I've been having a hard time with my writing lately. I'll start something and abandon it because it doesn't feel authentic. I can't find a voice or theme that feels like it's really coming from me. Any thoughts on how I can overcome this?
Well there are two questions here—first there’s one about abandoning your stories. There are a couple of topics about finishing stories on the Advice Tags page, so check those out.
In terms of finding your voice, my first suggestion would be: Don’t over think it. If you’re stumbling through your writing thinking “Would this character say this? Should I put this word here?” it’s going to feel awkward and stunted. To write in a voice that isn’t your own, I think you really have to “get into character” by doing a lot of research and practice beforehand. But hold off on that for now and try a couple of these things:
First, I’d do some stream of consciousness writing. A website that really helps me with this when I’m REALLY writers-blocked and absolutely have to write something for a deadline is 750words.com. Because you have to get to 750 words to be done, you can’t abandon it, and it has all these cool little benchmark goal features that are also encouraging. I usually go on there and either just write about my day, what’s on my mind, or something like, “I want to write this story about a girl who’s walking through the forest and suddenly she sees a bear, but I can’t decide whether the bear is going to chase her in the first scene or in a later scene, because…”. That really helps me get the words flowing, and then I can talk myself through the problems that I’m having with getting a story out.
I’d also suggest writing some stories in the first person—the length doesn’t matter—about a character pretty similar to who you are as a person. That way, you’ll be forced to write in your own unique voice, because you’ll basically be writing about you!
I think both of the above steps should help get your unique-voice gears turning so that you can move forward. If those don’t work or you need more advice or I misinterpreted what you were trying to ask me (haha, highly possible), you know where to find me!
And as always, anyone with anything to add can send an ask.
Suggestion: REALISTICALLY IMAGINE! You're writing fiction, so roll with it! :P I write mostly fantasy/sci-fi. I have never created fire-magic, I have never been in a zero-gravity environment, fired a laser gun, or pet a dragon. You create any world how you see fit. There will always be gaps in the "realism" of your fiction. So fill in the gaps as well as possible, or necessary. Run down a checklist of sight/sound/smell/taste/feel, & remember some things are more powerful left to the imagination.
Re: writing something you've never experienced: Research. But not the normal amount of research. If it's something you've literally NEVER done before and are not able to (for example, archery or horseback riding) for whatever reason, then what you do is you research it twice or three times more than you might things you have a vague idea about. Talking to people who have done or do those things is also a huge help, I've found. And then just do your best to write it from there.
There are plenty of books out there to read on anything and everything for what you might need, and there is always someone who has experienced it. The thing many authors will tell you to do is stick with what you know and live as much as you can, which will give you a lot of materiel to work with. I also act out my roles with others mentally put myself in a situation. I write horror, so I sit in the dark, and I wait. The mind is the most powerful weapon nature has given us. Hope this helps.
I've seen a bunch of writers pip up in the past to offer some really good advice, so I thought I'd ask something of you all. Bow do you go about writing something you've never experienced?
One time I was having a hard time writing a scene where a character was attempting rape my narrator, and my professor (somewhat awkwardly) asked if I had a boyfriend or a friend who I could play-act the physical logistics of the scene with (I was having a hard time describing where arms and legs were, etc.). I had a boyfriend at the time and I had him just sort of hover over me the way the guy in the story would have, and I noticed so many new things: How his breath felt on my face, how much his weight hurt on my hips—little details like that. So for physical things that you haven’t experience, I’d make the same suggestion: See if you can mimic it.
For that same story, actually, I also had to describe the sensation of getting high, having never smoked weed before. I just asked a bunch of my stoner friends to describe how it felt (in writing) and then spliced their descriptions together and made the wording more appropriate to the themes of my story. So that’s suggestion number 2: find people who have experienced what you’re trying to describe, and see what they say.
Anyone else have suggestions?