I can usually tell right from the first page of a novel if I want to keep on reading. Sometimes, the writing seems…well, too much like writing. It can contain beautiful images and subtle details that develop character. There might be a strong conflict to pique my interest or the promise of an exciting plot. But something about the writing itself keeps me from living in the story. What is it?
I’ve tried to pin it down, because I don’t want my own writing to be like that. My best explanation so far is that the writing doesn’t sound natural enough. There’s something stiff about it, like the words have been forced there to create a good image or to evoke a specific feeling. It’s trying too hard.
This is probably one of the things I worry about most with my writing. What helps?
1. Having a regular writing routine. When I write regularly, I can get to a place where the story starts to flow without me thinking about it.
2. A good critique group and beta readers. I don’t think you can always tell when your own writing sounds forced.
3. Careful revision to rout out phrases and actions that are peculiar to writing. These phrases draw attention to themselves and pull the reader away from the story.
It’s strange how it can take such hard work to make a story feel natural. Some of us work for years to get there. It’s my ultimate writing goal—to write a story that is so absorbing the reader feels they’re almost a part of it. The kind where the writing becomes invisible.