Don’t Be Afraid to Write About Ordinary People

Don’t forget about them.

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Science fiction is among my favorite literary and cinematic genres. I, like many others, jump at any opportunity to be transported from my uninteresting life to something that takes my breath away. It isn’t that I wish I were in a different place in a different time. It’s just that sometimes we need to let ourselves believe, just for a little while, that there’s something amazing out there – even if we may never reach it.

There’s a small part of every reader that craves stories about extraordinary people. We all wish we could be the stereotypical superhero. We all want to believe we are capable of overcoming all our obstacles with the help of some force we may or may not have the privilege of controlling.

And while it’s true that many of these stories can be applied as metaphors to everyday life – we love that, too – I challenge you never to forget about the ordinary. The real or fictional people that do not appear special or unique in any way. There’s someone out there who needs a reminder that they are still important. They’re still capable. They still matter.

I am the kind of writer who struggles, and therefore often considers refusing, to settle into one genre of writing. I don’t think I’m capable of only writing about “normal” characters or only writing about people who are far more capable of changing the world than I will ever be. I don’t know where you stand on this, and I do understand that not every writer can support both types of characterization in all their work. But I do think we often shy away from the ordinary, because we’re afraid it’s too boring or too close to real life. Yet that’s what we know best. I hope we don’t ignore that hidden advantage.

The people we often consider “ordinary” have hidden stories waiting to be told. If you’re afraid of a story being boring because a character isn’t exciting enough, then make the story more exciting. A story can focus on characterization or it can focus on plot, or it can focus on a combination of different things. The only boring stories are the ones in which there is no character development, and there are no lessons learned, and nothing changes, and there is no emotion or reason to feel attached to a person or situation whether they exist in the real world or not.

Here’s to the ordinary people and characters, who experience extraordinary things, and change the world, even if only a little bit.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Read This Before Midnight … | NANO PREP 2016

NaNoWriMo is upon us!

NaNoWriMo

As I’m writing this post, in my time zone, there are 12 hours left until November starts. Otherwise known as, less than half a day before National Novel Writing Month officially begins.

I thought I would give you some last-minute bites of inspiration to chew on before you start writing this year. There’s a lot of excitement, and probably a little nervousness, buzzing around in our heads today. Here’s what I want you to remember.


Think about your ‘meh’ days

Thinking ahead, I already know weekends are actually going to be the hardest writing days I’m going to have all month. For you, Mondays and Wednesdays might be torture. If you know ahead of time which days of the week you are going to struggle, you can plan ahead, both mentally and scheduling-wise, to compensate for possibly not getting as much writing done on those days as you might like to. I will probably get more writing done on Thursdays and Fridays than usual to make up for rough writing weekends. Plan. Expect. You might even find you don’t have as much as a hard time as you thought you might.


You’re about to do a lot of bad writing – that doesn’t make you a bad writer

A lot of people get hung up on the fear that they’re writing badly, which sometimes stops them from writing completely. NaNoWriMo isn’t meant to help you write a publish-worthy novel in 30 days. That’s impossible. As the month goes on, you’re probably going to end up writing some stuff that just isn’t good. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. While some might argue that writing quickly for the sake of “getting it done” is a waste of time, I strongly disagree with the idea that you can only ever write good content. My last point will justify that further.


Whether you make it to 50,000 or not, the attempt is all that matters

Those aren’t just nice fluffy words to pick you up before you’ve fallen down. I don’t give out fluff, not even for free. NaNoWriMo exists to get you writing your novel. It’s an excuse to get writing done. It’s a reason to try starting or continuing or finishing that book you just can’t seem to put together. It really doesn’t matter whether or not you make it to the winner’s circle. But you should at least try. Trying is a sign of strength. Successful people try. Successful people also fail. Unsuccessful people don’t fail, but they also never try – and end up accomplishing nothing in the process. Just start writing. It’s OK if 50,000 words is too much for you. But you’ll never know until you write 100, or 1,000, or 10,000.


Well, I guess all I have left to say is … good luck. I’m still going on with our normal posting schedule, NaNo-related every Monday until December. Feel free to leave suggestions for any topics you want me to cover this month. Happy writing!


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How to Write Well, Fast: Fiction | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

The point is to force yourself to write regularly, as much as possible, without putting in too much or too little time on just one project.

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Writing fiction is hard. Doing it well, and doing it as quickly as possible, is even more of a challenge. You can do it. Just keep the following things in mind as you write.

Give yourself a daily word count

Not a minimum or a limit: a word count. Something you will be able to look at once and stick with for the remainder of your project. This might mean you allow yourself 1,500 words five days a week, Monday through Friday. It might mean 2,000 words seven days a week. You could potentially even set a goal to write 10,000 words daily (possible, but honestly, probably not recommended).

The point is to force yourself to write regularly, as much as possible, without putting in too much or too little time on just one project. If you write too much, chances are the quality of your work is going to start decreasing. If you write too little, you’re not technically writing all that quickly, are you?

Save research for later

Research is important even when we’re writing fiction, but you don’t have to be an expert to write about whatever you want. Eventually, you’ll have to get your facts straight (please do). But remember that no first draft is perfect, and if you spend all your time researching and none of it actually writing, you’ll never have a finished first draft to perfect.

This does NOT mean that you can or should publish something inaccurate. It means that, for now, you’re going to focus on the story and moving the plot forward, and worry about perfecting the details later. For example, if you were writing about a police officer and knew nothing about what a police officer does on a daily basis, it’s going to save you a lot of time now if you do your best with what you think you know, focus on the story itself and return to getting it all right at a later time when the story is mostly written.

Know what’s coming next

As we mentioned last week, a primary reason why we often stop writing in the middle of a good workflow is not being sure where we’re going to go next with a story. This is a lot easier to avoid than you might think: just plan it out, in however much or however little detail you want.

You might have to do some quick outlining, meaning you might spend five or 10 minutes prior to the start of your designated writing time planning out what you’re going to write that day. You don’t necessarily have to get into specifics, but in general you’ll probably have an idea in your head of what’s going to happen next in your story. Jot down some bullet points, so you don’t have too many of those “whiteout” moments (when you stop writing, intending to think through your next move, but instead just end up completely spacing out).

Check out more of our LET’S GET PUBLISHED series and feel free to leave a comment down below with any questions you have related to writing, publishing, experience, etc.

Image courtesy of edx.org.