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Truthful, authentic, honest. All these words mean roughly the same thing, but in this case, I’ve chosen these words to describe writers and the stories they create. I’m sure you’ve all heard phrases such as “find your own authentic voice,” or “write your truth,” or “be true to your craft.” Or even “be honest with your readers.” I realize that these phrases are ambiguous at best and are usually tossed around at writing conferences to make a speaker sound like they know what they are talking about. So…what am I getting at?

To be honest in what you are writing, or to be truthful in the story that you create means showing a side of yourself that you may not want to. To be authentically you as a writer means to be vulnerable, to let down your walls just a little bit, or a lot, and let people into your world. It’s a scary reality, but when it’s done well, it shows in your writing and enhances your story significantly.

Any character you create, or any setting you envision all have bits and pieces of you, of your imagination, of your ideas, of your creativity. If you aren’t connecting with one of your characters neither will your readers. If you’re painstakingly writing every word just to get the book done, your readers will feel that as well. Stephenie Meyer said that she will not write a sequel to Midnight Sun because she experienced a great deal of anxiety every time she sat down at her computer to write Edward’s story. Guess what? I felt nothing but anxiety every time I picked it up. No joke.

This stuff is real. Your emotions, your beliefs, your humor, everything about you ends up on that page and if you’re afraid of judgement, criticism, or “what will my family think?” then you’ll likely become less and less authentic and your story will suffer because of it. Your readers aren’t going to know precisely why they don’t like a scene, or heaven forbid your book altogether, but it will happen nonetheless if you start censoring your writing voice.

If you find that you aren’t allowing yourself or your characters to explore certain emotions or situations because it’s uncomfortable for you as the writer then this should be a wakeup call. If you’re fighting this, but keep feeling pulled to write something you don’t particularly want to then it probably means that you need to put on your big girl or big boy underwear and do it. Even if it’s scary. Even if it means putting a little more of you on the page for everyone to see than you are currently comfortable with. In the end, you’ll be glad that you did.

In full honesty (no pun intended, or maybe a little), I’m not perfect at this yet either. I’m guilty of taking whole scenes out of manuscripts because I was afraid of what other people would think. In the end, my stories suffered because of it.

With all this being said, you certainly don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, take the word of my top picks for the week:

#1: Terrified About Writing Your Novel? Excellent!

The author of Waisted goes into depth about the fears she had to face in order to write her fictional story about weight obsessed women and the society they lived in. She not only had to face her own weight obsessions and body image issues, but also the criticism after her story was published.

#2: What Gandhi Taught Me About Telling Stories that Mean Something

Kelsey Allagood encourages writers to not only tell the truth, but also to create stories that push the boundaries of current societal belief. “Of course our readers are going to look at our stories through their own lenses—the ones that stories have helped them shape over the course of their lives. Our role as storytellers is to write stories that help shift those lenses.”

#3: How Honest is Too Honest? 6 Books That Straddle That Line

While most of these books listed are either memoir or self-help, I still find this article helpful for friction writers in order to see just how much truth previous authors have put on a page and lived. Perhaps this article will give you the courage to explore those ideas or scenes in your story that you’ve been avoiding.

#4: Write of Way #15 – Write True to You

“I think it’s a lesson all authors learn that, whether we intend them to or not, our books reflect things about ourselves that we might not have even realized.”

“If your creativity is flowing through a filter, you risk losing themes and ideas like that. You might not notice you’re losing them, but you will be, all the same.”

Spot on, A.Z. Anthony. Spot on. Oh, and the rest of the article is good too.

#5: Make it as Honest as You Can - Neil Gaiman

This is actually a short video I linked from the Novel Writing Advice Videos section of Author Connect. It’s Neil Gaiman talking about how he found his own style of writing by being honest with himself. It’s definitely worth the 5 minutes it takes to watch it.

 

Happy week and happy writing to you all.

Until next time,

Kara

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