Guest Post – Janet Stock

I Write Because…

Why does a writer write?

There could be as many answers to that question as there are writers. Granted, the main reasons tend to be, to write the story we always promised ourselves we would, to speak to an audience, to see if we can, or it may be a cathartic exercise.

I recently read about an author who had described writing a book as a physical pull on him. Once he’d had the idea for the book and drafted out his story, he had to write it, and most importantly finish it. If he didn’t it just waited there for him, subconsciously shouting at him every now and again to sit down, open the laptop and write some more. It had a pull on him until it was finished and released.

The drive to write can be powerful stuff.

For commercial writers, the motivation must be to earn a living from the content they provide, taking satisfaction in the knowledge that they have fulfilled their customer’s brief.

writer working on typewriter in office
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

            But does a fiction writer know their customer’s requirements? Of course! I hear you experienced fiction writers shout, but what about the guys just starting out in the massive world of writing successful fiction?

We are told to research the market, write the book that we want to read, to write what we know. But at the end of the day, a writer can only write what is inside of them. We can try and bend our skills, and the story, to fit a perceived gap in the market, but unless we are true to our writing style, any book we produce will never feel like ours. It will never be a true representation of us as a writer. And it does represent us, it is ours and it is unique.

            I think the most important thing to do when writing is to let the words flow. The editing and spell checks can wait for another day. Knowing who every character is, what clothes they like to wear and what food they like to eat can be developed. Write from your heart and in the style that seems perfect for you. So often novices can get caught up in the detail, especially when they need to do research for a different era, for example. Along with other genres, I write historical medieval fiction and have fell foul to over-researching in the past. Too much research, not enough writing!

I now follow the advice of Bernard Cornwell, a master of historical fiction, who’s view on the matter is to write the story, see where the gaps are, then go and research. If you are writing a story that is set in your favourite historical era, that alone indicates that you have an interest in that period, so you’ll know enough to get started. Don’t let the research hold up getting the story down.

            After all, if you can get to the end of a novel, writing 50,000+ words, your protagonist has changed during the progression of the book, you have ‘shown’ and not ‘told’, you have injected intriguing sub-plots with robust characters, used captivating dialogue, and have told a story based on an engaging theme, finishing with an ending that neatly resolves the plot.

Then who, in all honesty, can criticize your work?

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