What Does It Take?

I have been seriously writing since July 2013. My debut book was published in September 2014. It is plain to see, I could hardly be referred to as an ‘old hat’ at this art, profession, whatever you want to call it. According to some authors, I’m not an author either. I am a writer. I won’t get into the differences between the two. It wouldn’t make me look very good if I did that.

It is said that a writer has to write a million words before he/she can write. I believe what that means is, it takes that much time and energy to discover what is called, your voice. I always believed that. And that is saying a lot because after the upbringing I had if something is said to me, I need proof. I have a hard time with blind obedience and blind trust.

Well, I got that proof just this past week. I thought I had it when my first book was published. After all, I re-wrote it four times. That had to be at least a million words. But I have been struggling through my work on my second novel. Words, lines, and paragraphs just don’t sound right and I couldn’t put my finger on why.

One night this past week I stepped outside. The air was crisp and the moon shined so bright it cast shadows of the garage, trees, and house I was staying. It stimulated the mind and I pondered the problems why I don’t feel comfortable about my work.

It came to me. Who was actually telling the story? Was it some unknown soul never seen before? Because that was the point I was writing from. It was like asking, Who told the story of the Three Bears?        Answer; some unknown soul. That is not the person who is telling my novels, I decided. I am the one who is telling the story. That was some realization to me. It took tons of weight off my chest and totally eased my mind.

So, okay, I am the one giving the narration to the story. If I was to sit down with someone and regale the same story, how would I put that story? After some deliberation, I decided at a later time I had to go back and re-word a bunch of lines that sound like I was speaking.

One of the rules I heard from the beginning was; write to tell a story, not to impress. I did just that. I used flowery words I normally don’t use. I thought that would get people to read my book and they won’t think I am some idiot that has the vocabulary of a second grader. But using words where you need a huge dictionary to look up the definitions of what I was saying, I sounded like an idiot anyway.

Readers know when a writer is trying to impress people and when they are actually telling a story. There is an ease to the flow when a writer is telling a story and knows what  the story is about. Which brings me to the next point.

Know what you are writing about. I believe I’ve talked about this before. But it’s worth reiterating. If you have a scene in your story and you don’t know the subject intimately, do some research on it. Again, readers can tell when a writer is lying his/her way around a scene.

Here’s an example; I would never tell a story about what it is like to be a woman. I have no idea what it is like to be a woman. So, if I wanted to write a story about the feelings, problems, and joys of being a woman, I would have a woman sit next to me and tell me exactly what she goes through in different situations. However, I will tell you about traveling, military and fatherhood all day long … from my point of view.


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