Writing is about listening

Writing is about listening, guest post by Tracee de Hahn

Listen to your inner voice to decide what type of book you want to write. Start with the kind of book you like to read. That is where your experience, ear, and passion lies. For example, you may want to write about a relative’s experience fighting in a World War or how your grandmother helped the family through the depression, or how a friend (or you) overcame cancer and found true love. Stop and think.

Writing is about listening, guest post by Tracee de Hahn
Are you writing the story to document it for your family? Great, go ahead. They will thank you for preserving this memory. If you aim for publication don’t limit yourself to an account of the event. Perhaps you take the main themes or central action and turn them into a romance novel or a mystery novel or historical fiction. Is memoir or history what you know best? Maybe it is non-fiction. The kind of books you read may guide you. This is your well of experience.

Listen to people around you speak. Hear their cadence and word choice. Dialogue isn’t real speech, writers trim the false starts and filler words. What a writer does do is give an impression of a person through their language. My mother would never speak staccato style. When my father speaks you hear his childhood in how he still says dinner and supper for very specific meals. Trust me, it’s a regionalism that stands out. Take notes when you hear a great turn of phrase. Pay attention with your ears.

Writing is about listening once you have words on the page. We need friends and family to encourage us when we begin. We need them at the conclusion. However, we also must have objective Beta readers. These are people who read widely in the genre you are writing, and who don’t have to go home to dinner with you after criticizing your plot. When a book goes into the wider world these are the people who will judge it. Let them inform your process early and you will finish with a better book.

Listening to the advice of others doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they suggest. However, you don’t get to choose only the positive feedback. When someone offers critical feedback about storyline, character, word choice, you listen. That’s it. Listen. No defending yourself. If your words on the page don’t speak for themselves then you need to re-evaluate. When offered criticism, take notes and be grateful for the reader’s time. Take a few hours or days before reading them again. Strip away ego, memories of the hard work you’ve put into the pages, and be objective.

Listen to your inner voice. If a critic thinks your main character should be a woman instead of a man understand why they suggested this. Don’t object because the change will be too hard. Don’t object because you love your character. What will be accomplished through the change? Maybe what they meant was use a female character to explore more family life in the story. Maybe you do need more of the character’s family life and you revise the manuscript to accomplish the goal through the male character. Try to understand the underlying problem because you will ultimately own the solution.

I did this with my first novel, Swiss Vendetta. My editor suggested trimming parts involving a specific character to re-balance the novel and give my protagonist more ‘screen time’. My editor said it was an easy fix, and I could literally trim each of the scenes involving him. “Just cut some words.”

Honestly, this did sound easy. Every writer has cut words to fit the page or the word count and can do that without changing the meaning. However, before starting, I took a hard look at the scenes. A long hard look, marking up what was essential to the plot so I wouldn’t accidently trim those words, and trying to understand what was important. I realized that I could cut a minor character (difficult since he was one of the first characters I created and I felt he was minor but essential) and in his place insert my main character. This definitely would give her more ‘screen time’.

End result, I took a simple line edit solution and decided on my own angle to achieve the larger goal. I gave myself much more work since my solution meant re-writing the scenes to include my protagonist. In the end, by taking the underlying problem my editor noted and finding my own solution I had a better book.

Writing is hard but it’s not entirely about telling the story. Remember to listen along the way.

Writing is about listening, guest post by Tracee de Hahn
Tracee de Hahn is author of the Agnes L├╝thi mysteries, which were inspired by her years living in Switzerland. Prior to writing full time she practiced architecture and was head of university alumni relations at a major west coast university. Born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Tracee lived most of her life in Kentucky. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. Currently she and her husband live in southwest Virginia with their Jack Russell Terriers.

Catch Up With Our Author On traceedehahn.comGoodreads: Tracee de HahnTwitter: @LuthiMysteries, & Facebook: TraceedeHahnWriter!


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