“Write like nobody’s watching, write like you’re dancing in the kitchen, write like you’re singing in the car at a red light.”
When I heard Jessie Sternthal say those words in a speech this weekend, my jaw dropped. I got all tingly inside. Finally, I thought, someone understands how I write!
Jessie writes a totally different style of writing than I do. She’s a marketing guru, who specializes in advertising. She wrote the copy for this amazing video. Wow.
Even though she does a totally different kind of writing, I think there’s a lot that creative writers can learn from marketing writers. I’ve been digging deep into marketing lately, on both personal and professional fronts, and I have nothing but respect for the marketing community.
I know some of you novelists out there will be like, marketing? Why do I have to think about an audience? This is my artistic creation!
Well… let’s put it this way. Do you want anyone to read your book?
So, back to Jessie. She said, “Write with the door closed. Edit with the door open.” What she means by that is, when you’re writing your first draft, you need to spread your wings and fly. Don’t worry about what anyone will think of your writing, don’t go back and edit while you write. Don’t shut yourself up before you have a chance to even finish expressing yourself.
Before you start writing, you do have to think in general terms about who your audience is, as this will have an impact on your book. Your writing style will be totally different if you’re writing for children, teens, or adults. But even if you have a general audience in mind, you need to put all that aside in the end and just write.
Some of us are so self-critical of our writing that we don’t even finish before we start all over again.
A lot of authors out there are writing novels for NaNoWriMo, and if you’re one of us, you may be in that panic mode since the last couple of weeks are upon us. At this point, though, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. Even if it sucks, no one will see it but you.
Later on, when you’re done getting all your thoughts on paper, then you can edit it.
That’s what she refers to as “Edit with the door open.” Now, think about who you’re writing for.
- Did you achieve your goals?
- Does it read well?
- Will real people like it?
- Is it fun? Happy? Sad? It has to evoke emotion to have an impact.
- Who will read your book?
She also talks about brands having a voice. Well, I also think that novels should have a voice, too. By a “voice”, we mean a personality. If your novel were a person, what kind of person would they be?
- Shy? Confident?
- Strong? Weak?
- Confused? Organized?
- Pretty? Ugly? Pretty ugly?
- Driven? Lazy?
Think about assigning adjectives to your book. In this way, you can make sure that you have a consistent voice across your creation from beginning to end.
When I thought about my favourite books, and tried to do this exercise, I came up with this:
- Interview with the Vampire: Decadent, Sensual, Desperate, Striving
- Divergent: Unsure, Confused, Driven, Questioning
- Kushiel’s Dart: Rich, Confident, Sexy, Strong, Controlled
If you do the same exercise with your favourite books, what do you end up with?
Ultimately, we can learn a lot from all different kinds of writers. Hats off to Jessie.