Embrace the Naked

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(photo by flickr’s alice popkorn)

I talk a lot about digging deeper in the writing process and putting more of our true selves on the page. It occurred to me about halfway through my second post on the subject that at some point I was going to have to address how to protect oneself in light of all that truth talking and self exposing. But I was okay with that because I’d just embarked on my own journey to discover that very thing! I was absolutely certain that I’d be back here in a few months with Seven Tips for Self Protection, or Five Key Ways For Writers to Protect Their Emotional Selves. No lie—the working title for this post for the last few months has been Shields Up! because I was certain I would come back here with answers on how to shield oneself.

Well, Dear Reader, I was wrong. Sadly and horribly wrong.

The truth, I have discovered, is much more complex than that.

As writers, we are utterly exposed the moment we put pen to paper. Which is probably why even considering writing can be an act of tremendous courage.

All of that is bad enough, but when we’re diving deeper and deeper to make our stories more authentically our own, when we commit to trying for a creative home run rather than just getting to first base, it is inevitable that we will have more invested in our books—more heart, more soul, more blood, sweat, tears and lamentations.

And if you think that it’s scary to intentionally put more and more of yourself on the page, to become more and more vulnerable, you’re right.

For some, it will never be a problem—they were born with a core sense of self and confidence that makes others weep with envy. But for the rest of us, those for whom this is a struggle, those for whom this is a Great Barrier of Fear, here’s the kicker: part of the journey of creation is about learning how to get comfortable getting naked. It’s about how we learn to step out of and away from everyone else’s expectations and assumptions and be our own selves, proudly and comfortably, warts, quirks, foibles, and all.

Maybe, maybe that’s even the reason some of us are drawn to creative pursuits in the first place—because that journey will force us to grow for our art in ways we would be hard pressed to grow without it.

So when you are that exposed on the page, that fully committed to your work and your vision, how do you protect yourself from the inevitable negative reviews and reader reactions? Let alone keep from feeling as if you are walking around naked while everyone else is garbed in heavy layers of thick rhino hide or steel plate.

The answer? [Read more…]

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The Real World and the YA Novel

Today’s guest is YA author Meredith Zeitlin, whose debut novel, Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, was just released on March 1st. What’s the book about? Meredith’s book trailer is too good not to share, and does a better job answering that question than we could, so please give it a look:

FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS by Meredith Zeitlin from Anne Walls on Vimeo.

We’re so glad Meredith’s with us today to talk about weaving a message into your YA novel while still being true to the real world. Enjoy!

The Real World and the YA Novel

When I set out to write Freshman Year…, part of the reason I wanted to do it was my intense disappointment that YA had changed so much since I was a tween. I was a babysitter at the time for an awesome 12-year-old girl who loved to read, but didn’t seem to have a single book that reflected her actual life.

Don’t get me wrong – I like reading about fantasy worlds as much as the next gal, but I think it’s important to remind readers that that’s what books like Twilight and Gossip Girl actually ARE – fantasy. Based on the massive amount of copycat material that began popping up, it seemed to me like kids had started to think that the way the teenagers lived in those worlds was the way THEY should be living, and since most of them don’t have the resources – or the supernatural pals – to do so, it was really demoralizing.

Why should a 14-year-old feel bad about herself because she doesn’t have six pairs of Manolos? Why should anyone think his or her life is less-than because s/he never met a vampire in the woods during a brisk evening stroll? [Read more…]

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Entertainment vs. Truth

PhotobucketWhat’s more important to you, entertaining your readers or revealing the truth of things?  Both?  Maybe, but your writing itself will tell me on which side of that divide your values predominantly lie.

Entertainers often are unashamed.  The harder they insist on their purpose, though, the more likely it is that I’ll find their stories formulaic and their characters stereotypical.  The truth tellers, by the same token, can be equally uncompromising.  Yet the more they avow their disdain for commercial success, the more I know I will find their manuscripts small and chicken-hearted.

Each group is avoiding what they’re not good at.  Entertainers need to please the crowd less.  Truth tellers need to embrace story more.

If you’re writing in a commercial category you’re living in a familiar house.  Its structure is pleasing and its nooks are cozy.  You’ve dwelt there so long you don’t see the dust in the corners and you tolerate the fluky water heater.  Hey, it’s your home.  And that’s the problem.  You’ve grown accustomed to its flaws and even insist that they’re part of what gives your house its charm.

If you’re blazing a trail and don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of that, you might be ahead of your time but you might also be precluding failure by rejecting success.  Isn’t it better to be misunderstood, outcast, impoverished and suffering?  Isn’t that a prerequisite of creating art?

The truth is that most of the novelists we revere today were in their own time either commercial or critical successes, or both.  Timeless stories mostly are appreciated in their age.  Regardless, you want your stories to have impact.  You want them to move people, if not change them.  You want to be read.

Here are some ways to attack your natural tendencies: [Read more…]

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