The Writer's Arc
Why You Should Treat Yourself as a Main Character
You've heard of the narrative arc and character arc. But what is THE WRITER'S ARC? And most importantly, why is it key for every writer to follow in their main character's (MC) footsteps?
As writers, our goal is to create a story worth reading. A story the reader can relate to, that has compelling and flawed characters. Basically, we want our MC to suffer. To grow. To learn.
We come up with tragic backstories, evil nemeses, high stake trials, scintillating life-or-death situations, and increasingly inventive torture methods all for the purpose of (satisfying our inner sadist, and) forcing our MC's transformation. In other words, their character arc. And it takes the whole book to get there.
How are our lives any different? Writers are not characters, but we are people, and as Ernest Hemingway said:
"A writer should create living people: people, not characters. A character is a caricature."
So... what does this mean for us?
Personally, whenever things get tough I like to think about myself as an MC. Our lives are filled with obstacles—it's about getting to the other side and continuing the journey. WRITING IS LIKE THAT.
The Glamorous *Snicker, Snicker* Life of a Writer
Contrary to popular belief... The Writer Life is not all #bookish or #aestheticjournals. In reality, it's more like wishing you had never given your characters life. Essentially: agony (much like parenting).
Another of my favorite quotes, this one by Douglas Adams:
"The fact is, I don't know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn't collapse when you beat your head against it."
Doesn't that quote perfectly capture The Glamorous (snicker, snicker) Life of a Writer? Too much coffee and frustration.
We know it's hard. From conception to birth, this novel is your baby, your long-term project. And you're the parent running after it.
What I've noticed with many writers is that we are insecure little weird creatures who spend too much time by our selves tearing apart our ideas or inflating them to the point of calling ourselves genius world-creators.
"Bow down, peasants."
And it's a cycle. One day we're shouting "this is brilliant" while typing at 150 wpm and the next we're crying into our coffee, slapped with the world's worst case of writer's block. (Sometimes this can happen multiple times in a span of a writing session).
Accept this. This is THE WRITER'S ARC.
When Your MC Takes Revenge
You guessed it, dear writer. It's your turn to suffer. It's your turn to grow, and it's your turn to learn.
Let the games begin!
In her non-fiction book on writing, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, Jessica Brody writes about the three main components of the character arc.
- The MC's Goal (sourced from their problem/s)
- What the MC thinks they Want
- What the MC Needs
In your case... your goal is to finish that beast of a novel, and you want to get published...
But what you need is to embrace your writing abilities and accept your writing journey.
Everyone's writing journey is different, just as everyone's life is different. Some of us may have a degree in English and a minor in creative writing, some of us are plotters, some of us are pantsers, some of us have never written but want to, some of us want to be published more than anything else in the world(!).
We have different levels of experience, knowledge, and practice. And we're all going our own separate way.
I repeat: THIS IS A JOURNEY. The final destination is not pre-set, there is no map to follow, we can ask for directions, but this is entirely our own journey. Our own story.
Accept your writing abilities. Accept where you are. Accept The Writer's Arc.
Easier said than done, right?
5 TIPS TO HELP WITH YOUR WRITER'S ARC
- Affirm every day that this writing is a journey.
- You can do this by standing in front of a mirror and repeating writing mantras like "I am (name) and I am a writer," or "I am (name) I am (x) years old, and I will finish this story." Or any encouraging ones of your own creation.
- These can be an inspiring quote on your laptop screensaver, a sticky note on the desk, or character sketches that remind you why you are writing—for the love of your characters and the story. (The last one does it for me).
- Sometimes staring at words until you go cross-eyed is not the most productive way to spend your writing session.
- Grab a coffee, grab a breath of fresh air, squeeze a baby—whatever you need to do to get a mental break.
- Fold a piece of paper and tape it to the screen so you can only see the last two sentences your writing. If you're someone who struggles with perfection in the first draft this can help you get in the flow of writing without the crippling self-doubt and copy-editing along the way.
- I'm a huge fan of writing books. (Nerd). Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is one of my favourites, but I'm also reading one on editing (What Editors Do) and one on publishing. I also love fiction. And blogs about writing.
- Recharge by learning more about your craft. Give your manuscript some space and make it jealous by checking out other authors in your genre. After a short time, it will be begging for your attention!
This is the first blog of (hopefully) many on writing, being a writer, and the writing journey. If you found this helpful send me a DM on my Instagram @angelica.writer. I love #authorssupportingauthors.
Speaking of support... consider directing a writer friend to my page or to this article. Spread knowledge and help me reach more writers!
I will try to post every week.
Thank you for reading,