For those of us who want to make a living writing, we often get bogged down by all we need to learn about craft, all we need to know about publishing, and all we need to do about marketing.
While I'm completely in favor of doing All The Things to create wonderful stories and send them out to readers, we can find ourselves missing out on the joy that used to fuel our storytelling. After all, it's now our business, and one definition of business is "serious activity requiring time and effort and usually the avoidance of distractions" (Merriam-Webster).
In 2017 and 2018, I really struggled with the seriousness of it all. I'd been writing in some form or fashion for 10 years, and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I started running toward it like a marathon competitor with laser focus on the finish line ribbon. But somehow, while I made progress, I didn't hit that ribbon and mostly ended up feeling sweaty and exhausted.
And then, I had a conversation with my critique partner. We talked about losing some of the excitement we'd originally had in writing stories. And somehow, by the end of the discussion (which may have included wine), we'd decided to co-write a series.
But not just any series. A fun series that let our imaginations run wild!
So we did it. We've written three books for our supernatural fantasy/mystery series, the first one of which we recently released. And while still treating it all as a serious endeavor, we've had a ball!
But while I love co-writing, I don't think it's for everyone. Rather, here are some ideas we've learned along the way that can help you rediscover the fun of writing.
1. Create a setting you want to visit.
We imagined a fictional island with mythological beings. And not just Greek or Roman mythology, but the whole kit-and-caboodle. This played on my writing partner's love of mythology, my enjoyment of research, and our mutual fondness of the beach.
But think about other worlds in fiction that have stuck with us. Narnia. Avonlea. Wonderland. Hogwarts. Things aren't always perfect there, but they are intriguing places we'd love to see. Even places that involve threats we wouldn't want to encounter—like Jurassic Park or the Hunger Games arena—are places we might want to go as a neutral reporter or a fly-on-the-wall.
It doesn't have to be a fantasy world. It could be a city you with interesting sites, a neighborhood you want to know more about, an industry you find fascinating. Our blog hostesses run the gamut—with Fae Rowen setting a story in space, Laura Drake setting stories at rodeos, and Jenny Hansen setting a story at a healthcare clinic for the adult entertainment industry—but all interesting places. Just come up with a place you're excited to visit for a couple hundred pages.
2. Craft characters you'd love to hang out with.
Well, duh, you say. And I get that, because of course you wouldn't write a main character you have no desire to write about. But I wonder if we consider this principle well enough when crafting secondary and tertiary characters. When you need an extra character to do something in a scene, do you create someone who fits the bill—or makes your stomach flutter?
I can honestly say that there isn't a single character in the books my co-author and I have written who isn't someone we'd like to hang out with. For a few of them, we'd want a Plexiglas barrier or a force field separating us, but we'd be curious enough to want to meet them in person.
Sadly, I can't say that about all the manuscripts I have written, but now that I've seen how much fun it is to make every single character count, you can bet I'll be editing some of those scenes to make each character compete to be the most compelling. Of course this makes it harder for your main character to shine, but what a great challenge to live up to!
3. Add some spunk.
Are you holding back on throwing in those fun lines? Making that larger-than-life character? Adding that chase scene on roller skates? Subtly including your ex in the story and then killing them off?
Hey, it's your story. Have fun. Add your personal brand of spunk.
My co-author excels at clever characters and settings, and she brought in some fabulous ones. Meanwhile, I adore writing banter and humorous dialogue. We leaned into our own brands of spunk on the page, and it was fun. (In our case, not only fun to write, but fun to read what our partner came up with.)
Some of the authors who stick with us are especially good at this. Whatever else you think of bestsellers like Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, and J.K. Rowling, they took what they did well and played it to the hilt. They showed spunk.
4. Toss in a few goodies.
Let's head back to Hogwarts. (Yes, I know some of you never read the Harry Potter series, but stick with me for a moment.) You know what people are still talking about oh-these-many years later? Places like Platform 9¾ where Harry boards the train to his new wizarding school and Diagon Alley where various magical merchants sell their wares. Items like the moving staircases at the school and the unique wands each student used. Even living things like the Whomping Willow that ate a car and the owls who ran a rather curious mail system between residents and the outside world. Are any of these specifics crucial to J.K. Rowling's story? Nope. They're just goodies!
Again, it needn't be a fantasy world where you throw in fun stuff. Let me switch to film and give you a few examples of goodies that weren't crucial to the story, but fun for both writer and audience:
- Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope
- Alligator boots in Romancing the Stone
- Boombox in Say Anything
- Twin Pines/Lone Pine mall in Back to the Future
And yes, I know those are older films, but even my Gen-Z (or whatever) sons have seen three of them. So hopefully, you recognize something there!
The point is to throw in something extra goodie, an Easter egg from another novel, a funny setting, an inside joke, a memorable scene. For instance, we've had fun with cocktails—yes, cocktails.
Writing a great story is hard. But it can also be really fun. And when you have fun with your story, your readers are more likely to enjoy it too. Look for ways to amp up the fun factor.
What ideas do you have for adding more fun when writing a book?
Julie Glover usually writes cozy mysteries and young adult fiction. But she recently branched out to co-author the Muse Island Series with Kris Faryn, which begins with Mark of the Gods, under the pen name Jules Lynn. You can visit the series website here, follow the Facebook page here, or head to her Jules Lynn website to learn more.