Number 10, this is our final tip; read. Writing is a conversation. You have to know what's out there. And you probably want to know what's out there because just the way you want to read what you write, read what they write. There are so many places to read and study stories free online. Oh, and in your bonus material I have a list of like 30 publications that are, that have true personal stories that are beautiful and awesome where you can read and then submit your own stories. Writing is a conversation.
Can you explain for Debbie Heyers who is asking, "Can you, what do you mean by telling without reading?" Can you explain that a little more.
Okay, Debbie, yes. What I mean is, once you've written a story, stand up in front of your friends, in front of your dog, in front of nobody and just tell the story. Without reading it. So when you tell a story that you've written, without reading it, you will, the specific details that you need will automatically show themselves. That's what ...
I mean. Does that make sense?
I don't know if someone asked this, but how do you deal, like if you write your own story of hurting people or family members when you write the story, and you want it published?
That is such, such a good question. And I always go back to the Dr. Seuss quote that says, "Those that matter don't mind "and those who mind don't matter." And that's just a total oversimplification. I know it's a lot, lot harder than that. But that's my motto. And I have found that whenever I write something that's not nice about another character, if I'm worried about something, it's so strange, but usually the thing that the other people care about, it's not even the thing that you think they're gonna care about. So, that's, an individual question. It's a great question 'cause stories are, you know, they involve other characters. Other people, other real people. I wasn't so nice about my dad in My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy. And my dad said, "That's your story. "I have mine." That's a really cool dad. So, I've gotten lucky. Yes.
Thank you for that.
My question, it also came through from Pamela Leer in Miami who had the same question, too, so important one.
Thank you, Pamela.
So, we do have a couple people who are asking about, this class is all about memoir, about writing your stories. But people were interested to know if they can ask some of these same questions and prompts and things that they've gone through, if they can ask it from their character's point of view if they are writing fiction.
Yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. These elements of style, these writing tips. They work in every genre. So, yes, if you're writing fiction, put your characters through these writing prompts and write from that character's point of view. That's such a cool thing to do. So fun.
So, I love listening to other people's stories. I love reading books and other people's stories. How do you get over, like, does anyone really care about my story? How do you get over that?
Oh my God. I love you so much, okay. So, this person loves reading other people's stories and listening to other people's stories, but why would we care about her story? If you care about your story, we will care about your story. I totally believe that. If something comes up in a writing prompt that you remember and it then starts to bother you. Like, there's heat behind it. It just keeps coming, then it's interesting to you and will be interesting to us. Trust that. I love that question. That's so sweet. Yes, we all have stories that are interesting and important.
If you are already, kind of, a succinct writer and so you don't use a lot of words, going back and like, adding detail, is there kind of a point where you're like, maybe this is an editor who's different from me, or can you always edit your own stories to be a little bit better than they are?
Oh God, editing. Editing is the hardest part. And you know what writing is? It's writing a story and then sitting alone in a room and making decisions by yourself. Like, do I add more, do I take this out, does that work? And, one, you have to become very, very good at editing your own stories, but you can also get into a writing group and share your work and hear how it lands on other people. Ultimately, you are the final say. Which is what's so scary about writing or scary about any art. But, that's, does that answer your question? I would share, and I do, I totally believe in workshopping. And workshopping is so much fun. Even if people laugh at your dreadful pain. It's wonderful.
I am so glad to hear you exposed to somebody who has English as a second language, such as your wife. I have English as a second language and I have no problems in writing. I think people wanted to know about my stories, but then the block of making grammar mistakes gets in the way. And then I shut down. Like, no, this is not good enough, this is poorly written. I am not being efficient, there better be a better way to say this. And then it's, and then I stop. Do you have any advice for that? How can I overcome this?
Okay, okay, so this is a narrator whose, who English is not her first language and then she gets self-conscious about grammar. Well, for one, coming from a different point of view, is endlessly interesting and fascinating because you have a new world. You have a world view that English speakers don't have. So that gives you a huge advantage. The other thing I would say is, absolutely write the way you write. Write the way you speak and get that out there on the page. But it is important to learn grammar and to use proper grammar, but that can be learned. Grammar Girl, Shrunken White, Elements of Style, these are like, my favorite references. I reference them daily because, English speakers, believe me, you're probably better at grammar than most English as a first language. Yeah, grammar's really hard. So, that's just the later stage kind of editing. Much later. Get the story down, get the truth down. And then as you're rewriting, you'll hear, maybe that's not right. And then get yourself into a writing group. But please, keep telling your stories. There's no better way to understand ourselves and each other than by writing and telling our stories. That's what we say on Writing Class Radio all the time. And that I think, is so, so true. So, please write your stories and share your stories. That concludes How to Tell Your Story. You can find me at writingclassradio.com or andreaaskowitz.com. These are my, these are my digits. (laughter) Modern day digits. That's my Twitter stuff. Those are my websites. Thank you.
Everyone has a story to tell, and most everyone has a desire to tell it. What stops some is the mistaken belief that they can’t write. But if you can speak you can write. And the most important thing for a writer to do when telling their story is to speak the truth.
Andrea Askowitz is a teacher, writer, performer, and co-host and creator of the podcast Writing Class Radio. In this class, she’ll inspire you to figure out what your story is, help you write a first draft, and learn key techniques to strengthen your writing.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
- Mine your life for story ideas.
- Start with the who, what, where and when of your story.
- Use specific details.
- Raise the stakes by figuring out why you’re telling this story.
- Create a likable narrator, which means a vulnerable narrator.
- Practice by reading your story out loud and telling your story without reading it.