Writing Tips for the Winter Blues
S. J. Wells
“You need to write a story for me about…” This is how a friend of mine often starts our conversations, because she wants to read a new, good book but can’t find what she’s looking for. I usually laugh and ask what the story should be about. To this, she says, “Well, I want a man and woman arguing, I want it to be Christian, I want something scary to happen, I want mystery and…”
As much as I would like to fulfill requests like this from friends and family, I can’t do it. Ideas for stories don’t come because of others’ suggestions. More often than not, ideas come from other books or something I’ve read about history. My book, “A Moment in Time”, published in 2014 came about after reading a series of time travel romances. I wanted to create my own time travel story from a Christian point of view. My book, “His Yankee Wife”, published in 2017 came about after hearing a friend’s daughter say, “The South should have won the Civil War.”
I remember my mouth hanging open at this young lady’s statement, but it got the wheels of my mind spinning. Of course, my novel is not a fantasy story where the South wins, but I started to wonder what kind of person owns slaves, fights for the South yet becomes a hero.
Down through the years, my favorite author has been Laura Ingalls Wilder. I began reading the Little House books when I was about ten or so, and I’m still reading them thirty years later. There’s a sense of homecoming when I sink into the pages of “By the Shores of Silver Lake”, I get chills of fear and awe at the mention of the strange weather in “The Long Winter”, and I love the romance between Laura and Almanzo in “These Happy Golden Years”. When I write, I try to draw from her ability to “make pictures when she talks”, as her sister Mary noted in “By the Shores of Silver Lake”. Even though the books are for younger readers, I think her imagery is what draws me back time and time again.
First comes a question or idea. Then, I spend some time allowing the idea to roll around in my thoughts. I ask my characters questions, put them in different situations to see what they will do and say, and soon a story will begin to unfold. Strangely enough, the writing of it starts whenever I’m busy or stressed. Mom and I are having difficulty agreeing, and I take a time out to write a line or two of dialog. I’ll be teaching long division at my kitchen table, then popping off into story land to jot down a scene. A weekend of cleaning up after a family with the flu sends me into fiction every time.
Writing is different for everyone, but there are a few things that can get us all back on track when doubt or the blues creep in.
1. Find your alltime favorite authors and spend time reading their books
2. Ask yourself what you would enjoy reading
3. Write whatever pops in your head without worrying what anyone will think of it
4. Give yourself permission to change your mind and starts something new
Sometimes, my ideas for stories don’t work out, but that is okay. I just ask myself more questions, start another story and keep going. Soon or later, the right story will come along.