If You Accomplish Only One Thing as a Writer, Please Make It This


It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so in sync with a book, so captivated by every word of a story, that I’ve finished it, closed it, stared up at nothing for a while and just cried.

I didn’t think I would. I thought I might get a little teary, then finish it, put it back on the shelf and move on to something else.

Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.

I won’t tell you the book or why it resonated with me so much. The subject might give away too much of my story, and that’s not what these posts are for. No, I have something more important to say, something more important than the title of a book which made me, who you don’t really even know, feel something deep.

As writers we’re often too focused on how our readers are going to connect with our words. Not the worst thing to ponder, I suppose, but I wish we didn’t think of it so much. We read books and we comment on how much those characters just “get us.” We wish, we hope, we can do the same thing when we write. Because we all know deep down, one of the things that makes a book great is how it leaves the reader once it’s over.

I’ve read books that I haven’t liked. One of my reading quirks is that once I start a book, I have to finish it. So even if I’m 10 pages in and I hate everything about a book, I’ll read through till the end. I’ve read books that were okay, but that didn’t really challenge my thinking or leave me in a state of wonder or worry or awe afterward. That doesn’t mean those books weren’t good. Their plot lines just didn’t match up with my own, real-life ones.

To write a book that means something to someone, we have to come to terms with something important: not everything you write will mean the same thing to every person who reads it. Like a Sunday morning sermon: you might walk out of that church not feeling a thing, passing by people wiping away tears. There’s nothing wrong with you and the sermon wasn’t bad. It just didn’t fit into that small place in your heart that needed a little love right then.

Books are the same. There are probably a lot of people who have read the book I read and didn’t feel a thing. That’s fine. But I did. So flip that around. You’re the writer. You have this idea you’re head-over-heels in love with. You can’t wait to start writing it. But then … then you start thinking about it more. Worrying that you like it, but what if some people don’t? What if only a few people understand where you’re coming from? What if you’re the only one who loves it?

That place in your head, those thoughts of literary insignificance, are where extraordinary stories go to die.

When we write, we have to listen to our hearts. I have this theory that grief is tangible. Your heart feels empty, but really, it’s just full of stuff. Memories and questions and regrets all sloshing around, weighing the whole muscle down. But no matter the emotion, writing is how some of us release all that.

When you write about things you don’t care about, don’t understand, your heart just sits there in your chest. When you gather strength from inside, though, and you stop worrying about what other people will think, when you stop wondering if anyone will understand what you’re trying to say, a story is born. Your story. A story that, if you give them the chance, other people just might find pretty freaking brilliant.

So, fellow writers. Aspiring or already successful. Wherever you sit on the hierarchy of authorship. If you only accomplish one thing throughout your writing career, please. Write something that lifts itself off the page, reaches out and touches someone. Not their hand, not their cheek, but their heart.

Remind your readers, any readers, it’s okay to feel. It’s okay to be moved. It’s okay to be inspired to change something. Remind them they matter. Remind them if no one else ever tries to understand them, books always will.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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.

What Nobody Tells You About Writing Funeral Scenes


Nobody likes writing about funerals.

So why do we still write them?

Today I’m thinking about my grandpa, and my best friend’s grandpa, and a handful of other people’s wakes and funerals I’ve found myself wading through over the past decade or so.

Holidays are good days to reflect. I’m not sad, really. Remembering kind of feels like sadness, but less empty than that. I guess.

As most of us have figured out by now, it’s the bad experiences, the sad ones, the hard-to-talk-about ones, which often inspire the most heartfelt prose. Technically I’m one of those “lucky” people who didn’t have to deal with death firsthand all that often, at least not when I was young.

Except, it definitely didn’t feel so lucky when I did have to for the first time.

Today I’m thinking about my grandpa, and my best friend’s grandpa … people who mattered to me and people I got to say goodbye to in the most beautiful way. I’m also thinking about other people I’ve lost in the most permanent, devastating way, whose wakes and funerals I didn’t get to go to, whose absences still don’t feel real to me because I was never forced to let them go.

I don’t write about death a lot. But the deeper I dive into my journey as an aspiring writer, the more I realize writing about death is inescapable. Death is a part of life. We have to learn to deal with losing people. And once we lose them, they don’t come back. I used to think people who wrote about death all the time were just too depressing. Over the past few years I’ve come to realize their stories aren’t sad. They’re just honest.

About a year ago I was sitting at my kitchen table, writing a funeral scene. Technically a military funeral, but at that point I’d never been to one before. I remember that day because I sat there, writing that scene, crying because it was the first time since starting my book I’d ever felt connected to my characters on a deep, emotional level.

I’d already lost someone I really cared about earlier that year, one of those someones whose funeral I didn’t get to attend. I was thinking about death and how much I hated the idea of being close to someone who had died—something that, at that point, really hadn’t happened to me yet. We were also about to lose my grandpa then. I think part of trying to write that scene then was me trying to prepare myself for the real thing.

I never finished writing the scene, though. I couldn’t, because I didn’t know how to get through it. I worried I hadn’t started it right. The middle was too vague. I had no clue how to end it.

We lost him. It was one of those pieces of news that latched on slowly and started pulling me under even slower. I tried to go for a run that morning, made it about a mile and after that couldn’t make my legs go forward anymore. I didn’t touch my book again for a week. Even after the funeral. Even after I finally knew what it felt like to be there, to see it all unfolding, to feel all sorts of mad and sad and relieved all at the same time.

I just couldn’t then. Sometimes, you just can’t.

There will be two funeral scenes in the latest version of my book, neither of which I’ve written yet. One, my main character looks at from the outside, because it’s for someone she didn’t know well, a type of ceremony she doesn’t understand because it’s literally foreign to her. The second, she won’t be able to describe very well, because it’s for someone she loved. And it’s hard to describe feeling all sorts of mad and sad and relieved and empty all at the same time.

Up till now I haven’t tried rewriting that first funeral scene. It’s not pleasant, or enjoyable. It’s the one part of writing I don’t enjoy. What nobody tells you about writing funeral scenes is that it hurts, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll always think of that one person you never got to say goodbye to, the whole time you’re writing.

What nobody tells you is: it’s okay to think about them. It’s okay that they are still part of you.

I think I’m ready to write them now, though, these funeral scenes. Because today I’m reminded it’s okay to miss someone and remember them without that numbness you feel when you first hear someone tell you they’re gone. It’s not sadness. I think our hearts get full of memories, and we keep them there so long they start begging to be set free.

Memories don’t belong inside. They’re meant to be opened, and exposed and retold.

I think if we’re brave, and we sit down and we write about those people we miss and who aren’t here anymore, we’re not just letting them go. We’re letting them live on. We’re taking our grief and turning it into something real; something final; something to be remembered.

Those people we knew, those we loved, and still love, we’re taking our memories of them, the memories we’ve kept locked away, and we’re sharing them with anyone who happens to read what we have to say about them. That’s what happens when we write about them. They become something tangible. Their stories won’t ever be forgotten. They become part of our story. Forever.

Being brave, opening up, looking back on those memories that hurt and pouring them out onto a blank page, that’s what they would have wanted us to do. They can’t do it themselves. Even though they’re gone, they still need us.

Nobody likes writing about funerals. But I think, at some point, we all have to do it, to remind ourselves words can hurt … but they also have the remarkable power to heal.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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.

The Most Effective Way to Write About Personal Experiences


Everyone likes stories. Especially stories about themselves. This is part of being a healthy human being. Unfortunately, some take it a step too far, assuming their everyday goings-on are interesting enough to draw outside readership in an oversized way. Especially in the personal era of post-tragedy, it’s tempting to think telling your story will somehow change the world.

Before we start crushing the sensitive souls of the Internet understand that writing about what happens to us is healthy, and can help us overcome hardships such as loss, trauma and long-term suffering. We are not telling you to stop writing about how you feel. We are instead here to show you a way to turn those private scribblings into something someone else can read and relate to someday, if you want them to.

This post might upset you. You might want to comment, “Hey, you’re making me feel worse about my situation. Stop being so … ”

So … what? Mean? Straightforward? Honest?

Being honest is tough. Someone has to step up and take the plunge though. So here’s the truth.

Honestly? No one cares enough to read your personal anecdotes on a regular basis, let alone an entire condensed collection of them. Unless you’re famous for doing something legitimately significant, no one ever will. So that brilliant idea you had about turning that tragic experience into a best-selling memoir? Sorry. You’re basically destined to fail before you even start.


Unless you can train yourself to become patient and creative enough to transform that story that’s all about you and your problems into something an entire sample of people can relate to.

How does this happen? By following these steps, of course.

Separate Your Self From Your Situation

Yes. The improper separation of “your” and “self” is purposeful.

Think this isn’t the healthy way to handle a traumatic situation? Think again. Separating who you are from what happened to you may be the hardest, and most freeing, step in overcoming a traumatic experience, circumstance or situation. It reminds you that you have not become that tragedy, and empowers you to continue to work toward putting it behind you.

Before you write about a personal experience, you need to take yourself out of it. The experience remains a real part of your past, and can then become something you can come back to without the same overwhelming feelings of guilt, pain and sadness. Some of that feeling will always remain, and that’s where the writing aspect does come into play.

Create a Character, Even If He/She Is Based On You

“I” narratives can be effective in some essays depending on the publication and its audience, but some writers don’t find these kinds of anecdotes as impactful (and some do, and there’s nothing wrong with that). Taking the “I” out of the picture can potentially make all the difference.

Once you’ve taken yourself “out of the equation,” put someone else in your place, someone fictional, even if all you do is change his or her name and tweak the circumstances a little. Then start writing. It doesn’t have to be pretty or even make sense. The point is to start telling your story with an “outside” perspective.

Not only does this help you see the situation from a new angle, but telling the story from a new point of view can kick your creativity into gear. You are now allowed to manipulate the plot whichever way you choose, instead of retelling a story without a definite ending. Speaking of endings, we saved the best advice for last.

End the Story with Something for Everyone to Learn

It is at this point that the story that was once centered on you now focuses instead on every individual reading it. As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, everyone loves stories, especially when they can somehow involve themselves in them. Making the story relatable to every reader is the key to writing a good story that everyone can enjoy, even if it’s about a darker, more serious subject.

Visualize the biggest lesson you hope to learn from the situation you’re in, and use the story’s ending to encourage your readers to seek the same fulfillment in their own lives. For example, let’s say you lost a family member who was very close to you. Though tragic, the experience is teaching you to live more spontaneously and take more healthy risks in your own life. Projecting that onto your character, and weaving that into the conclusion of your tale, leaves everyone with that same inspiration without hearing it directly from you, someone they likely don’t know and whose opinion they are more likely to value much less.

It is both healthy and normal to use writing as a way to cope with deep emotions like loss and sadness. Use your emotion to create something beautiful. You will find that pieces of you show up in that story in the end, even if no one else sees them. This process of separating yourself, creating a new character and crafting a new ending to an unfinished event – it does not mean you are any less you. It means you are using your art to overcome life’s unfairness.

There are plenty of people out there who will read what you have written. Deep down, even if no one really wants to read about what happens to other people in real life, we all know most stories start with real experiences. You are leaving your mark, in the most effective way.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.