How to Use Anticipation to Write Better Stories

Waiting is hard, but you can use uncertainty and anxiety to your story’s advantage.


As a writer, you likely do a lot of waiting. You wait to get to a particular part in your story – you know, the part you’ve been anticipating since the beginning. You wait for someone to give you feedback. You wait for someone to respond to your email. You wait. And wait. And WAIT.

While you endure all this waiting, though, you have to do SOMETHING. Even if you don’t feel like you’re ready to write again, you can actually use these feelings of impatience and anxiety to your advantage by handing them over to characters and situations in a brand-new story.

Anticipation is a core element of storytelling. You need to be able to give your reader a reason to keep turning pages. I’m watching FRIENDS for the first time … think of how different you would have felt if the writers hadn’t dragged you through over half of season two just waiting for Ross and Rachel to gosh darn get together for real already. Was it worth the wait? Of course. But waiting is what made me watch 15 straight episodes without stopping yesterday (oops?). I needed that satisfaction.

Part of what makes writing such a draining task is that you, whether intentionally or not, become emotionally invested in the stories you write. Your emotions become your characters’ emotions, and vise versa. If you are feeling anxious, waiting for something to happen, you can instill that same anxiety in your readers as you gently pull them forward – almost giving them what they want, but lifting it just out of reach at the last minute.

That’s what makes a reader love and hate you. And it’s the best kind of love-hate relationship.

The fact that you’re already feeling such intense emotions as a result of things happening in your own life actually makes this an easier methodology to apply to your writing. The best scenes in books are the ones that depict specific emotions – written in real time as the author is feeling those exact emotions. That makes it real; believable; relatable.

Next time you feel bummed about a seemingly endless path of silence and waiting ahead of you, remember that emotions like these are potentially your most beneficial tool as a writer. When you feel, so will your reader. It’s like venting on paper, but with purpose and long-lasting effect. I’ve done it to you just now, and hopefully I’ve managed to help you in some way, as I drown in the silent worry that I will be waiting for something forever plus an eternity and a half.

We’re better writers because we’re emotional. That’s what we tell ourselves, anyway. Have you ever cried because your character started crying? Of course you have. Or was it the other way around? …

Don’t just wait. Write about waiting. Make it count.

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 Use Your Emotions to Fuel Your Writing

Use your emotions as fuel for writing effective, relatable content.


How you are feeling in the present moment can have a major impact on what and how you write. For some, feeling angry or upset means they simply have to walk away from their work station, leaving their writing for later. Some, on the other hand, let their emotions have a little too much say in what they write (you’ve seen those Facebook posts on your News Feed; you may have even written a few of them before). However, in many cases, our current mood can actually help us write deeper, more relatable stories, essays and more.

Start by identifying how you’re feeling right now

This is the easy part. By now you can pretty much tell the difference between those moments you’re feeling sad enough to make an entire pepperoni pizza disappear in one sitting and when you’re feeling angry enough to passive aggressively change your wifi password so your roommate can’t check Facebook on her phone. It isn’t the emotion itself that matters, in retrospect: it’s how you use it, in the next step, to turn something really great – or extremely awful – into a pretty twisted form of writespiration.

Transmit those feelings to a fictional character or scenario

If you’re a creative writer already working on a novel or short story, think of or create a scene in which a character feels the exact same way you’re feeling right now. It’s bound to exist somewhere in your story, even in a small way. If you aren’t currently working on anything, or even if you are, you can also come up with something completely new on the fly, almost like basing an entire flash fiction piece on a single emotion you’re experiencing. Regardless, channel your emotional state into that of your character. Doing this makes that character’s circumstances seem more real to the reader, even if you can’t get yourself to believe that at the time. The way we describe emotions as we’re experiencing them is much more raw than when we describe them from memory. If you’re sad, it’s much harder to write about feeling joyful. Possible, just harder. If you’re feeling elated, however, writing about a character who also feels elated comes much more easily, which usually bodes well for your story in the long-term.

Alternatively: Essay your way to closure (even if you keep it to yourself)

We’re all getting a little tired of think pieces about personal strife, let’s be honest. (There are just so many …) But just because you write it doesn’t mean you have to publish it. I once wrote an almost 1,000 word essay, targeting hiring managers and breaking down the Gen-Y stereotypes I didn’t adhere to. I would never, in a million years, publish that essay. Sometimes I go back and read it whenever I don’t hear back from a company after a job interview, but that’s for my own emotional health. It felt SO GOOD writing that essay. But sometimes we write things that aren’t for external eyes, and THAT’S OK.

Practice using your emotions as fuel instead of a steering wheel

In middle school, did you ever write something super mean about your best friend when you were mad at her, only to regret it instantly as soon as you found out how much it upset her? Emotions are powerful, especially when it comes to writing. That’s why using them to fuel your writing is a strategy that works wonders. But we also need to be careful not to let our emotions have too much influence over our writing, whether fiction or otherwise. I’m not going to kill off a character just because I don’t like him. I’m also not going to write an essay criticizing the entire online publishing industry just because someone didn’t answer one of my emails.

Emotional writing needs to be constructive, used as a driving force for logical written arguments. We can use circumstances in our own lives, and our emotional reactions to those circumstances, to write extremely thoughtful, sensual content. It takes practice to insert ourselves just enough into a piece of writing to make it relatable, without dipping too far in and making it personal when it isn’t supposed to be. Good storytelling often involves a great deal of emotional appeal.

As always, it’s about balance. I’m guilty, on several occasions, of turning a “this person wronged me and I’m angry enough to go into their dresser and purposely mismatch all their socks” scenario into a story about two people who overcame a bad situation and learned to forgive each other. That’s how I get closure. But I probably wouldn’t have written those stories if I’d never had that bad experience in real life. People all over the world write for different reasons. I believe we can use the good, or bad, things that happen to us to get more genuine stories out there. We might even end up using that as self-induced therapy in the process, and I don’t know about you, but I’ll take free, creative-based therapy wherever I can get it.

This post was written as part of the Problogger: 7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove challenge. If you have been struggling to write the engaging, well-thought-out posts your blog is known for, or have abandoned your blog completely but are ready to get back into posting more regularly, consider joining the challenge today.

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.

Image courtesy of

It’s Okay to Write and Cry


Some of you are probably going to judge me for admitting this, but as I was pouring through my daily 500-word goal this morning, something happened: I cried. Not because I hit my word count goal for the month, but because sometimes writing just consumes all of you, even the emotional parts.

I cried through the scene and I cried as I validated my word count to earn this top photo. I probably could have kept going, but it’s Monday and I have a lot more on my to-do list I needed to finish before going back to it. I’ll continue 500 words a day until the end of Camp, because, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I have fallen in love with my book all over again. But I needed a break. I didn’t expect to react to the scene the way I did.

If you’ve experienced intense emotions while writing, you’re not alone, and, good news: you’re normal. You should be glad you’re having such strong reactions to the things happening inside your head and out on the screen in front of you. Here’s why.

If you feel, your readers will feel

Not only do you want your readers to enjoy the experience of reading your work: you want them to react to it. Whether that reaction is good (“Yes! Harry lives!”) or not so good (“HEDWIG!!!!!!!”) it’s still a reaction. Sometimes we write to inform. Sometimes we write to entertain. But no matter the overall, we should always aim to nail a reader right in the heart.

How can you tell if your words will produce a reaction? By evaluating your own. Your emotions can not only fuel your words, but can help you gauge how someone else might feel at the same parts of the story. If a scene is supposed to make someone sad, but you don’t feel sad writing it … make it sadder!

Writing about emotional experiences is good for you, too

We write for ourselves, and in turn we often offer something of value to the people who read what we write. But in a lot of cases, you would still write if no one ever read your work. Wouldn’t you? Even journaling counts (have you cried journaling?). For some of us, writing heals. A positive byproduct just happens to be the act of giving someone else that same opportunity to deal with their own past experiences.

You can use storytelling as a coping mechanism for just about anything, and as you work through those story elements and put your characters through certain hardships (or it can be good things, too), it gets easier to make sense of the things that happened in your own life just by sitting at a computer and thinking of the best way to recount those moments in someone else’s point of view.

A few months back I wrote a post about funerals, and in that post I mentioned how my current book has two separate funeral scenes in it. I told you about how I’d been avoiding those scenes because I wasn’t ready to write them, but that at that point I felt I was finally ready to try.

I finally got to one of them today, and even though it’s not finished, and it’s not completely based on something that actually happened to me, the overall message resonates with me—apparently enough to make me cry while I was just trying to finish a scene and move on.

There are hidden rewards to writing. You’ll find them, as long as you keep going. Even if it requires a box of tissues.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Camp NaNoWriMo.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.