I’ve learned lately that I quickly lose interest in the fiction I’m writing unless it has the following:

  • A strong narrative voice. This seems to be more important for me than anything else. I didn’t realize it was so critical until this morning, when the bland porridge of my current WIP grew too boring to continue (because it lacks a strong voice).
  • A concept that piques my curiosity. What this means in practice is flexible — it can be about a character, a relationship, the setting, a plot point, a mood. It just needs to be concrete enough that I can think about it.
  • A plot that runs on the rails of change. Meaning, dynamic scenes where the world and characters are in a different state at the end than they were at the beginning. Outlining appears to be the best way for me to get there, at least at this point. Dwight Swain’s book has been helpful here.
  • Theme, possibly. I sense that I do need it as a unifying force and to help me in scene selection, but I’m not positive it’s a requirement. (I did just read Libbie Hawker’s book on outlining and the theme part resonated with me, so it may just be that, though — an untested resonance.)

These aren’t massive, groundbreaking revelations, of course, but I’d somehow lost sight of them over the years or wasn’t fully aware of them before. Now that I’ve tugged them back into my conscious mind, though, I’m ready to start finishing stories again.