Writing the Story of Your Heart


This is the handout from the Workshop I am giving on Saturday morning at the Creative Ink Conference this weekend. This conference in Burnaby has been running for three years now and is a wonderful gathering of authors and artists and editors discussing genre fiction.  Here’s the website if you are interested in coming up to Canada for it. (memberships can still be purchased at the door) http://www.creativeinkfestival.com/


The story of my heart began when I was seventeen with a lucid dream of a burning city, an epic battle, and two young men watching it burn, knowing they were responsible for it all.

That one vivid scene has grown into a world of stories and four books that happen in a parallel universe on a world called Ardebrin. This world can be accessed through a gap in time called the Rift of Shadow which is the haunt of demons. My work in progress is a dark YA fantasy with demons, ghosts and a body stealing necromancer.


Here are some suggestions for you to keep in mind regarding your own heart story:

Patience:  Consider the development of such a story like one developes a marriage. This is a different kind of story than any other you will write. Some examples of other people’s stories of the heart:   Dune by Frank Herbert   To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee   The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien   The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss   Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Building such a story often takes time. Sometimes generations. You will change and the story will change and deepen with you.

Stick to your guns: When a battle got hot and deadly it was important not to back down, to stay at the post against all odds. Writing the story of your heart takes that kind of determination.

You will change as the story deepens. The story will change you and you will change the story.  The more of you that goes into this the harder it will be.

Don’t mind criticism: Mette Harrison says: “Here’s what I want you to remember: You’re not writing for everyone. You’re not writing for the people who don’t get what you’re writing. You’re not writing to get that kid who hated you in seventh grade to like you. You’re not writing for critics. You’re not writing for the future you can’t see into…. You’re writing for friends. And by that I don’t necessarily mean the people who are your friends right now. I mean the people who get what you’re doing and care about it. If you’re writing fantasy, you’re writing for people who like fantasy and the particular kind you’re writing. If you’re writing humor, you’re writing for people who want to laugh. If you’re writing mystery, you’re writing for people who want to be scared…. Those are the ones you’re writing for. They laugh in the right places. They feel sick in the wrong places. They didn’t guess all the twists and turns before you wanted them to. They didn’t know that character was going to turn villainous. They believed in the rules you set forth. They let you weave your magic over them and they didn’t see any of the holes they might have seen.”  Mette Harrison’s writing tips: metteivieharrison.com

In other words: write the passion and go deep, deep, deep into your own heart until it makes you cry or laugh or cringe.

Your Characters will tug at you:  Let them do this. They are springing up from the unconscious need to give you their story. Your story will be deepest if you allow their opinions colour the world. Follow up on hunches they give you. A word here, an idea there will lead you to some incredible research. Sometimes uncanny enough to raise a shiver up your spine and a thought of ‘how did I know that?’  It is up to you as their creator to keep them in line as you build your books about them. Writing the story of your heart is a lot like controlling a team of strong horses.

Work on other things: Start other books. Don’t be afraid to go in search of new ideas and new characters. Research comes out of strange places. Write short stories that spin off from the story of your heart.

Back up your work:  save it to the cloud, to other devices, to hard copy: Keep all your drafts. Keep a slush file of stuff you took out of the draft you are working on.

First Drafts: Take risks. Be playful. Finish it! Finish it fast. If you don’t you will change, your ideas will change and your passion will evaporate like mist in the wind. First draft is your risk draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. Don’t let your doubts slow you down. Get going and don’t stop.

Revision: Revision does not mean re-write:  It means just what it says: to envision all over again.  Do not spin your wheels trying to fix something that isn’t working. Often revision of the story of your heart can take years. In my case it took generations. Go out on a limb and get rid of stuff, but only do this in revision. (see back up your work)

Make idea files:  I have a bunch of stories in progress. Some are just titles. If I get an idea I make a file for it and often something will come to me at a future date.

Learn how to sell your work. Take courses from writers who are best sellers: In 1994 got serious about finishing the books I’d been dabbling at writing. By 1997 I’d written four books and a number of short stories and I began to go to conferences and seek agent representation. I revised and revised and finally got a New York Representative from a major firm in 2004. My books did not sell and I wondered why. In 2008, I began to take courses down on the Oregon Coast and as a result of working with a fabulous group of professionals I made my first pro short sale in 2010.  From 1994 to 2008 I worked on my writing skills, but it took those two years from 2008 to 2010 to really hone them into something that had a professional ring. I had done all the work, I just needed the polish.  Take courses from the pros. They will give you that last amazing polish you need.

Read the work of other best selling and classic authors:  Story in, story out. Learn from those who still sell. Read heart stories. See examples above. Seek out your own. Find passages in the work of your favourite authors and type them in just as they are. This is like a mini course from a pro. Typing in another authors work is comparable to an artist painting a copy of a great artists masterpiece. You learn invaluable information that way about technique and depth.

Some recommended sites you should check out for amazing writers tips: David Farland for his amazing writing tips:  davidfarland.com

Kristine Kathryn Rusch for all things business: kriswrites.com

I would love to hear about your story of the heart. How did it grab you by the scruff and not let go?

Happy Writing!

2 thoughts on “Writing the Story of Your Heart

  • Hey Brenda! Great tips here. It’s helpful to shed light on what it “really” takes to write your heart story. The years can be summed up as adolescent angst and honeymooners rejoice. The pendulum does swing-eth. Lol!
    Unfortunately, I won’t be attending/ vending at Creative Ink this year on account of my leg. It’s just now starting to behave normally.
    I can say this, “I NEVER!!!! want to get to know in the inner workings of my Meniscus or my MCL. Just shoot me! That is all.
    Have a great time and know that I will be thinking of you at the Creative Writers Ink Fest.

    Theresa Moleski
    Creator of Whispering Stones

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