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Friday, August 5, 2011

The Writer's Journey: That Light Bulb Moment...

I wrote for years before showing my work to anyone but during a writing course given by an author that I admired, there wasn't any way around turning in assignments. When she called and asked if she could critique my work as an example for the class, she warned me what to expect.

Until that day, I don't think I realized that I had an ego but after “baring it all” and being thoroughly disheartened, I took a long hard look and decided that I’d written the chapter the way I thought it should be written. Technically, it was a homogenized recitation of information that I knew should be included in the first chapter.

It wasn't interesting. And I had to admit that if I would have picked it up in a bookstore and read the the first few pages, I would have put it back on the shelf because it wouldn't have grabbed my interest. It suddenly hit me that it might have been a little more interesting if I hadn't critiqued my voice off of the page before I'd turned in the assignment.

I re-wrote the chapter using the heroine’s attitude as a guideline for her dialogue and found the emotion that had been lacking. Ditto for the hero and guess what? My voice showed up. This time I didn't crowd it off of the page and the teacher told me that she laughed so hard while reading it that her husband had come into her office and asked her what was so funny. I figured I was on to something.

I could understand and employ every technique that I’d ever read or heard about but if I didn’t get out of my own way and trust that the way I needed to tell the story was going to be “good enough”, my stories would never contain that element that made them uniquely identifiable as mine.

Trust is such a little word to have such a huge impact but without it we live in a constant state of fear. We learn to trust our parents, our lover’s, husbands and friends. Trust is a gift we learn to give freely to so many others—why not ourselves?

Looking back, the realization that I needed to trust my own voice was probably the biggest “light bulb” moment that's happened along my journey to become published. How about you? What would you say is the one thing that’s helped you the most on your writer’s journey?

Paris Brandon

Cross My Heart-NOR Top Pick

Head Over Heels-5 Hearts, Romance Studio

Assassin’s Kiss-4 Stars Romantic Times Review


Janice said...

It's true that you learn so much in the beginning, taking it all in. You don't trust your own voice yet and hear all the other voice crowing yours out.

But then comes the day where you have to trust yourself.

You will subconsciously use all that you've learned, and then it's time to spread those writer wings and fly-baby-fly.

Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Paris. What helped me is persistence. Never giving up. I can't think of one single thing that's more important to a writer than that.

Paris said...

Hi Janice,
Thanks for stopping by!

Paris said...


Thanks, yes, persistence is definitely the key in this business!

Liz said...

great post. I had a very similar lightbulb moment when a fabulous mentor took what I thought was a killer first chapter and flipped it inside out, reminding me that there was no way an editor would be "hooked" by what I had. "make them meet right me the tension on the first page."
Now, I'm so used to that I have a hard time cramming in much back story.

Paris said...

Thanks, Liz! I've noticed that the longer I'm at this, the more back story gets filtered into the rest of the book after the first draft. thanks for stopping by:)

Katalina said...

Paris thank you for this terrific post!
I cringe when I think back, I know I made every beginner's mistake possible.
I feel like I'm still at the beginning of the journey and the learning curve is steep. There's always room to do better the next time...
That back story stuff is uber tricky! lol

Paris said...

LOL, yep, that pesky back story stuff is always tricky. I try not to cringe too much these days but sometimes when I look back it just can't be helped:)

Marianne Stephens said...

Yep - gotta trust your voice. If I'd listened to a NY editor years ago about "issues with my voice", I'd be nowhere now. Your voice is what it is and don't change it for anyone.
My light bulb moment when a multi-published author told me I wrote episodes, not a story.
And, she was right! I made changes and sold my first book.

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