Write On Wednesday – Don’t Write A Book. Tell A Story.

“i’m not writing a book — i’m telling a story.” ~ monice mitchell simms

Actors and musicians are instructed to do it all the time. 

In order to make the emotion of a scene or song ring true, they imagine themselves talking or singing to someone.

One person. Not a demographic mass of faceless souls that only money hungry investors or bean counters are concerned about.

Us, writers, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury.

From the jump when we come up with a story, we’re taught to determine our target audience and instantly something that should be personal becomes a product for mass consumption. 

The left side of my brain understands that. This is show business after all and the amount of money investors risk to publish a novel or make a film in hopes of possibly, maybe, not necessarily getting a return is ridiculous.

I get that. 

But the right side of my brain – the hemisphere that wrote poems for my family for birthday and Christmas gifts as a kid – has been throwing a tantrum. 

Funny thing is, though,  I didn’t know it.

Grown and sexy now, my creative muse’s outbursts no longer resemble a tot kicking and screaming — Although, Lord knows if I could have a melt down in public without men in white coats showing up, I would.

No, instead, my creative muse now just goes on strike and refuses to show up for days and weeks at a time, despite my keeping my end of the deal and sitting my ass in my chair every day to write “The Mailman’s Daughter,” the second story of my trilogy series.

Fam, I’ve been writing since I was seven. So, I know writer’s block. Trust. But this madness has been driving me insane.

CUT TO: Last Monday night when I heard Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia – authors of the New York Time’s Best selling Young Adult novel series, “Beautiful Creatures” – speak at Write Girl‘s Bold Ink Awards.

They shared how they penned their novel, which has been translated into multiple languages and will premiere as a movie in 2013, all on a dare from Margaret’s teenage daughter.  

Trading pages every night, Margaret and Kami’s only goal was to write a story that would enrapture her daughter and six friends. They weren’t thinking about writing a book, getting published or selling to millions of readers worldwide.

They were just telling a story.  To seven teenagers. Period.

That’s when the lightbulb went off for me in my head. I’ve been having so much trouble with my second novel, because I forgot this ultimate truth:  I’m not writing a book — I’m telling a story. 

To who, you ask?

Well, to be honest, I dedicated my first novel, “Address: House of Corrections,” to my grandmother who inspired it. But the only eyes I really wrote it for were my mom’s. She was my audience. And because I was grounded in needing to captivate her, my story has resonated and continues to connect with readers all over the world. 

This second time around, I now know that I’m writing for my sister. Yes, “The Mailman’s Daughter” is a fictionalized account of my mother’s life. But my mom is my sister’s mother, too. 

And just like when we were kids and I made up stories to amuse her, I need my sister to like, laugh and cry from this story, too — Before I can even think about sharing it with you. 

Margaret and Kami illustrate it best – We, make believers, don’t write books — we tell stories. 

Thank you, Ladies, for setting me straight. I’m forever grateful for the reminder. 🙂

Fam, do you or have you ever used Margaret and Kami’s approach in your own writing? Who are you telling your stories to? 

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5 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday – Don’t Write A Book. Tell A Story.”

  1. I’ve only realized lately how important story telling is. More important than writing novels and memoirs and poems.

  2. Amen and amen again sister! I think sometimes the business aspect of writing can take us out of storytelling mode. This is a great framework for writers. Just tell a story. So simple, but at times we make it difficult! Thanks for this! 🙂

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