We all want to write timeless prose and enveloping stories for our readers to sink into. But, beautiful writing doesn't always come naturally. It's a skill that must be sculpted and studied. During my own quest for improvement, I've gathered some treasured advice through the years. Some of it comes from my own personal observations, but a lot of it was passed down to me by people far wiser than me. I can't wait to share these ideas with you.
1: Your voice is beautiful.
“Don’t forget---no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.”
-Charles de Lint
One of the most inspiring books on finding your own voice is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. I am so grateful I read this early on in my writing career. Ueland showed me that even if I think my perspective is too commonplace to be important, nobody else sees the world the same way I do. My hometown, my family, my way of life is completely foreign to someone else.
For me, this concept was confirmed once I became an acquisitions editor. I once received queries with incredibly similar plot lines that sounded wildly different from each other. Even if your story has already been told, it hasn’t been told by you. Your voice is what makes your writing beautiful.
There are many things that parents have to overcome when it comes to writing and publishing during the early years of parenting. As a stay-at-home mother of four kids, and being pregnant with number five, I have learned a lot about how to maintain a good writing habit in the chaos of the early years. For some perspective:
I've had four kids in five years, all singleton pregnancies., I'm now pregnant with #5. I finally feel like I can breathe a little as my oldest has begun to be more independent and helpful. But the past six years have been a whirlwind of diapers, tantrums, breaking up fights, and long, sleepless nights feeding new babies. None of my children are in public school, either, since we've decided to home school them. Where in the world did I find time to write and publish two full-length novels and a short story? Am I insane to even consider my newest goal to write and publish an urban fantasy trilogy in just 12 months?
Most of my friends will tell you that, yes, I am insane. But insane works for me! I love staying busy, I love having babies, and I love being at home as a mom. It takes a lot of creativity and motivation to find the right balance between home life and writer's life. Hopefully, some of what I share today will help you find that creativity and motivation. I know you can find the time in your unique schedule and lifestyle for writing if you want it enough, but it will take adjusting your expectations, setting realistic goals, and finding the right kind of support.
I love reading. Unfortunately, I’m an embarrassingly slow reader and I don’t have as much dedicated downtime as I used to. As a result, my to be read pile is dauntingly high. When I do read, though, I come across some beautiful books, and the books I read with my children have really captured my heart the last couple of years.
I love reading with them as part of our bedtime routine, to wind down after a long outing, or simply as a good way to connect with those sweet little hearts. I cannot express my gratitude for the authors that have created such heartfelt stories that allow my kids and me to learn and grow together. Surprisingly, the things I learned while reading with my children also applied to my writing!
So much of writing is done alone. Our ideas are inside our minds, and we sit in front of a computer or over a notebook by ourselves, typing or writing those ideas into words. Even if we prefer to write in a coffee shop or at the library, surrounded by other people, we are often too focused to be a part of things (if we’re really writing).
Our work is easily kept to ourselves. A lot of the time, we want it to be that way. Our writing is commonly referred to as the blood from our veins put on the page. But, if we want to make our stories into something spectacular, we have to share them. But we do, don’t we? We share them with our mothers and our closest friends, and they love them. Isn’t that enough? The problem with that is, in most cases, mothers and close friends love us more than they know what might need fixing and how to suggest it, so they praise us—sincerely—telling us how proud they are and how wonderful our work is. But no query was ever made more successful with such narrow references.
No matter how much we love our work, there will always be something wrong with it. Even in published works we can find typos and other things that have been missed from revision to revision, edit to edit, and proofread to proofread, so we can be certain that we all need extra pairs of eyes on our manuscripts. But with extra eyes will come feedback, both good and bad.
It’s so important to be open to these critiques! In my own life, I’ve noticed that when someone is stubborn or defiant about their work, they always miss something important they could have learned from comments. Even when the commenter is completely wrong, we shouldn’t brush it off as soon as we hear it. But more on that later.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.