My work in progress Bon Secour has been collecting dust since December 10, 2010. Not a keystroke since until today.
What happened? Life.
First I got sick and spent multiple days in the hospital before Christmas. Then Christmas, grandchildren, more medical tests. Then my wife had day surgery that turned into a week's hospital stay.
But mostly, it was because I was intimidated. Afraid. Scared. Full of fear. The perfection demons were eating my creativity. You only have one chance to make a first impression / you only have one chance to get your first novel right. Etc.
I didn't like how I was writing. I didn't like my 'Voice'. I read that you could develop a writing voice by copying the works of authors you admire. They suggested that you copy five or six different writers They claimed that after you finished the project you would have your own unique voice. But, that it would embody the best of the authors your copied. So I've been copying scenes from John Hart's The Last Child. I was going to turn my humdrum writing into that of a voice with a golden throat. Guess what? I'm still not John Hart. Still want to be. Won't quit trying. But, it's probably just not going to happen.
Larry Brooks' (one of my favorite writing gurus) new book, Story Engineering, came out last week. I had pre-ordered it on Amazon so the ink was barely dry on my copy when I started reading.
It was definitely more fun to read about how to write a novel than to sit, afraid, in front of the blank screen of my story. So, naturally, I read instead of actually writing. I did pick up more than a few new ideas. They inspired me to pick up Bon Secour and re-read what I had written so far.
As you would guess, it had not miraculously turned into John Hart's voice. It was still me. But, I found as I read it that I liked me. Maybe no one else will. But I like me. Violence, sex, humor in a twisty dangerous plot. I want to write again.
On page 257, Larry Brooks wrote in Story Engineering,
"It takes an agent or an editor many dozen pages to determine the merits of your story. It only takes a few pages to assess the rhythm and melody of your writing voice. Those first pages expose the writing as that of a professional, someone who is publishable . . . . or not. If it compels, if it flows, or doesn't overwhelm, it passes muster as acceptable.
And that's all that is required of voice. Any allure of a stellar writing voice beyond that point is a case study in diminishing returns. You don't have to write like a poet to sell your story. You simply need to write well enough to get through the door into a crowded hall full of storytellers.
From then on, your story is what determines your fate. At that point, once you can hang with the pros, sentence for sentence, little if nothing else matters."
I will continue to copy from time to time. I do learn a lot more from copying than reading about how an author actually writes. Actually structures his scene, paragraph and sentence. But, I think it is more important right now that I finish fleshing out my first draft/outline than it is to spend hours each day copying someone else.Thanks, Larry. I needed to stop worrying about voice and go back to the things I can fix. Right now that's working on writing better scenes.