While promoting my debut memoir on my successful book tour , “From Agoraphobia to Zen”, (shameless plug) I had the opportunity to speak at a plethora of venues, and share my writing process as well as get to meet some amazing people.
No this is not how I write, but it is a good way to show what I mean about not respecting your reader. The above vomit producing words (except that I always wanted to use the word plethora in a sentence) are true statements yet are not the way I write. I talked about respect while speaking and reading on above book tour, and mostly had to explain what I meant about writing a meaningful book. Why do you write? Do you write for yourself? Then you can be as self-indulgent as you want. Use the I word and the words that make you tingle inside. You know you have your favorites. Is it scintillate, or serendipity or plethora. Amaze yourself on how good a writer you are. But if you are writing a piece you want others to read, please don’t do any of that. As Stephen King says in his book “On writing” and I am paraphrasing. Any word you get from a thesaurs is the wrong word, no exceptions.
Writing and respecting your reader means you write like you speak. Your vocabulary is fine. Don’t mess with it. Don’t be fake. Be yourself; a real person with flaws. The reader will like you for it. Don’t make yourself better, smarter, or cleverer unless it is authentic. Don’t whine, “poor me”, or as I was told by an A,A member “pour me a drink” Don’t tell, tell, tell,eg. First I did this and that happened and then that other thing happened and I felt so ahh. Show me. Use your natural gift of writing to describe without adverbs and nouns what it felt like when something happened and do it with panache. Ok, I like that word too. You must kill your darlings, Hemingway said and that is what I think he meant.
I recently read a book that will remain nameless (for now) and I felt so cheated after I finished it. It has such potential and the writer had so much talent but she fell in love with her writing. Bad mistake. She also loved herself more than she loved the reader and it showed. She bragged about her life, her looks, and her cooking skills She was conceited and self absorbed.Again paraphrasing. “I look in the mirror and I still see the beautiful woman I always was but can’t feel the passion for life anymore. My husband loves my cooking which is wonderful ( my cooking that is), and my kids are growing up and don’t need me anymore so I’ll just stay in Argentina and dance the tango where my new lover will appreciate me bring me to the heights of the ecstasy I deserve. Oops did I give too much away. Anyway, the book was awful and frustrating because she had a gift for describing how great Tango and Argentina is but her characters were flat and cartoonish and her style of telling someone else’s story in detail was excruciating. The author/main character thought she had heart and authenticity but in fact she disrespected her reader. Any one who didn’t love her character was trashed. The only authentic character was she, her main character. She just couldn’t get excited about writing about any other person but herself. So the reader got screwed. So did the main character and that scene was awful too. Trust me on this.
Trust and respect your reader and they will trust you to be authentic. The above writer spoke many languages and used most of them in her book without the benefit of translation. Is that respect? Must I have a translator at my side to read a book and was this necessary or just a ploy to show the reader how accomplished and affluent she was?
In my book, I had to be authentic. It was written for my healing. The first draft that is. Then, I combed through it to see if it was a readable and not a misery memoir. Misery memoirs are fine if they are not “please pity me for what I have suffered or am still going through. It has to have a heart, a soul, and hope. Hope is everything and people want to see you are more than your problems. We all are but showing it is not easy.So when writing, I try to be humble.
In closing you can see I am very passionate about respect in all forms. Maybe it’s because I was given so little as a child and even as a grown woman. When your children see you disrespected, they follow the lead. I was recently told by my son, I look somewhat like a dead alien he saw on the internet.. I didn’t get angry or hurt at this remark, but I called him on his childish behavior . He is thirty. I feel good about myself now but before that would have devastated me. Words are important and powerful so I am careful how I use them. I promise if you respect your reader when you write, you will find the process more fascinating and so will your audience. Aloha