author control, creating a world, Ideas for a New Story, personalize, Uncategorized, Voice, Writing

The book that only you can write

The first book I envied was Bel Kaufman‘s Up the DownKaufman'sbook. Staircase. It should have been my book! I knew what it was to cherish language and literature. Like Kaufman’s main character, I was naive enough to think I could instill an appreciation for truth and beauty in my teenage students. My days often felt insane. Why didn’t I put all that together?

Many answers come to mind, but this one tops the list: I didn’t find anything funny about my job. But I loved that book.

For good or bad, I have to write the book that I can write. But how about this: is there a book that can only be written by me?

I think so. And one for you, too, even if you’ve never written anything.

It doesn’t have to be the story of your life or a memoir of a significant time. On a book that only you can write, you’ll stamp not just the drive of your DNA, but ideas and sensory impressions of your lifetime. Doesn’t matter whether you tell the truth as you remember it or create fictional characters and story.

How do you find the book that only you can write?

For a start, don’t imitate. Strive for honest expression. Too many writers try to write the book they love to read and end up with sad copies. Whether you’re writing romance or science fiction, an honest story will come from your understanding and way of seeing. That doesn’t mean you’ll write about yourself. But if you’re honest, readers will know your heart.

What can’t you forget? What do you see? What do you hear? What’s good, what’s evil, what’s just?  Your lifetime impressions lie waiting to be remastered in the book that only you can write.

Drafts, Style, Voice, Writing

Finding a true voice

Usually I read blogs for information, but I’m drawn to several by the conversational style of the blogger.  The writers sound like fun people with keen minds.  I think I’d like to read something by them.  But when I read a sample of their fiction, I’m disappointed.  It’s not the voice I expected.
I’ve also read critiques with more snap and personality than the characters in the critiquer’s stories.
I’m sure it’s not necessary to write fiction in our own voices, whatever that means.  Stories don’t have to be about ourselves.  But some writers have a conversational style that’s more interesting, fresh, and honest than their fictional creations.  
Why is this?  Possible answers:  self-imposed controls, inexperience, imitating models we like.  Writing instructors talk about the need to set the subconscious free and to turn off the internal editor, in the first draft, anyway. 
What can we do to find our personal style and carry it into a story?  How can we get from here to there?  I think it helps to begin with heartfelt emotion and characters who share some trait or experience we can identify with, including antagonists.  It helps to think about issues, places, personalities and events and distill them to conviction (point of view!).  In any story worth reading, the writer shares lot of herself, not necessarily personality or experiences, but those convictions.
I’ll never forget a paragraph written by a student who avoided F’s only because he was always present and attentive and bravely struggled through homework.  The assignment (based on Robert Frost’s Mending Wall) was to write about a personal wall.  His wall, he wrote, was his inability to achieve more than a “D,” no matter how hard he tried.  His words were heartfelt, his voice true, and his paragraph, a stellar creation.  Everybody else wrote what they thought the teacher wanted.
As writers (and maybe in real life), we must not be afraid to show ourselves as naïve, ignorant, or even worse–boring–at least not in the first drafts.  We should not adopt styles we think everyone wants to read.  Sometimes they’re not as good as our own.