I’ve been submitting (and occasionally selling) fiction for more than six years now, and I’ve learned some stuff. One of the most important was to be myself.
I read a lot, across several genres, and ‘literary’ fiction; I even read nonfiction now and again, but usually it’s about writing, or it’s really, really funny. Or cool.
Some of the stuff I read is terrible. Once I know beyond a doubt (usually only takes a few pages, but for a novel, I’ll go as far as fifty to make sure) that I’m not enjoying it, I put it down and read something else. I don’t have time to read bad writing (unless I’m being paid to edit something; then, it’s a job, and I’ll see it through no matter how painful).
Some of it is magical. Some writers are so good at what they do, you can’t help but smile at their sentences. You get a warm, tickly feeling from their prose. I love it when I find that. Makes reading a genuine pleasure.
Now, here’s the thing: I want to be that good. I want readers to freak out because they love my words. I mean, who here doesn’t? But, I’m not those writers whom I adore. I’m me. And, some people are going to like what I write (hopefully some already do. Doesn’t matter, though. I’ll keep screaming into the void regardless). Some people are probably going to hate me. That’s fine, too. I write a lot of nasty stuff. I don’t expect it to be universally appealing.
In the past, I have come away from reading something amazing, and metaphorically smashed my head against the wall, because I’m convinced I’m never going to be that good at this. I’ll never write that well. Ever.
And, you know what? That’s okay. I’m not going to try to be one of my heroes. I’m not going to try to emulate any other w, iter, no matter how much I love them. Because, that wouldn’t be me.
I’d like to win awards. I’d like to sell thousands (nay! Millions!) of books. Of course I would. And, someday, maybe I will. Maybe not. I can’t really control the vagaries of public opinion or what’s popular at any given time.
You know what I can control, though? I can control what I write. I can try to make each story better than the last. I can fall in love with my characters, and enjoy putting them through hell. I can tell stories I want to read, and hope at least a few other people find them entertaining.
If you’re new at this writing thing, here’s the trick: you, and you alone, have your voice. I can’t explain how to fine-tune this thing. I can’t tell you what it even is, really. But, it’s yours. No one else has your voice. You own that shit. You do you. That’s the only thing you can control, and the one thing that matters most.
Sure, learn from other writers. Learn from books about writing. Learn from blog posts about writing (like this one [winky emoji]). Learn by listening to people talk, watching people move around, and paying attention to everything around you. But, be you. Don’t be anyone else.
And me? I’m gonna over here, in the big, comfy, ugly-ass green recliner, being me.
Thanks for listening.
- WIHM: An Interview With Jessica McHugh - February 6, 2019
- Brain Babies: Writing Through The Pain - November 7, 2018
- Brain Babies: You do You - December 13, 2017
- Brain Babies: Thoughts from a Mid-list Writer - August 5, 2017
- Brain Babies: How to Nickel-and-Dime Yourself to Death! - March 4, 2017
- Brain Babies: Trigger Warnings - August 28, 2016
- Brain Babies: How are We Supposed to Compete? - August 20, 2016
- Brain Babies: A Crisis of Faith (in Oneself) - June 25, 2016
- Brain Babies: Up the Motherfucking Stakes, Man! - May 21, 2016
- Brain Babies: Just … Stop It Already with the (fill-in-the-blank) Shaming - April 30, 2016