The best way she could describe it was with a piece of lace.
Let’s be honest. I mean, really honest. How many times have you heard Write What You Know?
I’m sick of that phrase. I hate that phrase. Every time I hear it I want to smash something. What does it mean, anyway? A friend of mine has started to break down that wall for me in a post she put up the other day. These words struck me, especially:
It’s about letting your experiences form the basis of what you write, of writing from your own pain, your own suffering, extrapolating from things you’ve actually felt and translating them into similar situations, even if the characters are inhuman or the setting isn’t Earth.
Writing what we know means being honest with ourselves, and allowing that honesty to spill into our writing. Notice I say spill. Not leak. Not drip.
And right now I feel like a dry well.
When I flew out to Washington D.C., I spent some quality time with a friend I met online. For the first time since meeting each other, we were able to sit down in person and talk face to face. I shared a lot of writing experiences with Lois. I showed her some of my past work, as well. Since she had read my latest work, Monarch, we discussed some issues I was having with it.
The best way she could help me was to describe my book like a beautiful painting. She could see its potential, but it was covered. Hiding. With a piece of lace.
The lace is beautiful, but what is underneath is even more beautiful. She could see bits and pieces of my true voice shining through the holes. “Just lift it up,” she told me. “If you’re brave enough. Write what you know you can write. What you want to write, not what others want you to write. Let them see the painting.”
Easier said than done.
Another good friend of mine (the one who wrote about honesty up above) sent me an email this morning. She’s reading through Monarch and said things “clicked” for her last night. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing her words:
My basic issue with it – well, you know how everyone keeps saying you need to cut stuff? I think this is actually the symptom of a deeper problem, not the problem itself.
The plot is GREAT; it’s twisty, it’s pacey, it’s fabulous. The characterisation is mostly fabulous, and I think the bits that aren’t quite 100% are that way not because of the characters but because of the prob I’m getting to. Setting/description is great, very well evoked. Themes and symbols come through nicely too.
See one thing missing from this list?
She goes on to explain that it’s the voice that’s missing. My voice. A voice she has seen in my other writing.
You know what?
I hate the word VOICE, too. It’s almost as bad as the Write What You Know phrase. But if I think of it in terms of lace and art, it doesn’t seem so bad. To me, voice is the honesty I’m keeping away from my writing. It’s the experiences of my life welled up inside that aren’t getting through. It’s writing what I know, not what I want others to think I know.
I am getting so much feedback from my beta readers on Monarch. I’m in awe and constant admiration of those of you who are taking the time to give me your valuable thoughts and opinions! It is helping immensely.
As far as lifting the lace from my work, I’m not sure how to go about it or if I really want to at this point in the game. I have a feeling that the fabric full of holes might be heavier than I think.