Sunday, November 4, 2012

Advice for the Aspiring Writer

I've had my share of both good and bad advice, but the best advice? Actually comes from my years as a televisions reporter - and it fits in so well with writing that I'm going to write about that today.

Be Yourself.

Early in my journalism career I tried to emulate the best - Katie Couric, Jane Pauley, the list goes on. I watched them like a hawk - from their facial expressions to their little ticks. Did they hold their hands *this* way or *that*? How did that voice inflection go again? How did they say ____? I twisted myself up, down and all around trying to be exactly like my favorite news people because I thought that was what viewers wanted. After all, they were all working for major networks while I was still in small-market news.

One of my favorite people ever, a sports anchor in the town where I worked, was a rancher Monday through Friday and a sports reporter/anchor on weekends. He was funny - very dry humor - had amazing pipes - oh, what a voice! - and a way of saying things that still makes me melt. He'd been in the business for years and years, and one night as I was fiddling with my makeup and hair and going over the story scripts he said, 'You know, all anyone really wants is for us to tell them a story. Our way.'

He'd seen what I was doing - making myself into the perfect replica of what I thought a news person should be. When what I needed to actually do was just report the news in my own way. He mentioned that I was perfectly competent in my impersonations but all that preparation and practice was keeping viewers from relating to *my telling* of the story.

I think that relates to writing, too. Nora (Roberts) and Jayne (Ann Krentz) and Jill (Shalvis) may be best sellers, but they are because they tell their stories their way. They don't imitate or emulate. They are what we all need to be: unique. Shakespeare and Dickens told crazy-good stories. It's okay to hope to someday be that good. The key is to realize we'll only get to that level if we are true to our inner voices, our storytelling abilities and the stories that are in our hearts, waiting to get out.

--Kristina Knight, author of The Saints Devilish Deal

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