Write of Way #15 – Write True to You
Yeah, yeah. I know, it’s ironic. A ghostwriter telling you to write “true to yourself.” What’s that about, anyway?
I mean, what does someone who writes for others for a living know about writing “true to yourself?”
As it happens, a great deal. (Disclaimer: I might also just think I know a lot about this topic but be completely wrong. There’s really no way to be sure.)
I’ve been a freelance writer for a while now, but I’ve spent the last year and a half of that time writing exclusively fiction for my clients. This year alone, I’ll approach around 800,000 words written. Nearly all of that will have been for clients.
So, what has all this taught me?
Mainly that 800,000 is a metric shit ton of words and investing in good keyboards is essential. But also, that when writing is your passion, you have to make sure it stays that way.
The quickest route to getting burned out on writing is by working on projects you don’t believe in or love. That’s what takes passion and turns it into pain.
Now, I’m not writing this because I think you all are deadset on careers as ghostwriters. I’m writing it because it has an application that ranges beyond ghostwriting.
In your own fiction, you have to be true to yourself.
If you’re passionate about a project, you’ll enjoy working on it. (Disclaimer #2: I realize good writers push through when the passion for a project fades, but that’s another matter for another Thursday.)
One of my favorite phrases, and one I definitely overuse, is: “If you have fun writing it, the readers will have fun reading it.” I truly believe that.
There are a lot of reasons why fun writing makes for fun reading. The main one is, as much as we do or do not want it to affect the text, our mental state when writing shows through in our story, our characters, and numerous other elements of a book.
It’s hard to write a character having fun when you’re hating what you’re doing.
Another way people often say this is “write the book you’d want to read.” No one can gauge what’s going to be the next best seller. Sure, many try (with varying levels of success), but in all actuality, a large part of the process is a total crap shoot.
Instead of bogging yourself down with worrying about what readers want, enjoy your work. When Michael Crichton wrote Jurassic Park, I don’t think he was thinking “Gee, I bet the market is really looking for a techno thriller mixed with a survival thriller featuring genetically modified fossils.”
Had Crichton chased what he thought the market wanted, in lieu of what he wanted, we may never have gotten the beauty that is Jurassic Park.
Another reason to “be true to yourself” is to give authenticity to the text (or something approaching it, at least). Maybe it’s different for you, but when I write under the constraints – be they from a client, or a project that doesn’t mesh with what I enjoy writing – it warps my writing.
It’s almost as if my creativity is being run through a filter. Sure, I’d like the character to swear like a sailor in this part, but this novel needs to target the YA market, so instead he’s gonna use some less strong language and maybe drop in a “damn,” if we’re feeling edgy.
Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what the client wants, I’ll write it. But if you want my best stuff, the stuff that comes from the heart and speaks to issues on my mind, then you have to let me be free, man.
Let yourself be free, too.
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.
I know I’m still discovering themes in Servant of Rage that are frighteningly accurate to my real life. I had no intention of writing things like that into the book, yet, somehow, they showed up.
Those sort of things are real. They might be presented through fiction, but they’re real and they’re important.
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.
I guess, what I’m trying to say with all of this is, if you want to write that space clown pirate thriller, go for it, dude.
Write true to yourself, and you might just be surprised with the power of the story you create.