Has this happened to you? You wrote a little something, or a lot of something, and you shared it with others.
You know it's not perfect. You’re expecting a few notes. But the reaction you get surprises you:
“I couldn't follow it.”
“I didn’t get it.”
“I just wasn't sure what was happening.”
This kind of feedback can be bewildering. What we wrote is so clear to us! So why did our readers find it confusing?
My dear storytellers, the art of writing really good fiction—fiction that works for the reader—is made of many different skills. One of the key ones is this:
You must cultivate the ability to see your text as the reader sees it.
Consider how well you know your book by the time you've got pages to show people. You’ve been working on it for months. You can recite chunks from memory. You know your characters like the back of your hand.
But the reader is new in town. They only know what...
Ah, the suspense! Some questions are big ones, with potentially life-changing outcomes. Waiting for the answer makes our hearts race a little faster than usual!
That rush of energy readers feel when a high-stakes question is finally answered is an essential part of good storytelling. In stories, we call these dramatic questions. There's something the readers are waiting to find out, and the outcome matters a lot. Discovering the outcome is why they keep reading.
Dramatic questions can be peppered all through a narrative, in small, medium, and extra-large sizes. In a well-structured tale, there’s almost certainly a central dramatic question propelling the whole book, from first page to last.
And yes, I do mean first page! It’s never too soon to let your reader in on what the book is about. But you have to know what that question is, first.
Do you know what the central dramatic question of your book is? Does your reader?...
Everyone’s heard of stage fright. Even Barbra Streisand has it! Imagine singing like Barbra and being afraid to perform! It’s not rational, but it’s real.
Writers, too, can suffer from a bone-deep reluctance to share our work with the world. Call it “page fright.” And yet our readers are out there, waiting! What’s a nervous writer to do?
In this livestream, I talk about why it’s so challenging to take that anxiety-ridden but necessary plunge and let others into our private writing worlds.
My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog. You can leave your questions and comments below.
To watch live and ask questions, subscribe to the YouTube channel here.
And you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.
I do get a little cranky sometimes about all the ADVICE out there that’s aimed at writers.
I say that as someone who gives a lot of advice to writers myself. I take this role seriously because I take good writing seriously, just as I take the courage and vulnerability of those who feel called to write seriously.
No one falls into the profound work of storytelling at the level of mastery by accident. Instruction and mentorship are invaluable. The giving and taking of advice is a necessary thing.
But that said: Who are we trying to please when we write? Agents? Editors? Random advice-givers on social media, or pros sitting on panels at writing conferences?
Are we writing to please ourselves only? Or is there someone else out there whom we ought to be keeping in mind? That’s the topic of today’s discussion.
My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.