There are a lot of things to keep straight when you’re writing a story: characters, plot, setting, timeline, names, language, background, and more. It’s a lot of information that you have to keep track of—and a lot of information to convey to your readers.
Given that, it can be tempting to dump all of that information in large blocks of exposition or in character descriptions rather than communicating that information in the narrative. But the advice given to filmmakers and playwrights is just as relevant for writers: show, don’t tell.
For centuries old was better. Old meant tried-and-true, reliable, dependable.
This was especially true in the ancient world. The Romans gave a pass to Jewish religious observances because they were ancient and venerable; the Christians, on the other hand, were some kind of crazy newfangled cult that needed to be suppressed.
But today, no one wants to be a rehash of what has long been; everyone wants to be an original, to say something new and fresh. Now, part of that is because manufacturers and advertisers figured out that they could get more money from you by hyping the “new and improved” version of the thing that worked just fine as it was.
But another part of that is the understandable desire to leave a mark, to make a unique difference—to say I was here. And for that, unoriginality won’t do.
There are a lot of difficult things about writing, from character development to story continuity to plot development to research, not to mention making sure that your writing is any good! (Psst, that’s what editors are for.)
But it doesn’t take long to discover the hardest part of writing: starting.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for short). Every year, aspiring writers commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel in November. As the organizers at nanowrimo.org put it, the project is a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.”
So, that novel you’ve always wanted to write—November is your chance. You can make a commitment to trying to get your 50,000 words on the page by the end of the month.
But what should you write about? Ah, there’s the rub.