DJ Cleavinger. Multiple Personalities. Grade 7, Age 12. 2012 Gold Medal, Mixed Media.

Sarah Asks:

Dear Ned,

Do you ever have a problem with rediscovering your character’s voice after taking a break from a piece of work and then picking it back up again later? It’s not the same and I don’t really know why. It’s the same character and the same events are occurring, but when people read it they notice a difference that I didn’t pick up on while writing. Does it just take practice or is it like losing your own voice? What I mean is will it come back with time or do you just need to keep rewriting until you find it again?

Ned Responds:

Sarah,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you are writing a book, and you take a break from it, and you come back, and the characters don’t make sense, you have a deep character issue in the book and it may be fatal.

Go back to the beginning with your main character. First, do you live her/him? Second, is everything that he or she says truthful with respect to some truth you believe in? Not a lot of people like to read about liars, at least not as main characters. It’s easier to write Encyclopedia Brown than Charles Bukowski.

Stephen King talks in On Writing about how if he leaves a book for three months, it starts to sound like a foreign-language radio transmission. I have never been able to use anything that I “took a break from” for an extended period of time. Please note: there is no successful writer in the world that didn’t fail at trying to write a book.

So try again — and if that fails, try again!

Ned

* * *

Have questions about writing or the business of publishing? Ask a real writer! Ned Vizzini is the author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. He has written for The New York Times, The Daily Beast, and season 2 of MTV’s Teen Wolf. His work has been translated into seven languages and will soon be in Czech. He is the co-author, with Chris Columbus, of the forthcoming fantasy-adventure series House of Secrets. His next novel, The Other Normals, will be published in fall 2012. E-mail your questions to askned@artandwriting.org.

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