April 19, 2009

WRITING ADVICE: Lin Oliver: Stay With Your Own Voice and Vision

Lin Oliver once wanted to write metaphysical fiction like Madeleine L’Engle’s WRINKLE IN TIME.

Well, duh! Who wouldn’t?

There was a little problem though: when she wanted to write like Madeleine L’Engle, Madeleine L’Engle was writing like Madeleine L’Engle. There really was no clarion call for another person to write that way.

When I was twelve, I wanted to write like Andre Norton because I loved his books. (Few people at the time knew that “he” was actually a “she”…) The second story I ever wrote was in cursive pencil and called “The Black Planet”. It was so clearly and obviously a ripoff of some one or another (or all) of Norton’s novels that I shudder even now. (Though the thought occurs to me that if it’s recognizably Norton, then maybe I was a better writer than I realized!) Besides grammar mistakes my problem was that I tried to write with Norton’s voice and vision.

L’Engle and Norton had voices that resonated down the corridors of time, echoing even today in my life and the lives of other writers and readers. They had clear visions as well – Norton showed independent, thinking young men and women who more-often-than-not had some sort of animal familiar who was sometimes as intelligent as they were who faced challenges and overcame them. L’Engle showed independent, thinking young men and women who were deeply involved with their families, faced challenges and overcame them. But these visions had roots in who they were, their pasts and their future hopes.

Lin – though talented and a totally awesome writer – can never, ever write like Madeleine L’Engle. They were and are different people. I will never write like Andre Norton because what I write will come out of ME – in my unique voice that speaks out of my unique vision.

Now, if only I could figure out what my vision is so I can begin to speak with the authority necessary to get published again…

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