Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Passionate Writers Wanted: No Posers Allowed

Yesterday, I read a first chapter on a critique forum I belong to where a male character—position not given—gave a just-hired guidance counselor a tour at his new employ. The whole chapter was empty. The dialogue was stilted, the characters non-existent, the narrative completely absent of voice, tone, texture, description and pertinent action. Plus, it brimmed with dialogue tags. Obviously, this word-waster’s a beginner, but even worse than that, a poser…not just someone who wants to write and has no clue where to start or how to bring words to life…this is someone who’s writing without passion. Clearly.

When people are passionate about something, no matter what it is, there’s an undeniable spark you can see, a hint of potential and desire underneath the rubble, and you know, aha, a diamond in the rough...which ultimately leads to dedication, persistence and a stretch for success. But, no matter how hard you try to write fantastic prose, if you don’t have passion for what you’re doing and believe in your ability to tell the story, it’s going to show.

Not that my work is perfect. I’m still in bloom. I’m an unpublished newbie and have so much to learn, but, I need to write, be it short story, poem, flash, novel, doesn't matter. Writing is my dream revealer, my stress release, my thought organizer, my creative breath. I’m driven to put paper to pen and sharpen my knowledge by learning from others and reading books on craft so I can write well. In fact, reading books on technique is what kick-started me to write my first novel.

I love elements about my baby, but I’ve laid it to rest, at least for now. I poured so much emotion into it while writing it. I cried when I killed off my MC, Jenna’s best friend, steamed in fury during heated conflicts, trembled when Jenna was fending off the knife-wielding rapist who killed her BF, and reached for tissues again when she was reading a kiss-off note from her love interest even though I knew it was a practical joke being flipped into a marriage proposal.

As crazy as this emotional rollercoaster seems to you, that’s what passion is, being parked in the shoulder, searching high and low in your car for another crayon because your frantic writing is illegible on Dunkin Donuts napkins in that stupid light green. If you’re writing without experiencing the thrill and emotion of the work and not pouring everything into it, then you’re merely attempting to string words together that you only hope make some sort of sense and entertain.

Check out reviews on Amazon. With experienced, well-known authors, from Dean Koontz to James Patterson, readers can easily spot the difference between novels that were rushed to meet deadline and those birthed out of passion. Plots are weaker, characters are flatter, endings are messy or unsatisfying. Everything’s different and all the worse for the lesser effort. Those writers make big bucks for publishing houses and themselves, so they’re allowed to fudge every now-and-then and hand in something under the gun.

But don’t let that be you—except for raking in the money part of course. ;) No matter where you are or end up in life, or how many awards you win, never lose your soul's fire or consider something finished and great if it didn't stem from it.

You should always strive to add greater depth and make your work better, to hone your skill and find your true voice, to develop characters so rich and full that even you forget they’re not real and care what happens to them during the journey and after THE END. Discover and use your most hidden, ugly, lovely, horrible emotions. Write the best pieces you can, losing sweat, tears and sleep in the process. Because if you don’t, readers will see the shallowness in what you’ve written. They’ll know. Don’t be a poser: a sub-par, mediocre, commonplace wannabe. Be exceptional, a true writer, an author, rushing onward in your drive and love for the craft. Grow and learn and work harder. For personal use, write whatever you want, but for the masses, always write with passion. Always give your best effort. Never less.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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