Friday, September 10, 2010

Passion, Not Technique Makes a Great Writer

I am always talking about the "voice" of the story - that special, personalized piece of "umph" that just screams at the reader to keep going and to believe in the story and the characters. I started thinking about this today and realize that, I do believe in my humble opinion, writers are attempting to create and craft in their stories. It is for that reason that the stories often lack voice.

Voice is not something that can be learned in a craft session or some book. In fact, I even went back an took at look at the table of contents of the book I am currently working on dealing with the craft of writing and guess what, there is nothing in their on voice.

And yet there is...

A strong voice only comes from the passion a writer has for his or her craft and certainly the story. You shouldn't have to force this craft. It should just flow from your fingers. As a reader, you can see that in many of the books you read. There are times when you pick up the book and the pages seem to be read to you. There is a vibrance that leaps off of the page. My bet is that if you ask the writer how they felt about the book, they would tell you of the passion they had when writing it. If you don't feel it, ask them and my bet is they will talk about the technique that went into the story.

As many of you know, I write poetry. I was talking to a colleague a while back, who also writes poetry and she told me the time it took her to craft a single poem. "Days and sometimes weeks," she told me. She was shocked when I told her that when the muse hit me, the poems would start flowing on the pages. I simply couldn't stop. Now, is one better than the other? Who knows, but I did find that when we talked about poetry with her, she could only describe the technique. For me, the images I wrote about were still fresh and vivid in my head. I believe that is the passion.

Your goal this weekend is to find that passion. Quit worrying about the technique. Quit worrying about whether or not you are in passive or active voice, whether you used an adjective or adverb and you should have shown us. Just write and enjoy. You are simply a master builder of words.



  1. I totally needed this today. EXCELLENT! Makes me want to shout, "O Captain! My Captain!"

  2. This kind of goes with a blog post I did yesterday. Thank you for this--it makes me feel better.


  3. I am so glad I read your post today. For weeks, I've been fighting my passion, because I thought technique was what I've been missing in agent's eyes. Crit groups have made me so paranoid about writing from the heart. Thanks, Scott. Maybe now I can get back to my current WIP that I LOVE!


  4. I used to believe this. Maybe I should clarify and say, instead, I used to PRACTICE and PREACH this kind of passionate writing, until I joined an organization that taught technique, insisted on technique, force-fed technique. Boy, did I lose my voice and my confidence. I've left that group but it's really difficult to clear my head and regain my footing. I know I sound like a whiner in a lot of my comments; I'm really not. I'm just sort of a "wounded writer" who feels she's starting from scratch in a lot of ways.

    This is a great post. I wish everyone felt this way. Thanks.

  5. I find that I can only write when I've found the right voice for a character or story. It is painful to try to force the words out on the page when I pay too much attention to all the craft elements I feel I have to make sure I include, rather than just go with what flows naturally. Thank you for giving me validation for my writing process. :-)

    I'm curious Scott, do you think we pay too little attention to voice driven and character driven in genre fiction because those are usually thought of as elements of literary fiction?

  6. Asa,

    I don't think it is an issue of writers not paying attention to the voice because it is a "literary fiction" style. I think it is simply a matter of ignoring it altogether because writers are focused on technique.

  7. I needed that extra push this weekend! Finished one novella, started another, worked on a full-length WIP, AND got great feedback from my writing buddies in IRWA--after speaking to my daughter's class at Purdue on Friday and half the day at IRWA meeting on Saturday.
    Thanks for the encouragement!