Take a moment and try to remember how it felt when you decided you wanted to try writing fiction by yourself for the first time. You don’t know anything about point-of-view, story and character arcs, acts and beats, query letters and synopses, etcetera. You had no experience with conferences or critique groups. Everything about fiction writing was new and strange.
Elizabeth Berg’s ESCAPING INTO THE OPEN: The Art of Writing True (ISBN 978-0-06-092929-9) is a great book for those making their first tottering steps on the road of writing. It’s the book I recommend to people who’ve expressed an interest in doing fiction writing, but have no clue where to start.
What I love most about the book are the chapters on voice (Ch. 3 ), writing exercises (Ch. 4 ), and writing with passion (ch. 5). The book gets the reader writing on a regular basis–which is half the battle right there, since writers must write in order to get better at their craft. I’ve seen new writers get distracted in reading too many books and sitting in too many lectures, and not doing enough writing. I’ve been guilty of getting distracted myself, and this book got me back on track.
If you’re a more experienced fiction writer, most of the book will be “old news” to you. However, I think Ch. 3 & 4 & 5 still have advice and guidance useful to the semi-pro (which is probably why they’re my favorites). Struggles with voice never go away. Here’s a favorite quote from Ch. 3 In Your Own Words:
I believe that one of your most important jobs as a writer is to be true to yourself, to honor your own notions of what you believe is important to your life and to that of others….I’m sure you’ve heard, countless times, “Write what you know.” I would change that to “Write what you love.” The knowledge can be learned; the passion can’t be–it’s either there or it isn’t.