Last week I attended the monthly meeting of my local writers group. I love being around writers who are serious about writing and improving their skills. Experienced professionals and those working to get there, all there to mix and mingle and encourage one another. There’s that faint singed smell of creative combustion in the air.
Each month the group hosts different speakers who share their expertise. Some subjects covered since I started attending about 18 months ago have been: keys to unblocking creativity, research methods, social media, writing ancestor stories, law enforcement procedures, and the road to the New York Times Best-Seller List.
This month did not disappoint. Young adult author Anna Myers, with 19 historical novels under her belt, shared a wealth of wisdom. She spoke on what she called the five most essential things to do before you write your novel and here’s the countdown:
Read as a reader. Read what you are writing, meaning read books in that genre and current books in that genre. I would add read across as many genres as you can to familiarize yourself with good writing, even if you will never write ‘that kind’ of book. Anna also says copy the spirit of a book, meaning, break a book down, dissect it to teach yourself.
#4 FIND YOUR STORY
Anna believes all art already exists in the universe, your job as the artist is to find it.
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” – Michelangelo
My belief is similar, in that the seed of what you create is already planted inside you, waiting for you to discover it and set it free.
Anna also shared that you’ll know when you find your story; it will be the story that makes you tingle. At the same time, you can’t order a story like you order a hot dog.
#3 GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO WRITE BADLY AND KEEP GOING
Some writers can’t get over their perfectionistic tendencies and won’t move forward until everything is ‘just right’. Anna likens the first draft of a story to the foundation of a house, get the story down. Revision is like decorating the house, the things that make it a wonderful home go in during revisions.
On the other hand, some writers think it’s going to flow perfectly with no correction. Anna says you better get real. By helping many newer writers she has found that sometimes writers felt the story so much in their minds, they were sure that those feelings made it on to the paper, and they didn’t. Work through this feeling objectively in your writing.
#2 KNOW THE RULES
Get advice from someone who knows something. Writing books are a good resource. Work on finding a mentor you can trust. Go to school if that is a good fit for you. Be teachable. There are rules. Once you know them you can be free to choose to break them if you wish. You can LEARN writing techniques.
#1 FIND THE VOICE OF YOUR STORY
Voice = Style mixed with the author’s emotions
A technique to help you find the voice in a story is to experience other arts, such as visual arts, music and acting. Anna advises using the method acting technique in writing to discover voice. Lose yourself and become your character. If you’re writing ABOUT your character, you haven’t gone deep enough. Crawl into their skin.
This is the tip that intrigued me the most. I try to imagine what a certain character would do or feel in a situation, because I feel I know them, but I wonder if I need to go deeper. Here are more links to explore on the connection between the Method acting technique and writing:
- Anita Bartholomew and The Link Between Method Acting and Writing Believable Characters
- Method Writing over at Tea & Biscuits
- Once Upon A Time Writing offers Tips for Getting Into Character
- K.M. Weiland at Wordplay shares ways to Make Your Character Steal the Show
- Laura Turner in a short video about Stanislavski’s Method in Writing
Question: Have you found the voice of your story? How deep did you have to go? Would you use Method acting techniques to find it? Why or why not?