I might be in a slump. I can think of plenty of things to write about, but I can’t seem to focus. I’d like to try my hand at fiction, but I don’t know how. What if I can’t come up with a good story? And even if my story is good, can I be descriptive enough? Can I make the reader feel, see, and hear what I hear? Will my dialogue be believable? And what about a conflict?
A friend and I had been discussing the above and similar topics at lunch yesterday, and as parted, she said, “Well, they always say to write what you know. And they also say to write the kind of story you’d like to read.”
“Er, thanks,” I said.
Walking away, I thought about two things. (1) I’ve been writing about what I know (student success, psychology as related to women in the Bible, and family stuff). As a mother and grandmother, I know all kinds of things about those roles. I don’t know enough, however, because each day teaches me something new. (2) Just because I have knowledge about the preceding things, I’m not sure that even I would want to read something I’d written about the topics. Why not?
As a would-be buyer skimming through one of my books, would I buy it? Maybe, maybe not. not. Just because I know the above things, does that mean that my experience is universal? Does it mean that I’m an expert? Does expertise translate into reader enjoyment? The student success book is chocked full of useful information that would be beneficial to any two-year college student. In fact, high school students and four-year college students would find the tips and advice helpful too.
BUT (and it’s a big BUT), students don’t necessarily want to read about what it take to be successful. Many of them just want to know how. They want shortcuts and quick helps. I don’t blame them. I used to want the same thing. I wanted to make A’s, but I didn’t want to slow down long enough to read a book about acing classes.
So I’m going to have to figure out a way to make that book more appealing to students…or not. Being successful in any endeavor takes hard work, determination, and persistence. Any college grad knows that while there are a few easy courses, going the distance to earn that little piece of paper takes work. Do I need to rewrite the book and make it more fun, more entertaining? Maybe I’m being a little too serious. Maybe I need to interject a little more humor into my work.
And then there’s Eve’s Sisters. Is it a book I’d like to read? Yes. Here’s why. From teaching psychology, I know that all women want to feel valued, affirmed, and loved. They want to know how to handle relationships, deal with conflict, overcome depression, conquer self-doubt, develop high self esteem, raise well-adjusted children, rise above rejection, and have courage.
The scriptures are replete with stories that offer examples of women (and men too, of course) who practice self-help principles. But some people say they think the Bible is too goody-goody. To borrow a line from Moonrise Kingdom, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” We can find answers to questions about our psyches and all sorts of psychological issues in that book. I need to figure out a way to convince people that Eve’s Sisters and other books of that ilk have stories and applications that can improve their lives and relationships.
About the fiction, I’ve begun studying how to do it because I’d like to get one novel out there before I bite the dust. And I think I’m going to write a “how-to” teacher book too. If people want to read it, fine. If not, then not. Maybe one (or more?) of my teacher friends would like to co-author such a book???
What about you? Do any of you writers or would-be writers ever find yourself in a slump? If so, how do you pull yourself out of it?