Now I start. Or was it yesterday? I think it was actually weeks, months, or decades ago, but now it’s…now. I am a writer. I want to write. I started writing forever ago, and though none of it’s worth mentioning, the point of it is, that it was inside of me. Only, now I’m getting it outside of me, and not just on paper or on my computer screen, because I’ve done that, but out there… Out there! where they are; where you are. Sending your work, your creativity, your baby out there into the virtual unknown is unnerving, and not just a little bit paralyzing.
Did you know that you don’t put double spacing in between sentences anymore? or that you don’t indent the first sentence in an paragraph of fiction? What?! Everyday I’m learning something new about writing. Granted, these things are small, and easily fixed (which is good because I keep doing them), but they are still two more stones of self-doubt that, when added to the rest of the pile I’ve amassed, can push me into a solid funk. That’s where I was yesterday, which is why I’m really “starting” today 🙂 So here goes.
The best piece of advice that I think I’ve ever received from a writer is to protect my own voice. Not my speaking voice… but my writing voice. We all think differently, therefore we all write differently. Our characters are unique to us (minus a few cliché newby mistakes that seem to be inevitable to many, myself included), and how we present them to our readers through dialogue and/or descriptive narrative will also go a long way towards branding us in our writing. And this is okay. Let me say that again. This is OKAY! We are not meant to sound like each other. We are meant to sound like ourselves… which is really the easiest thing to do. Copying the writing style of others is much more difficult. So be careful who you let read your writing when you first begin, was the advice given to me. Or at least, prepare yourself for the critiques you may receive back after having someone read it.
For example, If they say, “Wow, I really love your character, ‘so and so,’ but in this chapter here, what she says doesn’t really seem to be true to her character. Would she really be brave enough to say that?” This sort of thing is helpful. You can nod and say, “Hmmm, I thought so when I wrote it, but I will definitely take another look. Thank you.” Then you can sit down and decide whether “so and so” would really have said that or not. You can decide, no, she wouldn’t have, and proceed to change the dialogue… and then curse the fact that you now have to rewrite the whole chapter for this change to make sense, or you can decide that she wouldn’t normally have said that, but you don’t feel like changing everything, so you change just a little bit to show that she’d been drinking, thus making it was okay for her response to be a little out of character. Okay, perhaps not, but you get my point. This sort of a response to your writing is helpful because it helps you rethink things and become better.
On the other hand, if someone says, “I really liked this scene here, but I think it would have sounded better if your hero had said it this way,” and then they proceed to give you back your exact sentence–only in a different order–perhaps adding a few frilly words of their own. Basically, criticisms that are not content related, but style related. These, I think, you should be very careful about listening to. Your ability to choose one set of words over another set of words, or to arrange them one way instead of another, is what makes your writing yours. Not everyone will like it, but that’s okay. We all have authors that we love because their plot is amazing, or like only so, so, because they’re too descriptive and we keep forgetting who and what was being talked about by the time we get back to the dialogue.
I think that Jannette Oake’s novels are fairly simple, her men nearly always too perfect, and her plots purposefully predictable. But I love her!!! I absolutely love her! Hers were the first Christian historical romance novels I was introduced to growing up. My aunt gave me Roses For Mama, and I was hooked.
I think Lori Wick’s pirate series was a little far fetched, but I still enjoyed reading through all three books more than once–and nearly all of her other books as well.
I love Brock and Bodie Thoene, Linda Chaikin, Francine Rivers, Gilbert Morris, Deeanne Gist, and Karen Whitemeyer, but can’t for the life of me get into anything by Karen Kingsbury and she’s supposed to be the “queen of Christian fiction.” Without criticizing her, I think Kingsbury is a great example of what I’m talking about. She’s wildly popular and successful. I’ve heard her testimony and admire her as a person, but her writing is simply not my cup of tea. Nothing wrong with that.
So, maybe you’re not as good as your fellow writers in descriptive language, but your plots are to die for. Perhaps, you are comma happy and tend toward lengthy run on sentences to get your point across or, instead, love the conciseness of short and choppy sentences. Any of that is okay. You see, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder… and in the heart of the reader. Your writing may not be loved by everyone, but it will be loved by those who think and feel as you do–and that is your target audience anyway. Be you. Love the style and the writing voice that God has given you. Don’t make it an excuse not to improve, but also don’t waste your time with author envy. Better to support and encourage one another in our gifts. Loving one another is pleasing to God, and at the end of the day, it is that audience of One that we write our hearts out for.