As an author of speculative fiction writings, I have also dedicated myself to helping writers and readers write better and read more effectively. This is Lorenzo Samuel's Advice Blog, which I'm sharing with you. Last month we discussed how a reader can contribute to a book. This month we're back to writers. This month is the writers's turn, although readers benefit when they know how a writer’s thought process and methods play out.
Specifically, we'll delve into improving how your writing sounds. Have you been told this garbage: Just keep writing, and your author's voice will develop? Suppose nobody likes your so-called voice?
I'm writing from the heart here. My earliest memories in groups were conversations or discussions. At the time, I was unaware of voice, how I sounded or wrote and why friends and strangers would turn to me when I began to speak, listen for a moment, then turn away to listen to someone else on the other side of the discussion circle.
It was painful. I remember trying various techniques to regain listeners: keep speaking after my listeners turned to listen to someone else, talk loudly, be emphatic, not give up until I’d said my piece. All those things got me were embarrassed looks and silent put downs while I vainly kept on speaking in a losing battle with some other speaker the others found more interesting.
What I had to say was extremely important, dammit, to me. Oy, there is the rub
What we're looking at here is that I was bored myself with what I was trying to say, and who wants to listen to someone who bores them?
I never gave up. Just kept writing technical reports, legal opinions, counseling reports and other boring drivel. Not until a few centuries later did I decide to write fiction. Now, fiction can have educational value. However, entertainment is where the dog lies. Whichever theme you as a writer are pushing must entertain readers or they will put the book down. Sound familiar? See my listeners turning away to listen to someone else.
The rule: if you have something to say or write, interest your listeners and readers. Interesting yourself is only a stepping stone to interesting your listeners and readers. When you interest someone else, you are in effect entertaining them.
If you have the not-entertaining disease, there’s a cure, or at least ways to the cure. To those who think they’re doing just fine. The fault lies with the listeners and readers, not yourself. If one truly feels that way, there is no help. To every Van Goth, who became popular after his death, there are millions who didn’t.
For those of you who take on the responsibility to getting your ideas and tales to your readers and listeners in a way that entertains them, here is a tip for you: Practice how successful authors do it. Take a paragraph from a book you are now reading. Type it into your computer. Make sure it presents a challenge memory-wise. Type it over and over again, comparing it to the original, until you’ve done it error free.
I’ve done this with dozens of books. My current book is “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” winner of the Nebula Award. The author Michael Chabon is also a Pulitzer Prize winner for another book. He’s no slouch
The goal of this drill is not to end up writing like some well-known author. That would not work. Her and his voice are not yours. What this drill does do hopefully is improve the way you say things to make them more interesting to readers and listeners.
In the next edition of Writer/reader tips, I’ll discuss another tip to improve your ability to entertain.