What You Owe Yourself? Authentic Writing

 

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Yesterday, I finished doing my first thorough edit of my new collection of short stories and poetry. Today, I am beginning the final review process.

I look at these two things differently.

During the editing process, you are still diligently working on the stories. You are editing, changing, rearranging, adding, subtracting, fixing mistakes and making corrections, using a thesaurus, and playing with the “sound” of the prose.

During the review process, I try to wear a “reader” hat.

This is difficult, especially when you are reviewing your own work.

But, you have to do it, you guys. You have to be willing to look at it through the lens of one of your readers.

Who are your best readers? I think of some of my closest friends—my mom—her friends—my aunt—and even some of my students who enjoy my books. Think of them…actually, picture them holding your completed book.

Then ask yourself this question: WILL THEY BE HAPPY WITH IT?

That’s what I mean when I say you have to review it as a reader. You have to imagine it’s not your own work, and it’s your chance to further question your storytelling.

That said, the one thing I don’t want you to do is to second-guess your authenticity–your own voice. Your voice and your authenticity are what make you YOU as a writer. Don’t do what I did a few years ago and begin a novel, show it to someone, and have that someone say, “This doesn’t sound like you.”

“Who does it sound like?” I asked.

“Someone else, but not you. I can’t ‘hear’ you in this writing.”

I stopped writing then and there and went back to the drawing board.

The best compliment I can get—and I’ve had many people tell me this (so thank you to all the people who have said it to me)—is that when they read my books, they can almost “hear my voice” telling them the story, as if I am there with them reading it aloud. Of course, these people know me personally or through my blog, but let me tell you, that’s the kind of thing you want to hear from your readers.

So don’t ever compromise your authenticity.

Remember, that’s why some people enjoy reading your work in the first place.

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