Friday, October 14, 2011

Just A Plain Old Writing Story. No Links. No Pitch. No Motives.

I apologize for the ridiculous photo in what will be, a hope, a non-ridiculous post. It's there to make a point: That this is how I think I look. That this is how I see myself. Laughing, with my glasses on. (See, when your glasses are on you can see how freaking funny the world is.)

Anyway, all of us have an idea of what our essential selves are like. But as writers, it's critical to also have an understanding of what our essential voice is like. Every agent and publisher tosses that word around liberally. A great voice is like porn: they know it when they see it. Yet it's the thing hardest to learn or to teach.

So how do you develop it? The best writing advice I've received over the years came not from writing teachers, but yoga and dance teachers. "Find your pose, not mine, not your neighbor's," she whispered as we flowed, flexed, strained. "Move like yourself."

Isn't that the best advice? To move like yourself? To be inspired by others, but to find your version of movement?

A few years later, in a jazz dance class, my teacher stopped me mid-leap. (Okay, it was more of a leap-ette.) "Kelly," he said, "use all your height, your length. When you are making a gesture, make it all the way down to your fingertips. Finish it!" (Thank you Bruno Tognoli!)

That's what I think when I read a manuscript or book that's all plot, all motion. Why didn't the writer finish it, follow the line all the way? (Actually, what I think is: Would it have killed you to take a few more weeks and write some sentences in here that I might enjoy?)

And last week, in a challenging yoga pose that required both balance and flexibility, when I thought I couldn't go on one second longer, the teacher said: "Can you slither in a little deeper?"

When I find myself skating the surface of a character, not allowing him the full range of emotion and heart, I have to remind myself to just slither in under his skin. Go a little deeper. Finish the gesture. Move like yourself.


Bonnie Edwards said...

Oh. My. Goddess of Writing. You're right. Every word in this post is golden. Often when I'm at yoga I 'get' this too. Then I come home and forget.

Thanks for the reminder that I'm not the only one to see writing advice (and life advice) nearly everywhere!
Bonnie Edwards

Merry Farmwr said...

That's a really good way to think of it. Having just started a yoga class I totally get that analogy.

I think I write the same way I would if I was telling the story verbally to someone. I've played around with writing in other people's voices, like Jane Austen, but in the end it just seems to fit more to write like I speak.

Thanks for this!

kelly said...

Yes, it's a little reminder that writing teachers are kind of everywhere, right? Maybe it's no coincidence that I didn't get published till I started dancing and doing yoga. Or maybe it is, who knows!

Beth Kephart said...

Confession of an idiot. I was trying to get your blog into my stable of followed blogs (an elite number, I will add), saw this post, thought about writing to you about it, and ended up doing neither thing. Because I have adult onset ADHD (or maybe the phone rang. or maybe I needed chocolate).

Long way of saying that this is JUST right, and so true, and I felt that way recently about A Monster Calls, the YA book that is getting all the raves. It is pure plot, no stretch beyond simple standing.

Your lean toward the lyric shows in your prose.

And now, before I need nougats again, I am going to add your blog so I didn't miss anything more of your wisdom.