Saturday, April 26, 2014

From the Magister's Notebook: Under the Hood of a Novel Part Two

I was going to write about what happens when your characters start talking when you least expect them to, and I may get to that. But for the moment, I want to talk about something I touched on in the last edition of Under the Hood: inspiration. But this time, I'm talking about the inspiration of finding your own voice in a world that doesn't seem to believe it is possible to be original anymore.

I tend to believe that in all of us, there's a small voice that says "I want to be the next Tolkien or Asimov or Patterson or King..." and so we read what they're writing and learn from them. In fact, according to Stephen King in his memoir, On Writing, "One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose- one novel like Asteroid Miner... is worth a semester at a good writing school, even with superstar guest lecturers thrown in" (p 104). He also points out that reading good writing also teaches, so you should read both.

I've seen other authors say, over and over again, half of the craft of writing, is reading. And that means reading stories in the genre one intends to work in. At the same time, as you read you worry that you're never going to sound like the good stuff, and you're always going to sound like the bad. 

Well that's half right. You're never going to be Stephen King, or J.R.R. Tolkien, or Isaac Asimov. You are going to be you, with your own experience and your own voice. You will tell the stories you are passionate about. Some of them will be average, some of them will suck (I know it's both hard and easy to believe), and then there will be those that will be great. Accepting all those possibilities, including the one that it may be GOOD, is hard. But it will happen, and it will happen more and more as you keep writing, which is important. 

All of this: reading, writing, making mistakes, learning, and making more mistakes is how a writer, any writer, finds her voice. And no matter what the media personal relations people will want you to believe, there will never be another (fill in great author's name here). But there will be you, and if you write with passion, truth, faith in your material, and an understanding that perfection is impossible, but reaching for it anyway will bring out the best; you'll do fine. 

I close out on something another favorite never-be-another writer one put in the mouth of a character named Delenn- "Faith manages." And in our world, it truly does.

Works Cited

1) Stephen, King. "On Writing." On Writing: a memoir of the craft.New York City: Scribner, 2000. 104. Ebook.

Copyright Penny Horwitz, 2014