Advice, Craft, Fiction, Novel, Tips, Writing

Behind the door

After I finish my current round of editing, I have a few non-writing things to get out of the way and then I’ll be working on my new novel. I had started work on two others, but my heart wasn’t in them, so I hope this will be a case of third time is a charm rather than three strikes you’re out.

So … I envisioned my characters, sorted out the basic plot, and then thought about writerly things—like point of view and theme and structure and all that good stuff. Considering all those things is a necessary part of writing fiction, but what isn’t helpful is considering what I should write.

I know this and yet every time, I start something new, I find myself wondering if readers would think this story is stupid or boring or done to death … if this story will sell. It takes me awhile to forget about all that and settle down to write the story I want to write, the story I need to write.

Then, the other day I read the following quote. These words are now on a sticky note above my work area.

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” ~Barbara Kingsolver

So now, go close your door.


20 thoughts on “Behind the door”

    1. of course, now that I’ve had my third cup o’ coffee, I recognize the quote refers to a virtual door … 😉

      How weird is that, commenting on my own comment!


  1. That’s a great quote! One that I think is so true. It is sometimes easy to get caught in that trap of wondering what others will think of our stories. Coming from a small community where everyone knows me, I’ll admit I have struggled with this in the past. But I think in order for us to fully express our creativeness we have to be true to ourselves.

    There are many ways to write about the same subject, Linda. Yours will be unique to only you. Uniqueness in writing is what keeps it fresh and interesting..


    1. Anne Lamott in her Bird by Bird advises us to “write like your parents are dead.” Same thing, different words. Write what you feel without worrying about what anyone else will think. Very hard to do.


  2. Oooh. I needed to hear this today. I went to my very first writer’s group last night and a published author suggested I add a lot of drama to my book. So the reader can’t put it down and all that.

    Now I’m in a muddle. My book is a gentle story about a woman learning to lean on God. It includes rising conflict throughout the story, but it’s on a lower level than that of an action-packed drama. I know she meant well, and she certainly knows what sells, but I’m trying to figure out if I should heed the advice or file it for later.

    I’ve read plenty of gentle reads that were captivating. And my readers are not telling me that my book is boring. On the contrary . . . they can’t put it down. But I DO want to sell it. Ugh.

    If you look for me today, you’ll find me with the door shut. And the pillow over my head.


    1. V.V. it sounds like you’ve come up against character driven vs. action driven. I had the same experience. I write character driven stories too. Yes, those are harder to sell , but they do sell. We’ll just have to work harder at selling them.


  3. Oh, yeah. It’s hard enough to shut out your inner critic but writing for what you think others want to read is a double whammy. Then the voice of authority, like with vvdenman above, who tells you your character-driven story dosen’t have enough bang, slash, or action. They mean well but they aren’t your target audience. Best to forget the audience in the first drafts.


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