With this in mind, I'm pleased to present a guest post on the subject of writing and storytelling. Earlier this year I read and reviewed Vessel: The Advent, book I in her series and she joined me for a great interview and giveaway. As Indie in Summer continues please join me in welcoming back, author Tominda Adkins!
I'm Trying To Tell A Story Here!
I don't know why you write. Only you know that.
All I know is that when I write, I don't do it to highlight what words are capable of, nor what I am capable of making them do at will. I don't write to create beauty. I don't write to change writing. I don't write to alter lives. I don't write to save literature. I write simply because these stories have built themselves in my brain, and writing is the only satisfactory way I've found to pass them on to other brains.
In short, I tell stories. I aspire to nothing else.
Many of us start out with a well-meaning but false reverence to the so-called 'artistic' aspect of writing. Too often, our commitment is such that we make failure inevitable. We sabotage ourselves. We hold our work up to ridiculous standards and aim to make statements that are beyond our own scope of experience. And just what is art, anyway, in terms of prose? I sure didn't know, but looking for it used to make me do all sorts of foolish things, like emulate Dave Eggers or write about the deeper observations of young white Americans. What steered me away from that nonsense? I got fired up about a long-neglected story, and just like that, my writing improved. To be honest, I was initially embarrassed that the story in question was akin to urban fantasy (how low!), and yet I was emotionally invested in it beyond control. The characters became people. The story progressed. And lo, there was my art.
So if you are writing, take a moment. What did you set out to do? Are you showing the reader how you write, or are you telling a story that must come out? If you are striving for some certain aesthetic, or trying to sound as crisp and soulful as your favorite obscure genius, then it sounds to me like you're either getting in the way of your story or you're taking a floundering stab at literary fiction. Trust me: if you spend every other second at the keyboard wondering what your MFA friends will think (and they will secretly hate your work no matter what), then you will never accomplish anything true. Move on. The best you can do is read a lot. Write a lot. Write some more. Tell the story, tell the story, tell the story. Do it until the way you tell it sounds about right, then get to the next scene. It's still art. I promise. Art for art's sake is a pretension. Art for the artist's sake is art.
As Stephen King says it in On Writing: "Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then to get on with your story." Tell it, brother. Write the truth. Write the book that is driving you mad, inside and out, not the book that will bowl the world over--no matter what it is. We can't all be Vonnegut or Plath, and if you still want to keep pounding away at the manuscript of your Great American Novel, hiding it from the light of day until every sentence flows like a polished little pearl straight out of Hemmingway's salty old prostate--go for it. Just know that in the meantime, some of us can still delight, entertain, and yes, even inspire, by telling a damn good story. That's enough for me, and that's why I write.
What do you think about Tominda's thoughts on writing? Should I own up to the title and consider myself "a writer"? Do you call yourself a writer? What do you write and what are your main motivations for writing?
Tominda Adkins can be found online at the Vessel website or her author blog. Vessel: The Advent is available now in paperback or eBook format!