Destroy Your Story. Re-grow it.

When it's time to take charge of your story

Hello, writers. As I’ve been planning new episodes for the Writerly Bites podcast, I realized I was using a lot of take-charge words and phrases: burn it down. Take control. Open up a wound. My thinking about my own writing is getting warlike these days. I’m realizing that in the stories I’ve been most inspired by in recent months, the authors have taken their stories into one degree of danger more than I’ve been willing to go. The novels I’ve been reading have decomposing bodies and abandoning mothers and patricide. They flirt with genre or they dive into horror or they show us the true ways families can destroy each other. They’re fierce and inspirational, and I intend to take my stories into that dangerous zone this season — and to take you with me, if you’re up for the journey.

Are you on the warpath with your writing this month? Maybe your story needs boldness, even if that boldness comes in the form of destruction. Maybe you need to go a little more intense, a little more strange. Maybe your story needs to acknowledge the way a person’s life can be ruined; maybe in the way many people’s lives have been incalculably changed in the last year.

At the same time, I’m interested in growth this season. Even as I was losing patience with clichés and tearing old, reliable structures of storytelling to the ground, I was trying to build new things up. On the podcast this month, I talked about planting a seed and returning to the spirit of play. I encouraged the quiet, contemplative space that writing by hand gives us. Maybe, whether it’s destruction or construction, I’m interested in having things change. Stories need change, and they need their writers to change with them, transforming themselves to suit the needs of the story. In my interview with Ann Y.K. Choi, Choi talked about dressing up like her characters in order to fully inhabit this transformation. Maybe dressing up like your character will get you inspired this month.

I’m excited about the growth of the podcast this month, too. We’ve got new listeners, a new hosting platform, and a new outreach to other podcasts and writers. It’s a new spring, and a new chance to expand the conversation about writing. Maybe your life has started opening up a little. Maybe you’re still afraid of the changes the new season might bring. Maybe you’re mourning heavy losses. Either way, the days of spring stretch out before you, ready for your use. How will you use them this month?

I know I’ll be writing.

You can listen to a new promo for Writerly Bites here.

The exercise:

The story needs you to destroy it. It needs you to burn something to the ground, to acknowledge the true and hard ways so many people have lost so much. You have to be willing to destroy your character’s life this month, even if it means writing things you never thought you could write.

This month, throw one lit match into your story-in-progress. What’s one thing you could destroy for them, so that he or she will have to explore the aftermath, the changed landscape of their life? Can you get them fired from their job, can you have a beloved person walk out on them? Maybe your character is the one that lights the match.