You take a lesson (or three) and get on with your life.
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It plays with every writer’s head that while we are spending years toiling over the perfect nuance, aching for the most poetic descriptions of trees, pop writers like Dick Francis and Danielle Steel and Dean Koontz can bust out a new best-seller every year.
Part of “writer’s worry” is the tendency to compare ourselves to people who actually make big-boy money with their fiction. We throw hissies about how the world wouldn’t know good fiction if it bit everybody on the ass — obviously, since they’re waiting in line for Janet Evanovich and not for me!
And so we start to doubt. And flirt with the idea of either giving up or trying to just sell out already and start writing mainstream thriller novels.
Easy, baby. Everything’s all right. The first thing to do is to stop being afraid of your own voice. A lot of writers I’ve met are terrified to be themselves. In fact, I’ve met very few writers who write in their own voices. Most have some tendency or another to suppress their own voices behind that of other writers, trying breathlessly to imitate the ones they like (or ones who make money) and use it as their own personalities.
In other words, most of us are not writing what we should be writing. We’re trying to hard to be brilliant and innovative, clever and commercial, polished and worldly. But we spend almost no time paying attention to our own writing.
For now (and forever, really), forget about how commercial you think you are. Before you can worry about the best-seller list, you need to discover what kind of writer you really are. Odds are, you’re not the mainstream thriller sort. If you are, you’ll know. And if you’re not, you’ll take longer to learn it, but you’ll know. All you have to do is try to write the way a mainstream, best-selling author writes and you’ll know whether it’s something you can actually do.
And you’ll learn quickly that it’s not as easy as it looks to just write a romance novel off the top of your head.
You have to find your voice first. And your voice as a writer should be the one you have when you talk to your friends. The friends you like most, the ones who make you most comfortable, the ones around whom you can relax completely. When we talk to those people we just talk. We don’t set up intricate scenes and use a billion-and-one adverbs. We just … talk.
Try talking to your ideas like you talk to the people you like and trust the most. And listen to yourself. Listen to your cadence, your timing, your convictions. Let your writing be snarky if it needs to be. Swear, for fuck’s sake. Be bold. Take a stand. Tell your story what you think, the way you wish you’d told that jerk what he can do with his half-assed advice. Talk to it like it’s the one person who agrees with you on absolutely everything. Even the embarrassing stuff you couldn’t possibly say out loud.
Just be you. Because you can’t be anybody else.
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