This week’s guest poster is my friend and author Andrew Kopecky, who discusses the topic of being yourself as a writer. Enjoy!
On being yourself as a writer and being the best you can be
During my childhood, I dreamed of becoming a writer.
From my childhood on I lived life, with many experiences, with some writing here and there. I published very little. Still, I dreamed of being a writer of fiction.
Here we are in 2018. I’m 53 years old, have a family, a full-time job and all of the wonderful responsibility that comes with being a parent and a husband (I say that sincerely).
And guess what? Alas, I didn’t become a professional writer. Still, I’m happy to be where I am now. I didn’t realize my dream as I once dreamed it. But I have no regrets. As I said, I have a family and a job; I love more than anything being a dad.
When I can, I write fiction. A little bit here, a little bit there. Several years ago I published some short stories on Amazon, and I recently updated them. I have two more short stories, from that series, and other short stories, that I am slowly working to publish as well. More recently I finished a novel I have been working on for the past year (and which I initially wrote a long time ago).
Along the way, I’ve gained a bit of wisdom. Wisdom that comes from age and experience.
Allow me to share some.
Have you read William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! or Jean Anouilh’s play Antigone? Two wonderful pieces of literature. When I think of these works, and of others that I have read, a few things come to mind that I’d like to share with you, my fellow writers.
One, that if you’re going to be the best writer you can be (and that is what you should be striving for), you need to be a reader as well. Reading will help your writing, I guarantee it.
And two, I’ve noticed that each of the writers I just mentioned wrote in their own style. Like music, like painting, like theatre, fiction writing is highly stylistic. Just think of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Led Zeppelin, Mahler, Andy Warhol. Very distinct styles of art.
Which leads me to the next piece of wisdom I’d like to share. In order to find your own unique style, you have to be yourself when you write. All of the time. The best writing you will ever do will always come from deep inside you.
When you have written a story and have re-worked it and edited it and proofed it and made it just the way you want it to be, you then need to dig deeper into yourself and see if your story isn’t missing something. And one day you will say to yourself, “Where did these beautiful words come from?” It’s like magic.
Which takes me to another piece of wisdom—don’t be like other writers. Be like yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Genres are categories, and there is nothing wrong with breaching them and doing your own thing.
If you’re going to make your story the best one you can, there are two things you shouldn’t do. One, you shouldn’t rush it. Good writing comes from quality time spent at it. And two, you’ll need to write your story and then re-work it and re-work it. Again. A lot.
Each time you go back to your manuscript, you’ll be making improvements. And keep in mind that every single word matters. Right word, right place, the right small touch to your story. Writing is a craft, it’s an art. Every little piece counts.
Ah, I have more advice. If you can, find yourself a reader (at least one) who isn’t a writer. Other writers are biased readers. That bias can do you some good, sure, but your “average” reader is your true audience. Find a reader from that pool of people. Your average reader will be able to give you some good feedback on your story.
Finally, relax when you write. Enjoy it. Take your time. I have joined a number of writers groups on Facebook. Some of them I have left because they ended up not being my thing. But what I have noticed over and over is that some indie writers are really caught up in marketing.
(I get it, I really do—they have to be.) And really caught up in not having to wait too long for success. And really caught up in conforming to certain norms. (“What is the best way to…?”) And really caught up in trying to make a living doing this. And less caught up in the art of writing.
I have seen plenty of frustration out there. What do I think? It doesn’t have to be this way. If your book is good—if you think it’s good and others have told you it’s good, then above all, take it for what it is—a work of art. Only a few out of many artists throughout history have been lucky enough to make a good living from their art.
There is nothing wrong with trying to be one of those few. But, it may take you time to get there. You may get there, you may not. In the end, you will need to find satisfaction not only in being able to sell your books but also in being the artist you want to be.
That, my friends, especially this last sentence I just wrote, is what I have learned in my 53 years. As a writer, I want to be completely free.
Oh, and now you might ask, why did I mention those famous writers earlier? And music, and painting, etc? It was because I want to stress to you that each of those writers, and many musicians and painters and artists you know and have heard of, had one thing in common—they did their own thing and ended up with their unique styles.
Your style may or may not sell—it’s a roll of the dice. But first and foremost, you have to be yourself, and show us the very best you have as a writer! Relax, enjoy the experience, and do your own thing.
About Andrew Kopecky
Actually, autobio. My name is Andrew Kopecky, I live in Rockford, Illinois, to the northwest of Chicago. I have a wonderful family and a house and a job (family, house—you understand). I consider myself a very normal middle-aged guy.
I have messed around with writing fiction all my life but only in the past few years have I actually completed stories and, more recently, a novel.
You can check out two of my short stories (the theme is World War One) on Amazon. I have two more like these that I just need to clean up and put on Amazon.
The novel I just finished is one I actually completed in 1997 and then did a complete makeover of during this past year. I have a master’s degree in linguistics and TESL and a bachelor’s degree in literature. As you can imagine, I like good writing, and I don’t like bad writing.
I am especially interested in the style which a writer uses in a story; I think writing style, like music style, should be a writer’s own. It takes time to develop this. It has taken me time, but I think I have found my own.
The novel I recently finished will soon be on Amazon, after I can get my favorite reader, my daughter (14 years old), to read through it for mistakes, clarity, and anything that might suck that I didn’t realize sucked.
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Big thanks to Andrew for his article. If you have any questions for Andrew, please leave them in the comments below. Do check out his links.
I’ll be back on Friday around 18:30 (BST).