Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What I Write ... & Why

I just finished reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which is a fantastic piece of literature. It got me thinking about the genres I like to read, the way I write and how the two things relate. I don't tend to stick to one genre, but I do prefer fiction over most forms of non-fiction, and I do read a lot of books aimed at a female audience, whether classic or contemporary.

My own writing style falls somewhere in the land of contemporary women's fiction. It's tough for me to draw a comparison for my work, largely because I don't feel bold enough yet to hold my work up to other, credentialed, actually published authors. Plus the manuscript I'm working on is my first manuscript, and it's still morphing and growing and changing.

Still, I know I have a style that's all my own. All writers do, I think, and it shines through our work whether we embrace it, flaunt it, stifle it or attempt to altogether mask it. Trying to disguise your writing voice, I think, would be like trying to disguise your true personality to win a million bucks on Survivor. People have tried it, and the results have been comical at best, humiliating at worst.

We can't hide who we are, even on the written page. Even when we become someone else.

That doesn't mean our characters all reflect us. It doesn't mean our plots or subplots or snippets of our dialogue are plucked from our daily lives, though they sometimes are. It just means that pieces of ourselves are, necessarily, sprinkled throughout our work, and if they're not ... well, that work will be disengenuous at best, unappealing at worst.

Because the reader can tell.

I think a savvy reader can absolutely tell when a writer is trying to be something he/she is not. And I think that's why there's so much advice out there along the lines of "write what you know" and so many writers who say they "write the types of books they like to read." That's what I do. It doesn't mean I shouldn't challenge myself. It doesn't mean I shouldn't stretch outside my comfort zone and better my technique and exercise my writing muscles in new ways. But I don't want to write a certain way or in a certain genre or in a certain style or point of view simply because it's what other people are doing or because it might gain me more respect in certain circles.

And yet I second-guess myself a lot. I struggle with those "am I good enough" issues I think a lot of writers struggle with. And right now, as anyone knows who's reading this thing, I'm struggling with revisions. I'm in the phase of novel-writing that entails writing in a certain way or in a certain genre or in a certain style or point of view because it's what might sell or what other people might want to read.

Trying to figure out exactly what that means has been the hardest part of this journey for me so far, mainly because writing is so personal. I want my novel to reflect my voice, my style, my genuine self - and most of all I want it to be the story I want to tell.

I also want it to be published. And those things war against each other in innumerable ways.

Oh, geez. am I overthinking this again? Maybe I just need to shut up and write.

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