Let Your Story Reveal Itself To You

creative writing

Much of the joy and discovery of creative writing comes from the process itself. I’m finding inspiration and motivation from the very characters I’ve created.

When I first decided to embark on this NaNoWriMo challenge of completing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, I thought I knew where some of my biggest hurdles would come from. The sheer discipline it would require to write 1,667 words every day for 30 days seemed one obvious issue.

But truly, it’s less about discipline and more about being a magician. How else can you produce the necessary time to write every day? I have tried.

I’ve woken up early, I’ve stayed up late. I’ve snatched time while my son was at soccer practice, writing in the soccer clubhouse (with no heat) instead of glad handing the membership. (I hold the dubious distinction of being the president of the board of the soccer club – which is why I have access to the clubhouse.) I’ve written in a hotel room while on the road, attending a wedding for my wife’s work colleague. I’ve carved out time in the middle of the day, only to have it stolen away by the heating repairman who needed my assistance and seemed to know as much about my boiler as I did.

Point is, I’ve still got a life, two jobs, two school-aged kids, a wife, and a volunteer soccer gig that sucks up time like no paying job I’ve ever had. And I know some variation of this is true for many of you – the writers taking the NaNoWriMo challenge – and I know most of you are probably at 28,339 words, just like you’re supposed to be. (I’m talking to you, Lucy Briggs). That’s astounding. If you haven’t already, congratulate yourself.

For those of you not on the NaNo train, celebrate your writing accomplishments, too. Whatever your goals, whatever your formula, wherever you are in the process. Celebrate your creativity and dedication.

I’m closing in on 20,000 words, and have come to terms with the fact that I will not likely hit the 50k mark by November 30th (do writers not celebrate Thanksgiving?). But I submit to you now, here in this public square, that I will complete my book. Whether it be on November 30th or some time in December, this story will see the light of day!

So yes, my concern about making the time to write every day has been borne out, but other concerns have vanished – or at least diminished – through the writing process. I’ve been bolstered by the encouragement of my beta readers: it seems the story and characters I’ve created have piqued their interest (so they claim), and they appear to be invested in their trials and travels. Maybe this story is worth telling, after all.

And, as Warren Adler has apparently become my unwitting mentor, I’ll return to a quote I’ve invoked before:

“The way in which I write is to let my characters come alive in my head and interact with each other, create conflict with each other, and work out their own destinies. I know this sounds out there but writers will know what I’m talking about.”

I know what he’s talking about! I had given myself the NaNoWriMo achievement award for being a “Pantser.” No outline, just flying by the seat of my trousers. And it’s true, though only partly. I don’t have a written outline, but the structure of the story has existed in my head for some time. I even started writing it, many years ago, after it sprang to life as a bedtime story I made up to entertain my daughter.

The first attempt at writing was the start of a rough draft, and I thought maybe I had the first 5,000 words of this story mapped out. Turns out, I had a lot more worked out in my head than that. As I eclipse 20,000 words, I’ll finally be in completely new territory, places in the story I had not conceived prior to this writing.

If I were ever worried about running out of ideas, I’m no longer concerned. In fleshing out the action, describing the environment, and putting myself in the shoes of the characters, the story is constantly revealing itself to me. A description, a phrase in the dialogue, a character’s observations – all these things are fuel for the next page. I’ve been amazed to find new ideas waiting there, in the pages I’ve already written. It’s almost as though they were gifts from the characters, from the story… that I created. My fictional creations are giving something back to me. It really does sound out there, but I guess I’ve always been a bit out there, grounded as I am, and perhaps that’s what the arts are all about: channeling the information that’s “out there.”

Any concerns that my interest would flag or that this creative writing endeavor would become a chore have also been dispelled. I find myself thinking about the story and the characters all the time. When I’m mowing the lawn or driving to a board meeting, or in the moments between my head hitting the pillow and sleep taking over, the story is playing in my head.

Some of the story’s new ideas have come from these moments, but I find more inspiration comes while at the keyboard. Not that every session is a flurry of continuous typing – hell, my typing technique is crap. I also spend more time than necessary reading over my work, tweaking it, mining it for ideas, making sure I’m not over using the same descriptors or words.

That’s also been part of my history as a songwriter. There’s always a lot of revisiting the work in progress, refining it along the way. Perhaps some of that is infatuation with my creation, but usually I’m listening or reading with the intent to find the flaw. Uncover the ugliness that I’ve let creep into the work.

And, as Warren Adler said: “I firmly believe that the key to good writing is rewriting. When I write a novel I go back to it every single day and I try to produce at least five pages. I’ll write five pages one day then go back the next day, start from the beginning and rewrite.”

But then, there’s the point where you need to move on. I’ve revised this post enough. Time to put my time toward my 20k goal. Here’s to all of us reaching ours together.

Image via ShutterStock.com.


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Read More
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Climbing Mount NaNoWriMo As A LiterarYeti
Seven Writing Tips To Increase Your Productivity
10 Perfectly Normal Struggles When Writing A Novel
How To Find Inspiration



  1. Inspiring points! I know what you are talking about, too. Quite a bit of the time, I feel that I am little more than a scribe, recording what the characters reveal to me. They are my friends, and they trust me to tell their story with their integrity in mind. William Faulkner spoke of having the same sense, as did James Russell Lowell. The concept may be unusual, but it is not unheard of, especially to those of us who experience it.

  2. Nice to know there’s another novel-writer out there who came from songwriting, as I did. I start with the lyrics and revise as I set them to music. Similarly, reading my prose aloud helps me catch infelicities in the writing.

  3. I totally agree with the post, especially about finishing later than sooner. The point is to finish, and even if you fall a bit behind, if you are truly giving NANO a diligent effort, EVERYONE should have a book by the end of the year! That works for me. I completed last year’s NANO in 35 days, but I don’t mind “Lights Out at the Moulin Rouge” taking a little longer. I’m more concerned about producing an even better novel this year. Good luck to all my fellow authors.


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