Monday Motivation: Write what you love in 2020
The start, not just of a new year, but a new decade acts as a spur to all of you whose ambitions include finally getting round to writing the book you’ve bottled up inside for so long. The turning of a new page, the start of a new era – this all serves to fill our veins with a fierce, new year vigour. And for those who seek it, there’s no shortage of advice available about how to make 2020 the year of your book.
The BBC, for one, consulted a range of established writers – some of them very eminent – for their words of wisdom on the subject. Here’s a quick distillation of their compilation:
JoJo Moyes says, make time to write when you can. Elizabeth Strout (great writer!) says, find your voice. Prue Leith says, go on a writing course. (I can’t help but endorse that.) Susan Hill reminds us that we can only learn from our mistakes. Ruby Wax gives some very Ruby Waxish advice: write down whatever pops into your head. Barbara Taylor Bradford tells us that the key to a successful novel is a good plot…
And so on. I don’t want to disparage any of these capsules of good sense, because good sense is what they each contain. With a good idea in your head, an hour or two a day at your disposal, a steady sense of who you are as a writer, a great writing course under your belt, and so on, there should be nothing between you and The End.
But all the good advice I’ve squirrelled out seems to miss a crucial point. And that is, that you should be in love, passionately and energetically in love with the story you want to tell.
It shouldn’t be a passing infatuation. You shouldn’t simply be smitten with your ideas for the opening pages. You should want, with the kind of physical longing that you’ll remember from your youth, to see the story out, to explore the journey of your protagonist (whom you’ll also love).
But your love will be of a very particular kind. It won’t blind you to the faults of your hero – and, pray god, it won’t blind you to the flaws of your plot. This is the kind of love that inspires clarity and precision in your execution. You’ll honour your noble commitment by being true to both story and character.
Stories written without passion might tick all the boxes, but readers know bloodlessness when they see it. They want life and vigour, they want to sense the beating heart of the story.
And besides, why write anything lackluster when we’re all capable of more?
Happy writing in 2020 – and do get that story down.
Read Jo-Anne’s latest blog: ‘Writing Secrets: See the world differently this year‘