I’ll be one of the first people to admit it — I love snarky children’s books. Those lines that are a bit cheeky that make the adult reader cringe? Yep. Those are the ones. Not sure what I mean? Think of any Kevin Henkes book with Lily in it. Yes, Lily often ends up in the uncooperative chair but she makes me laugh while she does it. I get why kids love these books.
So why does my own work have so few moments like this? The writers in my critique group have actually asked me this question. “You’re so funny. Why don’t you write funny?”
First things first, writing funny is really hard. I’m not sure why, but it is. It takes a great deal more effort than letting fly with a snarky one liner in conversation.
But I have to admit, that that isn’t the only reason.
More often than not, I’ll include something snarky, hilarious and, admittedly, immature. But then I hit backspace, backspace, backspace until its gone.
The reality is that I have the sense of humor of a teen boy. I know this because I laugh at 90% of the things that my son and his friends laugh at. In fact, I laugh so hard I snort. Then I turn around and one of the other moms or, worse yet, my husband is giving me that tight lipped look. You know the one. Grow up already.
But when I don’t edit away these bits of snark, my writing is that much better. It has voice. No, my work will never appeal to certain readers but that’s okay. They wouldn’t get the real me anyway. To read about my search to “write what I know,” see yesterday’s post at the Muffin.
First thought. Best thought.
According to a post that I just read by Leslea Newman, this is the advice that Allen Ginsberg generally gave his students. The idea is this. Whether you call it your inner editor or your internal critic, you need to shut this harsh voice off and write.
I have to admit, though this has stuck with me, I have to admit that it flies in the face of what I believe. I’ve always operated under the idea that your first thought is going to be the same one that everyone else also thought up. Go past it again and again to come up with something better.
But how often when I do this am I talking myself out of something new and different? How often do I go on to talk myself into something safe?
I can’t say that I have an answer. It’s just something that I’m noodling over. Until I discover the answers …
Just shut up and write.
I would love to say that I write 5 blog posts a week. No false starts. No deleted drafts. I would love to say it but it wouldn’t be true because often I attempt at least 7 posts.
Sometimes this happens because a piece just never gels. It seemed like a good idea. It sounded like a good idea, but it just never came together. If I rewrite something two or three times and it still isn’t cohesive . . . I hit “move to trash.”
Often my posts are inspired by a question someone asks me and I realize that this is something that would benefit a lot of people. Then I’ll write a post on manuscript formatting, on research or on researching a publisher. All of these topics and more have been inspired by someone’s question.
But sometimes I write a post and it just comes across as one great big rant. Someone has said, or done, something that just sets me free. They, and so many other people, need to be straightened out and I am just the woman to do it! I type away, write two drafts and realize that, in the end, I sound like I’m pitching a fit. If I can’t put a positive spin on it and somehow help my readers use the information to improve their writing, into the trash it goes. This is, after all, my professional space.
If you maintain a blog, you don’t have to publish every attempted post. If you aren’t sure about something you’ve written, set it aside. If you still aren’t sure in a few days, don’t post it. Don’t send it to an editor. Let it continue to sit.
Not so much on this blog but on PrayPower4Today, I’ve written posts on a variety of tough topics. They can be hard to get right. And they can be very easy to get wrong. Don’t be afraid to reject your first several attempts until you have something that strikes just the right note.