There’s not any one thing you can do to make yourself a better writer, but this is close.
Lots of little things (and lots of big things) will make you a better writer, and we’re putting together a book to show you each and every one, but time after time I see brilliant passages in new authors’ works, and when I point it out, they say well that part actually happened or it’s based on real events in my family. People can spot truth. We talk about it differently. It’s interesting.
It doesn’t have to be pain but I connect with it on a different level. Maybe it’s just me but maybe not. I remember in The Fourth Descendant I asked about Michelle at the park. It seemed very real. It was made up but Allison, the author, said she identified with a period when she had two small kids and her husband was working late every night for months at a new job. Another friend wrote about a drug dealer but the part about the relationship with the girl – forbidden by her parents because of his career choice – rang true. Because it WAS true.
In both cases the pain came through. The longing. The emptiness.
You can do that. And it doesn’t have to be pain.
Talk with joy – like a head over heels school kid – about falling in love. The satisfaction of watching your baby learn to read. The emptiness of a passionless life or the bursting feeling inside when you absolutely have to tell someone you love them.
Dip deep into that emotional bucket and paint with abandon. Odds are you won’t. It’s hard. It’s scary. Potential embarrassment awaits if you do.
Once you receive the reward for being so brave, you will never want to be timid in your writing again.
Are you brave enough?
I’ll even break the meme down for you, so you don’t miss a drop of its essence.
- Write about what hurts. It’ll hurt to re-live it. Do it anyway.
- Write clearly about it, in a way that everyone who picks it up will understand. That also means brevity so they don’t have to slog through uninspired prose. Some “sober editing” might have to follow to purge nonwords from the mix, but don’t take out the emotion, just hone it razor sharp.
- Write hard about it. That means crack the fucking whip on yourself to open up and let the damn tears fall on every inch of your keyboard as you continue to pound it out and don’t even think about stopping until it’s all there.
Go where the pain lives. I say this to get your attention. It doesn’t have to be pain. But often it is. Nobody wants to read a story where nothing happens but they don’t want to read one without feelings either.
TUESDAY I’ll explain my way of doing this (there are many ways), as inspired by Allison’s comment below. Wednesday and Thursday I’ll give examples.