There are many perks to a writer’s lifestyle, don’t get me wrong. I love so many things about my career--making my own hours, working in my cozy home office or in a park, choosing what I write about (except when it comes to client work, where I choose to either take it or not), the joy of putting words on the page, that rush from crunching a deadline, the satisfaction of writing a good sentence. The list goes on and on, but there is one perk that comes before all others.
I became a writer because I wanted to learn. It was that simple.
Since starting this blog, I have been asked about my writing process. In all honesty, it varies depending on the medium—scripts, articles, speeches, novels. The format drives some of my process, and yet there are a few things that remain constant.
My first step is to find the throughline of whatever I am writing. I have to know what is driving the writing.
Writing is more than a collection of words strewn across the page. It has life and voice. We hear it when we read to ourselves. It speaks to us and takes on a life of its own depending on the author.
The voice of a story is what makes it come alive in the reading and it is the most important skill a writer can have. It's what sets one writer apart from another—a Hemingway (short, short sentences) versus a Faulkner (who goes on and on), a Gaiman from a Melville. These are not the same voices. They sound different in our heads. The way these authors string words and sentences together creates different rhythms and cadences as we read along. They pull at us differently.
Below are a few examples of voice in writing. The first example is from one of my favorite authors.
Writing comes to life in the detail. Get those wrong and watch out. Readers will revolt. They will spam your Twitter feed, your inbox and anything other avenue they can use to reach you. People love to correct mistakes. It’s in our nature. Readers most especially. They take their facts seriously, in fiction or no.
Don’t believe me? Try giving incorrect directions in a novel about Los Angeles. Readers will tear you up. There is something that drives people in LA to obsess about their roadways in a way that I have never understood. Read any story set in LA and you will find a jumble of numbers scattered throughout--the 5, 10, 110. Get one turn wrong and let the harassment begin.
The same reaction holds true for any specific group--military, law enforcement, medical professionals, lawyers, etc. Each group knows the verbiage particular to their trade and they know when people are posing.