And we should. We should write what we like. Write what is interesting to us. Write what we find insanely exciting. However, to drop a cliche – this does not mean throw “everything and the kitchen sink” in your story.
You know what I mean. You like aliens and doomed romance and butterflies and magic wands and angels and lime green, so you write a story about wand-wielding winged aliens who have companion lime green butterflies and they fall in love with their captain’s daughter who they can’t have because she’s betrothed to the prince of Ra-horath-sat and if she doesn’t marry him his entire planet will implode because the sickly prince won’t have love to fill the mushy center anymore. (Yay 70+ word sentence!)
Yeah, please don’t.
How many of you want to read that story? I mean, okay, it sounds interesting. (Haha!) But think about it, winged aliens with butterfly companions who have wands?
You will write other stories. You don’t have to include absolutely everything you love in one story like it’s the last story you’re ever going to write, because if there’s one absolute truth about writing, it’s that you only get the ONE chance. cough
That story would be a right hot mess and we all know it.
Earlier this year, like February, I think, I pulled my stories apart (the entire history of them), and wrote down everything I wrote that I liked and didn’t like and everything I wrote that I was good at and bad at. I pulled all the likes and strengths out of the list and set them aside. Those are the things I should focus on when I write. Maximize my strengths and likes, and work on, but de-emphasize my weaker likes.
This is how you improve those writerly skills. You have a base of something you’re good at and love, with a topping of something you love (or at least really like), but you’re not so good at. And everything else? Trash it! Come on, if you don’t love it, why are you writing it?
Write what you love, yes?
So…I couldn’t help myself. I tried to imagine what a story would be like that had the entire gambit of everything I loved in it. I didn’t make it. I felt overwhelmed less than halfway through the list.
I wanted to mention this because when people think about story disasters, sometimes they forget about this side of it. They think of forcing elements into their stories that they don’t like because they think that’s why the public wants. They think of writing stories before they’re ready. They think of so many other things.
But less often do we realize that we can run into just as many problems when we’re writing something we ARE crazy about.
Like, really, don’t be so in love with your work that you can no longer see it clearly.
Sometimes things just really don’t go together. Can you make the winged aliens work with the wands and butterflies? Sure, with some tweaks. After all, people say oil and water don’t mix, but they do with emulsifying agents.
However, more often than not, it’s just messy. You have too many intersecting parts, and in trying to explain all of it, the story suffers. Why do the aliens have wings? What’s with the wands? What’s up with those butterflies? Why the princess? Why not a nice humanoid? Why is lime green the power color?
Can you really explain all that without exploding your brain or boring someone into a coma? Maybe (said with no confidence whatsoever), but probably not.
It really is okay to save some of this for another story. 🙂