Take Off Your Writer’sTraining Wheels

I’ve been reading through fiction entries in a national writing contest I’ve been asked to help judge. Although the judge’s guidelines tell me most entries will be “average,” I got one that has clearly broken free of the pack. The scene writing is clean, the dialogue well-written, the conflict evident. Only one major thing (in my little opinion) needs to be addressed.

Writing Tip for Today: After a writer masters the basics of scene, sequel (narrative), dialogue, characterization and the rest, the next logical step is developing your unique voice and the elusive quality that packs emotion into every line. In order to do this, I think a writer needs to remove the training wheels. Here are some thoughts on treating your writing as if you are just taking your first real two-wheeler ride:
  • Loosen Up. More than anything, I wanted to sit next to this contest entrant and whisper, “Loosen up. In places, you’re trying too hard .” I could practically see this writer trying SO hard to get everything right that she/he wrote the life out of it in spots. A mentor of mine used to call it overwriting, where I would write something good (usually sensory/emotional) and then explain it or otherwise ruin it. Beware the show, now tell-in-case-they-don’t-get-it problem.
  • Commit to Crap. If you can allow yourself to write in a big, messy way when you draft, you may uncover that freshness, that voice we all covet. Revise intentionally, but draft (create) with the self-control off. It takes practice to be able to sit down and write something awful. But this is where discovery happens, where art happens. Learn to write crap.
  • Go for the Guts. The way you pull your distinctive voice onto the page is by digging deep. You won’t be able to evoke a made-up character’s deepest emotions if you refuse to feel your own. I recommend journaling if you have a hard time letting your emotions show. But really, we read fiction for emotion, not info. The more you write honest, true emotion, the better your fiction will be.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

3 comments on “Take Off Your Writer’sTraining Wheels

  1. Kathy,
    So good to see you here! People always think the craft of writing is hard to learn, but in my opinion, these “intangibles” are much more difficult. But it’s a journey–please keep writing!

  2. “Beware the show, now tell-in-case-they-don’t-get-it problem.”

    Totally guilty of that. Thanks for this post! Inspires me to leap back into my WIP without worrying about being ‘perfect’ 🙂

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