If you’re looking to strengthen your inner voice, it is time to Get Write On In!
I am your host, Mr. Andrew J. Stillman, and we are almost smack dab in the middle of a novel writing process together.
Just to usher a quick recap:
We are spending October 2020 developing your novels so that you are ready to get write on into them for National Novel Writing Month in November.
I’d, once again, like to encourage the idea of treating every month like National Novel Writing Month. If you’re watching these videos outside of that time frame, I still encourage you to take advantage of these exercises.
Today, since we’ve covered where ideas come from, chosen our genre, developed our characters and plots, we’re going to talk about connecting with your inner voice.
Get ready to start tackling your own tropes and figuring out your own writing style!
By the end of this video, you’ll hopefully have a better grasp on that voice.
If you haven’t figured it out already.
If you have, maybe that relationship will grow even deeper.
Here’s to hoping.
But we won’t know if we don’t try, so without further ado,
Let’s Get Write On In!
There’s a lot to unpack today.
Here’s the thing:
As we’ve discussed with tropes and cliches and genres and everything we’ve covered so far, it’s pretty easy to study market trends and keep up with them to see what’s “in” and what’s “out.”
Part of the debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing —
And I repeat, PART OF, because we’re not even starting in on that debate today —
Is that editors and publishers and agents and those who fit into those categories predominately care about one thing:
Selling the book.
From the business standpoint of book writing, of course that basic statement makes sense.
For writers who haven’t fully experienced this yet, there is a major difference in business and creativity in book world.
These exercises focus on the creative aspect of it all.
First and foremost, you actually have to have a book before you should worry about the business side of things.
Don’t you worry, though, we will get there!
Back to what I was saying.
The people who work in the publishing game only care about what’s selling, really, so they base their acceptances and rejections based solely on what they think will sell.
This is why you shouldn’t ever take rejection personally. You don’t know what someone thinks they can sell.
Self-published authors, on the flip side, have the ability of building and maintaining a relationship with their readers, and tailoring books to start to fit the needs of their devoted readers to basically ensure they’ll keep buying subsequent books.
That’s the goal of all authors, isn’t it?
The thing is, it can be easy to get caught up in — well, all of it.
Do you try to mimic what you see, or does that count as copying?
How can you focus on individuality and keep things fresh and original if no one thinks that will “sell”?
How can you grow past a solid readership that you tailor books for to reach a wider audience?
Why are some books more popular than others?
All of those are questions, that, quite honestly, do not have one solid answer to them.
That is why they are frustrating questions. They’re the type of questions that trip up a lot of authors and potential writers who get too stressed out about that instead of focusing on writing.
As to the last of those questions:
My personal opinion is that some books are more popular than others because of the author’s voice and their personal relationship with words and the way that they string them together.
Books in the same genre all read very similarly, because all authors are trying to study the market trends and keep their writing current.
Those that break out are authors that have managed to find a unique way of writing the same book as everyone else.
So, whether you’ve struggled with connecting to your inner voice or not, here’s my first piece of advice:
#1 Pay attention to (or figure out) your personal relationship with words.
What does that mean?
For me, I… see words.
I don’t really see pictures or images in my head, when I write or when I read or anything.
I see the word and the word itself acts as the descriptor to me, the way that letters melt and mold together.
There are certain words that I think are so perfect it almost isn’t even fair, throughout multiple different languages.
But it’s not like I just popped out of the womb and had that.
One of the best ways to figure out your personal relationship with words, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, is to read, and ready widely.
Another piece of advice that I’ve said before and will repeat again:
#2 Turn Any Opportunity You Have Into an Opportunity to Work
How do those two thoughts come together?
When you are reading, whatever you are reading, especially in the book category, pay attention to a few things:
- What are the tropes and cliches that you recognize within this body of work that you’ve studied to try and work within your own bodies of work?
- Do you like the way this author has executed those?
- Is there a unique style of writing that seems particularly endearing to me, or is this a typical, run-of-the-mill book?
- Would you read this again? Why or why not?
- What are some things you do and don’t like about the way that this book is written?
- Are the things you don’t like simply things you recognize about flaws in my own writing?
- Can you take both the things you like and don’t like from this novel and help your own voice strengthen?
And yes, I mean to consistently ask those types of questions throughout every sentence, page, chapter, you name it.
It sounds like a lot at first, and it is, but it gets pretty standard and easy after a while.
It doesn’t have to be this crazy, intense analysis either. Over time, that is what it sort of naturally turns into, but figuring out what you like and don’t like in other books that sell — and sell well — in your genre will help you figure out how you want to approach your writing process.
My next tip is a reading tip, actually, and it’s something I’ve already said in this video, which is:
#3 Look at Words Like Pictures
What does that mean?
Okay, so, I actually couldn’t find the example online, which is where I thought I’d originally seen this. Maybe it was an in-person thing, but here —
Although this is an image of two squares and three rectangles, is there any word you can make out from them?
If you guessed “apple,” then great job — that’s exactly what I mean.
When your eyes looked at these shapes, they automatically registered the letters that you would implement into them to make up the word.
Perhaps you didn’t see the word apple until I said it, which is equally fine.
Hopefully, after this explanation, you do see that, and it will help you start to look at words as pictures.
It’s almost a bit of a reverse psychology type thing.
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but more like “a thousand words can fit into this one picture.”
Think of all of the pictures you can paint with one word, and all you can do with a string of words together.
“Apple” is just the easiest example that can be used without any real context. Instead of examining the individual letters inside of words, just see the picture inside of the word itself.
Like, the word “bed” — looks like one.
Look at words like pictures.
It will also help increase your reading speed. Your eyes will start to glance at the words and just see the shapes to register them more quickly.
I’ll have more on that in an upcoming video.
My next piece of advice on connecting with your inner voice is to:
#4 Stop Worrying About Other Opinions
And I’m talking to you, Andrew J. Stillman, because I am just as guilty as anybody over this.
Even with these videos and posts, I get so worried about the opinions of others that sometimes it makes me scared to try things.
This is a really important thought to focus on during the drafting of your first novel, if nothing else.
Worrying too much about what other people think before you even put it out for yourself isn’t going to help you
I suffer from having this “wow this is the best thing ever” thought, then having an incredible writing process, and then after a month’s separation being like, “yeah no one’s ever going to read this, edit to your heart’s content but the spark is dead.”
So try not to do that to yourself.
I honestly give that advice more to new writers than anything. I think that anybody who has ever written out a full draft of a manuscript already knows about this.
There are a lot of genuinely talented writers and authors out there who are just too afraid to start. They’re also who these videos/posts are really geared more toward anyway, because…
Even if you’re like me and maybe too scared or too shy to really share the things that you write…
Even more like me, I would still hope it didn’t deter you from writing anyway.
I might not know what to do with the eight — now nine — works in progress I have, but at least I have those, which… if I could just go back to the 18-year-old who started out that draft that ended up being his first complete manuscript…. Whew, I would blow his mind.
In not worrying about other opinions, my next advice is to:
#5 Explore Things That Fulfill You
Write the book that you want to read. Especially when you take what you don’t like about other books into consideration.
In these past and the upcoming posts, I’m going to encourage you to explore your genre.
I’m going to encourage you to make mistakes on purpose.
I’m going to encourage you to write whatever story you want. As long as it fulfills you, then on the creative side of the writing process, that’s all that matters.
And we’re still not touching on the business side of things yet.
You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t make them in the first place, so don’t let the mere fact alone that you’re going to make them stop you.
Part of the reason I have eight books is because not all of them are actually good.
I probably only have three that I would consider pursuing, but, I mean, all things can be edited.
We’re not touching on editing yet, either, because we are going to:
#6 Let The Creative Process Be What It Is
It is widely stated and believed that “the first draft of any novel is just the author telling the story to themselves.”
That’s why they tell you not to edit as you go.
And why you’re always encouraged not to think about business until creation is done.
And why I encourage you to make as many mistakes as possible.
Because you have… to get… it out.
You need to give yourself something to work with. Staring at that blinking cursor is one of the worst things you can possibly do to yourself.
Just be who you are, let your voice speak for you, and let the creative process be what it is.
My last piece of advice is to:
#7 Go Easy On Yourself and Remove All Expectations
And by “remove all expectations,” I mean that the only expectation you should have is to show up, and do your best.
Be present in the moment, and allow whatever happens during the creative process to happen.
There may be days when scratching out 20 words feels like 20 root canals.
But there may also be days when you sneeze twice and three chapters are done.
Although things like NaNo have that “1,667 words a day” mentality, in truth, you’re probably going to see a wide spike in that.
Remember: some days give you 20 words, some give you 20,000.
The easier you go on yourself and the less expectation of “I have to get this done,” the better.
I’ll also be giving out daily — aahhh — prompts during November with more exercises to help you connect better with your characters, plots, and settings. They’ll help keep you inspired throughout the month.
If you have or intend to sign up for NaNo on their website, these prompts will be something similar to the daily motivational messages they send to you on that platform.
I’ll give you a writing exercise that will take you about 10 to 15 minutes to complete that will focus on some way to get the creative juices going for your novel.
I’ll also share the daily updates of the book I’m writing that you’re watching me build through those tutorials.
As for today, that’s all I have on some ways to begin to connect with your inner voice.
This coming Thursday, we’re going to go over setting development, so I hope by this point you’re gearing up, because we are coming to the time where we’ve got to prepare to launch!
As always, please share with me what you’re working on in the comments. Perhaps you’ll even find yourself a writing buddy or critique partner, you just never know.
If you haven’t seen any of the other videos for this novel-writing series, you can find links to all of those over here.
See you on Thursday!
Great post Andrew. Your energy is palpable. Keep up the good work.
Thank you so much! I really appreciate that