Friday, September 23, 2016

The Way We Look At Books

by Tamara Passey

When you attend a writer's conference you can hear a buffet of advice--use active voice, not passive, no info-dumping, and so on. But not all writing advice is created equal. Every now and then you can come across some wisdom that can fundamentally change your writing life, if you let it.

J. Scott Savage
ANWA 2016 Keynote
The ANWA conference keynote speaker this year was J. Scott Savage. One of the things he said was "Your writing will change people's lives." It reminded me of something I heard him say several years earlier. He was speaking about his personal writing and publishing journey up to that time and said something I hadn't heard before. Something that changed the way I think about books and that I haven't forgotten since.

It went a little like this:

"If you've ever read a book and thought, 'how did that book get published?' thinking only of what was awful about the book, what you could be asking is 'how did that book get published?' with an eye for what was good about the book."

"If an agent liked the book and an editor worked on the book, and it is selling--look at what is working. Look for what the author did to reach an audience and connect with readers. That is what you want to emulate."

Maybe this had an impact on me because at that time I had written the first draft of my first novel and I was hoping for publication sooner rather than later. Instead of reading books for pure enjoyment, I began reading them with a critical eye and found myself wondering how or why certain books ever made it to the shelf. I thought it was my high standards for writing, but I'm sure there was some creative jealousies at work too. 

And so the way that he turned that question around changed my entire attitude. For the better.

Asking what works about a particular story or novel opened me up to positive energy. Focusing on the good and what the author did right, made a place in my mind for me to do the same. Looking for techniques that resonate with the reader made it possible for me to learn those techniques. And I'll take it one step further, being happy for the success of another author--helped me achieve my own.

Me--finally having a chance to thank Jeff Savage for some really great writing advice!

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