then I take a break, drift to a shiny new story and all becomes clear - that story was fun, but more like a hobby you do now and then but wouldn't spend the money to buy your own equipment for. Which leads me nicely onto the second epiphany:

What I do well

Finding Your Writer Voice is like a mantra these days, but rather than the voice, I like to think of it as Finding Your Writer Heart (dramatic, I know). Remember the books you read that just squished you right in and had you galloping along with them, having all the feels? That's the writer's heart you're connecting with, their voice. You're bonding with a story they loved writing. Once we find the stories we write well (the ones we love and feel excited about), then turning up to create becomes a joy, an exploration of something you want to immerse yourself in. Yes, drafting and word-counting is a pain, editing is a pain, having to re-write is a pain... but it's worth it when you love the story.

I've seen many people focus on what might sell, or what might be on trend in the time it will take them to produce a manuscript, and I've been there myself, writing stuff in the hope it might be a good fit for someone's list. There's nothing wrong with treating the process like producing a business product either, which is what it will be if you plan to query and aim for getting published, but whatever reason you write for, don't get so mired in the end result that you lose the enjoyment of creating the story itself. I'm a big believer that this shows in the writing, even if it's in tiny little ways only our subconscious picks up on.

So, I made the decision to pare back on my WIPs. They're still there, faithful teachers who taught me where my writer heart dwells and what my story strengths are. I'll always have them. I'm just graduating to focus on one area now, and following the story paths that make me eager to keep improving. Time to start the vocation, in more ways than one.

If anyone is still reading my inane ramblings, you deserve a medal, or at the very least a cookie, but I'll leave you with one final thing:

If you could write any story, no matter how odd or wild or cosy or safe, what would it be?

I always think of that old kids TV show 'Biker Mice from Mars' when I ask myself that, and then there was that review for Pride and Prejudice that said it's basically people going to other people's houses (P&P is so much more than that, but it's not actually incorrect!)

So whatever your ideal story is, why not give that a go? It might not be The One but it'll be the one for you, and your lovely voice might just snag someone who's seen a million perfect manuscripts and just wants something with real heart.

You never know, but at least this way you'll enjoy the journey.

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