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Write to Express, Not to Impress

The answer to everything: "Write to express, not to impress." That's it. A six word powerhouse. It's the universal answer to just about everything a writer asks. Go ahead, give it a try. 1) How do I get past writer's block? Write to express, not to impress. I don't believe in writer's block. The inability to move forward on a work is my subconscious telling me something important. GIVEAWAY: Bernadette is excited to give away a free copy of either of her novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Jean Voelker won.)

The answer to everything: "Write to express, not to impress." That's it. A six-word powerhouse. It's the universal answer to just about everything a writer asks. Go ahead, give it a try.

(What writing credentials will impress an agent or editor?)

1) How do I get past writer's block?Write to express, not to impress. I don't believe in writer's block. The inability to move forward on a work is my subconscious telling me something important. By focusing on what I want to express, I look more deeply at my subject and I discover that I don't yet know enough about my characters, setting, or the scene's motivation to write with confidence. So off I go to research and get what I need. Or the phrase helps me realize I truly don't have anything important to say here and that this scene is unnecessary or should simply be a brief transition to the next scene where something important does happen.

GIVEAWAY: Bernadette is excited to give away a free copy of either of her novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Jean Voelker won.)

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Guest column by Bernadette Pajer, author of the Professor Bradshaw
Mystery series, which includes A SPARK OF DEATH (July 2011) and
FATAL INDUCTION (May 2012). A graduate of the University of Washington,
Pajer is a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime,
Northwest Science Writers, and the Seattle7Writers.org. Visit Bernadette
Pajer on the web at: www.bernadettepajer.com

2) How do I find my voice?Write to express, not to impress. It's difficult to hear your own voice, but you have one. It's there in your word choice, in your syntax, in your attitude. Trust that your voice is there, and then don't think about it. Focus on expressing what it is you really want to say, and like your shadow, your voice will be there. To find characters' voices, step inside their shoes and as them, write to express what they're experiencing. See the world as they do and seek ways of expressing their reactions and attitudes.

3) How do I get an agent? Attract an editor?Write to express, not to impress. Agents and editors are people, too. People who love books, who begin reading each query letter, each synopsis, each manuscript, eager to find a story that pulls them in. They're not looking to be dazzled by clever sentences and witty zingers, they're looking to make a genuine connection with what you have to say. When you write a query or synopsis with the goal of expressing your story, you look deeper. You seek words that get to the heart of your characters and the journey of your story.

(Adapt your book into a movie script -- here's how.)

The surest way to frustration and shallow writing is to write to impress. If you sit down and tell yourself it has to be good, you have to wow an agent with your query, or write a scene that will stun readers, then you won't be able to write a darn thing, or what you write won't have depth. It's a trap we all fall into because, of course, we do want to impress agents and editors and readers. Our hopes and dreams are tied to the reaction of those who read our work. But when you write to impress, your focus is on the reader, not the story. When you write to express, you look inward, deeply inside yourself, your story, your characters. What emerges might or might not be lovely prose (and if not, that's what revision is for), but it will be strong, and clear, and have the potential to make a genuine connection.

GIVEAWAY: Bernadette is excited to give away a free copy of either of her novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Jean Voelker won.)

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