Monday, July 9, 2012

Don't Force Your Writing - Let Your Story Do Its Thing

Writers will often be asked to submit a partial of their writing to editors and agents as a part of a submission package. Yes there are times agents in particular will simply ask you to submit the whole project, but in reality, they only need a partial to really make a decision about your book. What are we looking for? The simple answer is the voice and the over-all trend of the writing. The synopsis can give us the plot line for the story, but it is that partial that gives us a sense of your writing.

But what specifically are we looking for in that opening partial. Along with your grammar and ability to suck the reader into the story quickly, we are also looking for the ability of the words to flow off of the page naturally. Those opening pages, although we could probably find any number of pages throughout the book to do this, can show a reader if you are forcing the story along.

Early on in anything we do, the moves we make are often mechanical. In other words, we are thinking so hard about what we have to do, that the skill just doesn't flow well. Think about learning to play an instrument, or playing a new sport. All of those drills we go through are there to train our body and muscles to be able to do this naturally. During the Diving Time Trials here in Washington a couple of weeks ago, one of the reporters asked a diver what they were thinking as they dove off of that platform. Their answer was often the same. "I didn't think about the dive. I had done it so many times that my body knew just what it had to do."

This approach applies to your writing and it is what we are looking for in that partial. Are you forcing the use of dialogue and narration? Are you using skills you just learned at a workshop in this particular project? Are you phrasing sentences or structuring your story simply because someone told you this was the way to do it, or are you doing things because the story demanded it? It is this last part we want to see you at.

In other words, how advanced are you in terms of your writing? Does that writing naturally flow off the page or is it forced? But we are also looking at another element which should relieve some of you beginning authors. We want to see if this is an author that has the potential and can be trained. You don't have to be 100% perfect, but you have to be someone who can be shaped.

Natural writing is not something that can truly be taught. It is is a skill that will take time. As you progress through your writing career, you will find that things just get easier to do. Narration just seems to work. Dialogue sounds like real people. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Just relax and let the story do it's thing. You might be surprised at what you see when you write THE END.



  1. I find it a bit ironic that you're talking about how to write a story when you have punctuation problems, yourself—at least one in every paragraph.

    Example: "It's" = "it is". "Its" = possessive form of "it". So it's "Let the story do its thing."

  2. Carradee,

    You are very correct with that one. Thanks for catching that. As someone who still teaches I often talk about "Reading Miscues" and how easy it is to over-look mistakes and typos such as this one and the need for multiple eyes looking at your manuscripts. This was certainly one of those times.