How to Use Anticipation to Write Better Stories

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

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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 Have More Patience As a Writer

This answer may seem simplified and obvious, but the number of writers who lack patience simply because they fail to exercise the need to be patient might surprise you.

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I have never been a patient person. In the beginning, this made professional writing stressful and frustrating. You mean I have to wait WEEKS to find out if my article will get published or not? Yeah. For many, this never gets easier. Yet for some, it does. Why is that?

The reason is, possibly to your dismay, far less complex than you might think.

In order to develop your ability to be patient, you must practice being more patient.

This answer may seem simplified and obvious, but the number of writers who lack patience simply because they fail to exercise the need to be patient might surprise you. Patience, like muscle, is something that will only develop the more opportunities you come across that require you to wait. If you expect to get better at something without trying, I’m not really sure what it is you’re hoping to accomplish.

In the beginning, having to wait for feedback, for a reply, for ANYTHING, may seem impossible. Even working on your own novel or short story might become frustrating once you realize how long it has taken you to make progress. But the more you force yourself to wait for that feedback and those replies, all the results you do and don’t want, the easier it gets.

Do you want to learn how to submit something and, essentially, forget about it until you hear back – if you hear back at all? Submit more things.

Do you want to figure out how to keep pushing through the boredom and frustration we often experience halfway through writing a novel, so you can finally finish something through to completion? Write more novels. Practice the patience required to spend months, sometimes even years on a single story.

I know many of you don’t like these kinds of in-your-face answers. But I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear or give you a fancy app or technique to write more words. For many of the issues you are having in your writing life, honestly, the problem lies within you. There is nothing WRONG with you – you just need to take things one issue at a time and work through them. By sitting down. And writing.

Sometimes all you need is a simple reminder. Now get back to writing. :) And be patient. The words will come. The stuff will get written. Some people will respond. Results are often slow, but worth the wait.

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 Flickr.