Writing at any stage of life can be difficult. Some stages present especially complex challenges, like raising children. Your time, resources, and even your body (if you’re nurturing an infant) are no longer your own. How do you craft characters and plots when you’re stepping on Duplos while cooking dinner and your toddler asks so many ponderous questions that you can’t concentrate? To all the parents whose coffee has gone cold, you’re not alone.
Story Embers Article Writer
Rachel Gilson has been writing stories since she found a dusty old typewriter buried in her parent’s basement at the age of nine. What started as a love for writing whodunit shorts (that she never finished before starting new ones) developed into a love for writing fantasy and science fiction.
Currently she’s working on an epic fantasy novel exploring sibling dynamics, free will, and hordes of flying, burrowing, and galloping creatures ready to kill or be killed. With her stories she hopes to glorify her Creator, who definitely holds first place for being the most impressive world builder ever.
When she’s not writing with her golden retriever Nova nestled at her feet, you can find her tabletop gaming with her awesome husband, out in the garden picking berries, or reading fables to her daughter in the hammock. She loves traveling to explore medieval castles and talking all things writing craft.
With minimal scrolling through search engine results, you can gather an abundance of information on writing stories, but what about the grueling process that follows it? How do you rearrange your mess into an orderly narrative? For most writers, even plotters, the first draft revolves around discovery. You diverge from your outline, notice that the story is more interesting from a secondary character’s point of view, or an entire subplot ends up being pointless. With so many changes to address, you wonder where to start, or maybe you’re even tempted to scrap your premise.
Has a story’s setting ever intrigued you even more than the plot? Think of the gloomy weather on the moors that reflects the characters’ turbulent emotions in Wuthering Heights, or the unforgiving sand drifts wrought with murderous sandworms that excrete the galaxy’s most coveted resource and serve as a crucible for the cast of Dune. Why do each of these places feel so mystical?
Sometimes the biblical ideals that inspire grand visions for our stories also weigh on us like boulders we must carry uphill. The prospect of imitating God’s design is as challenging as it is invigorating. How are we supposed to influence one person, much less the hundreds who will read our stories, when our own time, energy, and knowledge feels bleakly scarce?
Millions of books release each year—yes, millions. Between traditional and indie publishing, the number of new titles entering the market is staggering. Maybe those statistics boost your confidence that someday you’ll sign a book contract. If a million writers can slink past picky acquisitions editors, so can you. Or maybe the fear of missing out torments you. You’re struggling to finish your draft—what if no one ever expresses interest in your work because the proverbial field is already scattered with others’ stories?
From Dr. Watson to Samwise Gamgee to Jane Bennet, no beloved classic would be as engaging without side characters. They’re the protagonists of untold stories that thrive between the lines. But have beta readers ever confessed that they kept reading your manuscript only to see what happened to a side character? Although the protagonist was present, she fell flat beside her quirkier companion.
An idea captures your attention, and after mulling it over for a few weeks, you begin to pursue it. The story flows naturally until you pass 20,000 words and realize you’re not sure why your protagonist made a life-altering decision in chapter one. All of your excitement flickers out. Have you failed at plotting? Every scene now feels contrived!
Have you ever started reading a book you expected to enjoy only for the setting to stymie any connection you might have had with the characters? You keep losing your bearings because of weird place names. The info dumps about the magic system make you zone out. And you can’t even pronounce the religion that’s dividing two people groups. Fifty pages in, you’re still not invested. Disappointed, you toss the story onto your did-not-finish pile, where the memory of it fades into oblivion.