Voice, Keeping It Fun, Believing in My Story

This week we’re taking a new angle on our 3 Things… theme, talking about three things we’re each working to improve in our writing.

Only three?!

After much thought, I narrowed mine down to these.

1. Voice

Voice is one of those things that — when you have a lock on it — can skyrocket your story to the next and better level.

When voice is strong, the story writes itself. When I haven’t found the voice of a piece, the words falter and sound bland. Or worse, they sound writerly. I “extinguish the illumination” instead of just “turning off the light”.

Bleayah.

As I work on longer projects, I’m understanding not just the importance of finding the voice, but sustaining the voice across the length of a novel. I’m working on keeping it consistent.

2. Believing in my story

Like many writers, I have an ongoing struggle with doubt. On rare occasion, I sit back from what I’ve written and think, “Yes!” But more often than not, as I write, there’s a voice in my head shouting, “This is crap! You’re a hack! You suck and everyone writes better than you and you’re going to die alone and be eaten by wild dogs.”

Okay, maybe not that part. I borrowed that from Bridget Jones, of course.

Every day I’m battling to ignore that voice — at least while I’m actually writing — and believe my story has merit.

There’s an Amy Hempel quote I wrote on the white board over my desk that gives me confidence as I write.

“I am entitled to tell this particular story in a way no one else can.”

That quote gives me a thrill. It takes me from a place where I’m withering away from my story, to a place where, like a nicer version of Dr. Frankenstein, I’m standing over my story and screaming in a demented voice, “Live! Live!

At the end of the day it comes down to this: if I don’t believe in my story, no one else is going to believe in it either.

3. Keeping it fun

I touched on this last week on my Amy Writes blog. Sometimes I find myself putting all kinds of pressure on my work.

This book has to be the one! This sentence has to be perfect! I must get this scene exactly right or the whole thing is going to fall apart!

Then the work bogs down under its own weight and writing starts feeling like work, and I don’t want to work, I want to have fun. About that time a new and sparkly and fun story idea comes along and I go traipsing off to go chase those butterflies instead of finishing what I’d started.

I have so much fun with the 500 Club prompts here at the PLC because there are no expectations on them. It’s just fun. And therefore, it’s easy. And easy works.

I’m working to keep a light attitude toward my writing — to write simply for the story’s sake — or I’ll just hop from project to project and never get anywhere at all. Working on keeping writing from feeling like work. How ironic.

What are the things you’re trying to improve in your writing? I’d love to hear what you struggle with and how you’re working to become a better writer.

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