Friday, January 27, 2012

When the Soul Sings

Lately I've noticed a lot of writers moaning and whining because they aren't happy with their writing. Some complain of writer's block. Others don't have any motivation. Apathy, drudgery, a lack of interest in their characters have all been mentioned. It's not fun or exciting any more. Their joy in writing is gone. It's a job.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear ya.

The truth is out there.

Here's what I think. I think most writers--regardless of genre--went from writing the books of their souls to writing market books. In the back of their minds is the overriding question, will it sell? 

When I look back at my earliest work, I see a different writer. I see a writer involved in telling the story. Yes, my technical stuff was a bit shakier. I see the mistakes I made if I'm looking for them. But I have to look hard because the stories involve me. Me, the author. When I'm reading, I keep stopping and marveling that I wrote this book!

And then...I made the mistake of worrying about whether or not the book would sell. When the author is truly involved with the story and characters, each day is a new adventure. We're not worried about whether we have enough or too much sex because it isn't our story. We can't wait to get up in the morning to see where their story will take us. Our soul sings as we pound the keyboard. Every interruption is nearly unbearable because we can't bear to be parted from our hero/heroine. Sounds like love?

Yeah, it does. If our writing doesn't make our soul sing then we're writing the wrong stuff.

A dear friend sent me a short piece she'd written. It was very different from her usual writing. This piece was written from her soul. The difference in the emotion and depth of feeling was striking. Her fascination with the characters was obvious.

When we lose that never-ending fascination, we lose some part of the soul of the story. Oh, it may be technically sound. We may have the POV down and most of the adverbs weeded out. We might have even followed every damn rule in the White and Strunk's. But underneath, niggling away at us is the certainty that the story has no soul.

When it does, it enthralls even when the technical aspects are less than perfect. When the soul sings so does the story.