Hi friends. I promised I’d read you an excerpt from Judy Blume’s Forever…, my favorite banned book in continued celebration of Banned Books Week, but I’m holding off on that until next blah-g post. One of your comments on writing caught my eye and I’m addressing it today since I’m also neck deep in my own process finishing the Dirty Book Club.
Here’s what Lydia said:
Lisi you always give the best advice…
I’ve been writing a book since March and I’m only on Chapter 4. My process is pretty slow, but I want to get it moving a least a little bit. If I can’t think of anything for my current chapter, I write little bits and pieces in my notes. I also feel like my writing style is inconsistent. I try to use descriptive words here and there, but it seems too sporadic. Plus my witty retorts and personalities for the characters remind me of “The Fault In Our Stars” and feel too dated. How can I find my own style of writing without letting the books I read influence it too much?
Lydia, I feel your pain here. Based on what you explained is happening it sounds like you may not have started with an outline. WRITE AN OUTLINE FIRST. Is there a specific message or idea you want to explore? Is the book plot or character driven? Have you thought about how you want the story to resolve? Characters and some plot lines will probably end up changing along the way, but get down the basic skeleton of where you want the story to go. It’s a must. It will save you days if not months of agonizing over the turns you want to take in your book.
As for your descriptive words feeling a little sporadic, are you peppering in adjectives or are you fleshing out a scene based on the senses? Show, don’t tell. Give your reader a feel for the scene by describing the taste of air on a muggy day, the smell of a character’s home, or the texture of the worn-in hoodie she always wears.
Develop your characters as much as possible. Get to know their dark secrets, their driving motivations, their quirks, worries and fears. If it helps your mind to stay organized, create a doc for each character and include everything about him/her down to their favorite snacks, sayings and what nervous ticks they have. All of this will inform you while you’re fleshing them out. It will also make it easier to imagine what your characters might do in the situations you’re creating for them, which will help with your momentum.
I’d usually say to read as many books as possible by your favorite authors to get familiar with the tone and structure of stories you like, but you’ve mentioned you might be too closely mimicking another writer’s voice. While you’re honing your craft and finding your voice, this isn’t the worst thing in the world to do. You come with an entirely unique set of experiences and will approach TFIOS diferently than John Green did writing it. Even if you’re basing some characters’ personalities off of the ones he’s created, you’ll naturally insert your own twists, which will engender new variations. Play around with that. See which parts of them you like, which parts can be edited back and try to develop what will make your characters complex and memorable.
With all that said… four chapters since March? You’re doing great! Keep it up and let us know how the book is coming along soon.