Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Delving into Dark Stuff

I’m writing difficult material now – wretched and wrenching and even scary. Any author aiming for emotional impact must mine this territory.

We’re not just plucking heartstrings here. We’re going for the gut. That means we must grind our own guts in the process.

I’m not only talking about true life stories – memoir like I’m writing now. We struggle through similar terrain writing fiction and other forms also.

If your purpose is to carry your reader into a dark valley you must go there first. On your own with every nerve ending stripped for maximum sensitivity. You have to feel it all the way.

Feelings are the medium by which you plunge a reader into maximum engagement with your work.

Make them feel and you’ve got them hooked. Keep them feeling and you’ve got them hooked all the way through. Turning pages whether they be pulp-based or digital.

But first you as writer must brave the tough part and that’s not easy. In my writing workshops I quip about it as oven cleaner writing. I’d rather clean the oven than write it. Most writers agree.

These are the passages anyone would just as soon run away from. You arrive at the edge of the abyss and suddenly you absolutely must check your email – or walk your pet even if he’s a goldfish – or clean the oven though it can clean itself.

 Too many authors avoid such writing. They maneuver around or skim over. As a literary agent I received many of their manuscripts and chose not to represent them. They didn’t hook me. They wouldn’t hook an editor or reader either.

So once more into the breach it must be. Hold your nose and dive deep into the stuff that hurts the heart and singes the soul. You can soar back to the light of triumph later.

For now you brave the darkness. Because there – sparkling amidst the murk – lies publishing pay dirt. And I don’t mean the kind I find in my oven.

1 comment:

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