Trust Your Gut

Sometimes creating a novel is more frustrating than chopping wood with the blunt side of the ax. Your characters won’t cooperate, your plot line is in knots … Wouldn’t it be awesome if your story just wrote itself?

And when you think of it, there have been times, too, when novel writing was so easy, it was like the tree fell over, disintegrated into logs, and stacked itself neatly by your back door. It’s like you magically tapped into an inner zone – some part of your brain that already knew how the story was supposed to go – and the words flew off your fingers and became a staggering work of breath-taking genius (or however Randy Ingermanson puts it).

I don’t know about you, but I love my job as a writer best when the words come easy. When I find that zone and exploit it. I’ve tapped into it so many times, I really begin to believe that my subconscious already knows every detail of the story I’m trying to write.

I eventually devised a method to get into that zone more consistently. You could call it “writing from the zone,” or “writing from the subconscious.” I call it “writing from the gut.” Because for me, it all centers around this thing called a “gut instinct.” Yes, exactly the same feeling you get when you just know your great aunt Wilhelmina walked into the room.

What Is a Gut Instinct?

Most of us have experienced that feeling, when you have a choice, and you just knew the right decision, even though you had no good reason to support it. In fact, there may have been a lot of reasons in support of the converse option. But you were just following your gut. And most of the time, your gut was right. Wasn’t it?

That’s exactly how I write a book. That’s how I get “in the zone” and stay there. It can be head-pounding hard to come up with all the details of the story, from your main character’s name and occupation to every event of the plot. You have a million choices in front of you, and when it comes to writing fiction, the sky’s the limit. Anything can happen.

But only one set of choices are your story.

Respect Your Instincts

Sometimes you write something into the story because you think you have to. Because the “rules” of the genre demand a certain structure. Or because everybody says X style of fiction sells better. Or because your MC’s behavior makes no sense.

You let the wise and reasonable side of your brain take over … and next thing you know, you’ve run your story aground, you hate everything you wrote, and you’re not sure how to fix it. You don’t even have a book anymore.

What about those times when the book seemed to write itself? Those were the times you were writing from your gut. You were following your instincts. You were letting the book write itself – whatever that book may be. Maybe it didn’t make sense as you were writing it. Maybe the wise and reasonable side of your brain was screaming at you that this was a disaster.

But you trusted your gut.

And if you explored your own story carefully, you eventually found good reasons to support your gut instinct. Maybe your story is a rebel and refuses to be confined by the “rules” of the genre. But the storyline is solid and compelling anyway, rules or no rules.

Or maybe you find that success doesn’t depend on a popular genre, but a small, devoted following of niche fans. In fact, it’s easier to shine in your little subcategory. You’re the only one dishing up your particular genre.

Or maybe after letting your character run amok with the story all the way through to the end, you finally realize why he did the things he did, and that his personality is more compelling and authentic because you let him be himself instead of trying to force him into a cookie cutter that was “more acceptable.”

The point is, nothing you do as a writer has to make sense now, while you’re writing. Follow your gut. It can all make sense later. And it will. If you trust yourself.

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