Many people write stories—but few achieve the uphill climb to publication. Aspiring writers look at how far they need to travel and start feeling so dismal that they’re tempted to quit. They worry that their work is poor and question their calling to authorship.
If you’re stranded on a ledge between retrogression and progression, we want to help you persevere. Each of us on the Story Embers staff have battled discouragement and burnout, and we’ve compiled advice from our shared experiences.
These tips are meant to be used like a Swiss Army knife—apply the parts you need and stow the tool on your computer for whenever a moment of desperation arises.
Tip #1: Pray
At times, prayer can seem like a clichéd ritual in Christian circles, but it shouldn’t. If you believe you’ve been saved by the Creator of the Universe who listens to your every plea, why wouldn’t you approach His throne when you’re struggling?
How do you expect to write fiction that glorifies God if you don’t seek His support and guidance? Whether you’re frustrated by stubborn characters, aren’t sure how to fix a plot riddled with holes, or simply lack the energy to keep writing, turning to God should be your first recourse. Gillian Bronte Adam’s excellent article lists six areas that writers should be praying about on a regular basis to orient their reliance onto God.
Tip #2: Prepare a Mission Statement
You probably began your writing career with visions of touching readers’ souls and changing the world for Christ. But as months lapsed into years, maybe you lost sight of that goal.
To avoid slipping into apathy, craft a mission statement for yourself as an author. Think and pray about the literary feats you hope to accomplish. How can you channel the passions God has given you to influence and uplift others? Don’t be afraid to dream big. Your mission statement should drive you forward no matter where you are in your journey. Perhaps our Christian Storytellers Manifesto can serve as a reference point!
Once you hold a mission statement in your hands, store it in a prominent place—perhaps in a frame on the wall or your desk—and reread it the next time your purpose becomes foggy. If you believe in the ideals you wrote down, they’ll fuel your resolve.
Tip #3: Recruit an Accountability Partner
Writing can be a lonely business if your only companion is a computer. Man isn’t meant to be alone (Gen. 2:18), and writers shouldn’t have to pursue their ambitions in solitude either.
Look for another writer (preferably close to your skill level) who enjoys your work and can act as an accountability partner. Few vocations are as prone to mood swings as writing—one day you believe your book is the next classic, and the following day you’re convinced that same book is garbage.
An accountability partner will keep you humble when you’re proud of your writing and remind you of your strengths when you feel like a failure.
Tip #4: Create a Series Bible
Are you stumped or disenchanted with a particular story? Consider piecing together a series bible. This is a notebook or file where you brainstorm and organize pertinent information, such as character sketches, cultural systems, setting descriptions, and forms of religion. Whether you directly disclose all the facts to readers or not, you need to maintain consistency throughout your story. If a character’s personality changes, or unexplained scientific phenomena occurs, that can throw you off track.
With all the components in front of you, you’ll better understand how your story functions and be able to detect shortcomings that need repaired. And the more you develop your story world, the more likely you’ll regain interest in it.
Tip #5: Remember Your Identity in Christ
Discouragement might cause you to overlook blessings and forget who you are—a human being lovingly designed in God’s image. Creation and redemption both reveal God’s compassion for His people. Including you.
When you’re overwhelmed with doubts about your writing, pause and reset your focus. Your identity is in Christ, not in how many words you crank out each day or the number of books you sell. Study Isaiah 43, Psalm 139, John 17, Romans 8, and Ephesians 2 to reassure yourself of your worth in God’s eyes and who He created you to be.
Tip #6: Exercise
Sometimes the problem is that you’ve been sitting and staring at a blinking cursor for hours. If you sporadically wrestle with short-term writer’s block, jogging or taking a walk might clear your mind and ease tension.
Tip #7: Build Pinterest Boards
Normally we don’t recommend solving writing crises with social media. But if you leverage Pinterest wisely, it can rescue you when you’re stuck.
Spend an hour or two scrolling through the colorful pictures, thought-provoking quotes, and heartrending prompts. After the content has taunted you with more ideas than you could write in a lifetime, stockpile the inspiration. Don’t stop until you have a storyboard for each book and hundreds of pins scattered across a dozen prompt boards. When you need a visual representation of a character or want to make a fan-art collage of your work, you’ll know where to search.
Tip #8: Create a Spotify Playlist
Maybe all you need to revitalize yourself is epic music blasting in the background. Create your own Spotify playlist for each novel, or utilize the playlists Kingdom Pen assembled and sorted according to different themes and emotions.
Tip #9: Take a Break
Working on the same project for too long can result in burnout. Set your manuscript aside temporarily and concentrate on other tasks. You’ll return with a fresh perspective that’ll enable you to refine your story to a deeper degree. Several best-selling authors practice this tactic to ensure that they produce the highest quality books possible.
Tip #10: Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone
Writers tend to favor genres they enjoy reading. However, that can limit your potential—or even extinguish your spark. If you’re bored by the eighth fantasy story you’ve drafted, that may be a sign you need to break the monotony.
If you always write sci-fi, try your hand at comedy. If you write romance, experiment with historical fiction. If you’re partial to dark, brooding heroes, write one who has trouble treating life seriously. By switching up your style, you’ll explore new realms of thought and hone skills that are currently dormant.
The path to publication is grueling and holds many obstacles. It’s not for the faint of heart! Figuring out which techniques help you persevere is a challenge. Since every writer is different, not all of the methods we’ve described will be effective for you. However, as you grow and learn how to keep yourself motivated, you’ll be able to inch closer and closer to publication.
Sometimes all you need is the determination to scale one more rock.