7,000 words. It took over a tenth of a decent sized novel (50,000 words/200 odd pages) for me to realize that I hated my writing.
The culprit? My style; it was a long finger that made me want to vomit up a better novel.
It all boiled down to one simple thing: authenticity, or the lack thereof. I wrote what I thought would be “good.” I tried to follow my writing idols a bit too closely instead of trying to produce my own unique voice.
It’s a natural tendency: you love reading Terry Brooks; you’ve inhaled every book he’s written, and he’s a successful fantasy author, so when you sit down to write, you emulate his style.
The problem is, of course, that you aren’t Terry Brooks. Or J.K. Rowling. Or Stephenie Meyer. Or Tom Clancy (phew!).
You are you. And I am me. Seems like the start to a Saturday Morning special (or a Weight Watchers commercial), eh? But in all seriousness, there is nothing wrong with your style. It’s unique, it’s authentic, it’s … you!
And it’s the root of your happiness as a writer.
Check out this paragraph from my 7,000 word draft:
“Aaron waited for the storm to subside; it only grew worse, and the low rumble of thunder was traveling closer. He stood near a window in a small side room; he pressed his forehead against the cool stained glass, his arctic blue eyes scanning the streets outside, and sighed. The hairs on his neck wouldn’t relax, and a heat was climbing up his stomach and spreading under his skin. He wanted to smash the window and inhale the rain.”
Now, the paragraph is grammatically correct, and it’s sort of interesting in that the weather is ominous, and we can tell something’s bothering dear old Aaron. It’s not terrible (I hope).
But, and here’s the important part, it’s not Michael. Not really Michael (I’m Michael by the way).
THIS is me:
“Aaron was trying to decide how sorry he felt for the kid.
The little boy sat naked and crying on the doorstep of a rundown house. He cradled his knees, and with each sob he rattled his bony frame. He’d probably been roaming the streets by himself for days, trying to find his parents or his lost dog, Oatmeal. That sounded like a name a kid would give his dog.
Whimpering. Filthy. Starving. Imaginary pet. A solid eight on the sympathy scale (tens were reserved for maimed children with weak, hopeful smiles). Aaron sighed, walked up the crumbled cement walkway, and sat next to him.”
It’s like night and day, isn’t it?
Maybe I was embarrassed to write in my own style (which affected my characterization of Aaron above); I can be pretty sarcastic, and my own views on morality are somewhat … looser than most people. I’d try to think of my imaginary readers and how they’d react to my writing.
I’d think to myself “I can’t write a protagonist who thinks like that! He’s gotta be pure and knightly and good and …”
Bland. Utterly bland.
I wasn’t writing the way I really wanted to, and I was MISERABLE when I sat down in front of my pc to reach my word quota for the day.
So I did the best thing I could ever do in my life: I told Microsoft Word to create a blank document, dug deep into my twisted brain, and produced something closer to my own style.
Is it groundbreaking? Nope; am I going to sell a million copies? Who knows? But I can say with certainty that I am LOVING every minute that I spend writing this new novel, and those 7,000 words that took me a couple of weeks to get down are nearly reclaimed after 4 DAYS.
The moral of the story: write how you love. If you’re not happy and excited when you sit down to write, then chances are you aren’t writing what you want to write.
Of course, we all have our off days when we don’t even want to look at a sheet of paper. We’d rather play videogames (Skyrim *ahem*) or read a book. But when your off days become every day, then you know you’ve got a problem.
Trust yourself, my fellow writers. You can’t anticipate how your readers will react. You just might find that someone out there digs your writing.
Hopefully, a million someones. :)
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