The Write Stuff – Choosing What to Write About

Write Stuff
Almost every writer I’ve ever met has struggled, at one time or another, with what to write about.
In some cases, they have a shortage of ideas, in others they have too many ideas. (I fall into the latter group.)
Deciding what your novel will be about is the most important creative decision you’ll make in its entire process. I suggest you choose a topic and a story that you enjoy, and I offer that advice from personal experience.
I started out by writing screenplays, and while I was very good at it, the actual work was excruciating. Sure, there were moments of creative joy, but they were few and far between. More often than not, the work was dreary, headache-inducing, and exhausting.
I hear the same thing from other writers all the time. They’re in pain. They’re in agony. If only they could finish their script or book. In most of the interviews and biographies of successful writers that I’ve read, it’s the same thing. They hate the process. When the book is finished, they feel relief and a sense of accomplishment, but the actual writing is pure torture.
Doesn’t that strike you as a peculiar reaction to creative art? And it’s exclusive among writers. Other artists don’t experience it. Dancers love to dance. Singers love to sing. Actors love to act. Why do writers hate to write?
I acted for a long time, and I almost always enjoyed it. That’s the way creative art is supposed to be. So why the exception with writing?
I pondered these questions for a long time and have only recently stumbled upon some answers. For one, I believe that most writers agonize over writing, because they’re not writing what they really love to write. Most are writing what they think they should be writing, or what they think will be successful, but not what they love.
I made this discovery as recently as six months ago when I began writing middle-grade mysteries. For the first time in my life, writing became fun.
Then I read a book by David Morrell, the creator of Rambo. He wrote that most people become artists in order to escape childhood pain. His own childhood and adolescence were painful, and the way he escaped was through adventure thrillers, both books and movies. So those are the things he writes as an adult. Paraphrasing what he wrote in “A Lifetime of Lessons”: “People become writers because they’re haunted by secrets they need to tell. The stories we used to escape the poverty of our childhood are the stories we tell as adults. Is it any wonder that the stories I love to tell are the kind that gave me an escape when I was a kid?
My own childhood was miserable, and the way I escaped was through movies and books, especially clever mysteries. As I write those same types of books today, I find myself elated. The characters are fun, the process is fun.
So here’s my advice: write the types of stories that you loved to read when you were growing up. The stories that gave you an escape from reality. And if you’re a member of our little club here, make them morally responsible stories. Stories that honor God, elevate men and women, or add beauty to the world. Always ask yourself, would God be proud of this book? (Ask that same question in regards to a good 95% of movies, television, and published books, and you’ll find the answer is a resounding NO.)
Coming Up: A stupendous contest, exclusive to FOM readers, for the best original opening to a story, novel, or on-fiction book! And then the Nine Secret Ingredients to Writing a Hit Novel, Movie, Book, or Play! (You don’t want to miss either of these!)

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Mikel H
5 years ago

Thank you for sharing I found this post very helpful. 🙂

Dr. Eowyn
Dr. Eowyn
5 years ago

Mike, this post, which is so true and pure because you wrote it from your heart, moved me to tears.