Friday, June 6, 2008

It's All About the Passion

Maven Jackie BarbosaThere hasn't been a whole lot of writing in my life this week. Instead, my days have been heavily dominated by the day job, and particularly by a conference I attended Monday through Wednesday.

I have to be honest and say that when I was reminded that I had this conference to attend, I was far from thrilled. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and taking three days out to go to workshops that probably wouldn't teach me anything I didn't already know (yeah, call me arrogant, lol) was hardly appealing. But, my company paid good money for me to attend, and so, attend I did. (Fortunately, it was held locally, so there was no major travel involved. Just the 20 minute drive to and from downtown San Diego on $4.20 a gallon gasoline. But I digress.)

Truth be told, there weren't a lot of workshops geared toward the things that I would have really liked to learn. Or at least, they weren't marketed in such a way that I thought they were. In all likelihood, I missed a bunch of sessions that were just not accurately described in the conference materials.

I did, however attend one really FABULOUS workshop on Wednesday afternoon. It was my last of the conference, and honestly, it made the whole experience worthwhile. Not so much because of the subject matter, for though I did learn some new things of value, there was nothing really earthshattering in the material he presented.

No, it was because the speaker was flat-out fantastic. Dynamic, funny, and absolutely PASSIONATE about the subject. And it occurred to me that this guy could have been reading the phone book aloud, but if he did it with the same charisma and passion, I'd have been hanging on his every word.

Of course, when I teach workshops of my own (as I had to do today), I try to bring excitement and energy to my performance. It's one of the reasons teaching is so exhausting! (And why, when I got home this afternoon, I pretty much collapsed in a watery heap and didn't do anything useful for the rest of the day.)

But sitting there listening to this guy talk about something that was arguably incredibly boring (performance support) and eating up every second of it, it occurred to me that a big part of what keeps me hooked in a book is that the author demonstrates the same kind of passion for his or her story in writing. And I got to wondering HOW the author is getting that emotional connection to the story across to the reader. Clearly, it's not with body language, tone of voice, or ad-libbing responses to the audience on the fly, all of which the speaker used in spades. Obviously, whatever an author is doing to communicate that sense of urgency to the reader is both deeper and more subtle than anything a presenter can do with a live audience.

I like to think I can TELL that the author *loves* the story he/she is writing, loves the characters, and is aching to share that love with me, the reader. But I'm not sure I can put my finger on what is telling me that. I know when I'm WRITING something I feel passionately about, the writing itself seems to come more easily and I'm almost racing myself to get to the end because I want to experience the story MYSELF. But I'm not sure if that really comes across to the reader.

My contemporary novella, The Gospel of Love: According to Luke, comes out from Cobblestone Press next Friday. (Yes, Friday the 13th. I promise, however, no one named Jason and no hockey masks appear in the story.) And I really felt a passion for that little book while I was writing it. It fell out of my head in a little over two weeks. Every day during that two weeks, I couldn't WAIT to get time to sit down at the computer and write more.

I hope readers of the story will feel that passion in the words I committed to paper (or screen, as the case may be). And I believe fervently, with every fiber of my being, the loving the story you're writing is the first and most essential ingredient to producing a marketable manuscript. After all, if you don't love what you write, why should anyone else?

YOUR TURN: Do you think you can tell when a writer is passionate about his/her story? And conversely, do you think readers can tell when YOU aren't? How?


Bill Clark said...

And I believe fervently, with every fiber of my being, the loving the story you're writing is the first and most essential ingredient to producing a marketable manuscript. After all, if you don't love what you write, why should anyone else?

Great post, Jackie! My latest fave author is Lee Child, whom I met at a conference in NYC at which I, like you, was hanging on every word. His latest, Nothing to Lose, is at the top of my TBR pile (I'm 1 1/2 books away from finishing the earlier 12 in his Jack Reacher series). It's had great reviews in the NY Times and elsewhere. And to think I'd never heard of him until a few weeks ago...good thing you can't see me blushing onscreen. He even answers my emails about his writing methodologies!

Child is passionate about writing, which is why I found him so spellbinding. And you can tell it from his writing, too. He treats his readers as partners, and even goes so far as deliberately to have his invincible hero make mistakes (e.g., calling Westminster Abbey "Westminster Cathedral") so as to underscore that partnership by showing that the hero sometimes has feet of clay.

He believes in his writing so much that he told us he never shows it to anybody until he's done, and even hates sending it to his editor - he just wants it to go straight into print!

So I absolutely agree with what you say about loving your story, and would only add that being passionate about it is also essential. If your words can convey that love and that passion, you will have no trouble finding readers.

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens