How to Stand Up for Your Story
By Sophfronia Scott
On a recent flight I sat next to a businessman who described his wife’s love of writing. But she held back from writing the stories she really wanted to write for fear of offending her family. He wanted to know how he could encourage her to follow through. “Would your wife defend a child if she saw one being abused?” I asked him. “Oh yes, absolutely,” he replied. “She loves children, she would do it without thinking.” “Okay,” I said. “I would ask her to stand up for her stories the same way.” Suddenly he was basking in the glow of his personal light bulb moment. “Of course!”
That’s the answer. That’s what I teach, that’s what I believe. But I also know it’s easier said than done. So here’s a few tips on the “how” of standing up for your story-and this goes for both fiction and non-fiction writers.
1. What’s Great About Your Story?
The answer to this question may be floating around in your brain, but right now I want you to capture it and write it down in detail. You might think your story is great simply because you lived it. That’s fine. On the other hand that could be your block to writing (You might be thinking, “Who do I think I am to want to do this?”) Make a list. It could be, “My story could teach women how to cope with grief.” or “My story will bring joy to many people.” or “The techniques I teach will help people view the world more peacefully.” or “This is the only story that tells the real deal behind marketing a small business.” Really think about this because your story is on your mind for a reason. It holds your attention, it makes you think about it, so much so that you want to write it. So…
2. What Makes You Want to Write It Down?
Wanting to write something down isn’t a thought that comes idly. It’s a specific, often difficult, thing to do. What gave you the inkling to want to write it down? With my story that I had published in “Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul”, it was a story I told verbally a lot! People liked it and when the opportunity came to write a story, it was the first one that came to mind. It was practically waiting for me to do it. I felt writing this story gave it a new life and suddenly I was reaching many more people than I could telling the story verbally. What difference would it make to your story if it were written down? You want to use the answer to this question and the one above to keep you going, to remind you that you are not doing this on a whim.
3. Who Will Tell Your Story If You Don’t?
Unless a ghostwriter just happens to come your way and says, “Hey, I think you have a great story, I’ll write it down for you”, no one is going to tell your story unless you do. Look again at your answers above and remind yourself how important, how great your story is. Now, understand that the story won’t be able to live it’s potential if you don’t write it down. You have to do your part.
4. Make a Commitment to Your Story
What would a commitment to your story look like? Would it be writing a few pages every day? Would it be joining a class or a writing community so you can develop the story in a supportive environment? Write down everything that comes to mind. Then, decide what you must do to live up to this commitment. Do you have to re-arrange your schedule? Do you have to find a place to write? This is where you decide to take action and do it.
5. Write First, Worry Later.
I receive many questions from writers concerned about what their families will think if they write their stories. They ask me about using pseudonyms for characters and pen names for themselves. Some of their questions are surprisingly detailed considering they are discussing something they haven’t started writing yet! I say any and all questions can be dealt with AFTER they’ve written the story or book. Until then the worries they’re having are simply about a fantasy. Write first, worry later!
Â© 2009 Sophfronia Scott
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