An Author's "Must Do" ListBy Matthew R. Horn
These are the words from a young author, new to a business whose methods and traditions have been passed down for years, a business whose customers change like the seasons, and whose very foundations are changing as we speak. Turmoil is the word that comes to mind when describing the publishing industry, and through it all authors have a responsibility to their craft, their style, their voice.
A writer's style is his handshake. When a reader picks up a book by Charles Dickens, you get a feel that only Dickens can give you. The same goes for Robert Louis Stephenson, C.S. Lewis, Tom Clancy, just to name a few. Most authors today, probably myself included, will never write at the level of mankind's greatest authors, but to write without a style, or to let a publisher or editor stifle your unique voice is tantamount to testifying before a jury under a false name.
My history with writing is short, having begun only three short years ago. In that time I have completed 4 different novels, as well as having started as many as 8 others, and have written numerous articles. Along the way I have felt pressure from editors, publishers, colleagues, friends, and family to change the way I do certain things in order to make the writing better. Where is the line between taking helpful advice to improve the writing, and standing up for your craft as a tangible version of yourself? Unfortunately, I cannot reveal that for others because it exists inside each of us
To read a book published 200 or even 100 years ago is to be lifted up from reality and dropped into a world of words that no longer exists. "Today's readers want to see the characters in the action, not be told what's happening by an omnipresent narrator," an editor will say. "Don't tell the readers what the character is thinking, show the reader by the character's actions," the publisher sings. These maxims lead to selling books, but limit authors in their ability to speak to the reader. How would Alexander Dumas have responded if given those notes along with his rejected manuscript for The Three Musketeers, or The Count of Monte Cristo?
No style is necessarily right or wrong. There may have been authors 200 years ago who felt that passive voice was not direct enough as the industry does today. There are authors today that feel passive voice is the only way to write. In either case, authors need to stick to their beliefs and write in a way that identifies them, that allows their heart, mind, and soul to bleed into their writings. Never be afraid to put up a fight against an editor, whose heavy hand has been laid upon your writing, rewriting your sentences and creating a new feel to your work.
The pathway that leads to experience in writing is covered in barbs and thorns. To pass down that path will lead to cuts, blood, and in some cases a great deal of pain, but to make it through to the other side still holding fast to the principles and styles that lead you to walk down it in the first place results in rewards untold. Always keep your ears open to the helpful advice of others, but never close your heart. Doing so may result in a published book, but the creation may not be yours to claim.