World of Words

Last week, we attended the second Santa Fe International Literary Festival. We listened to first-rate authors including Ed Yong, Gillian Flynn, John Irving, Yvon Chouinard, and Jennifer Egan. While we enjoyed hearing how the authors created their books, we were also seeking insights into the processes they utilized.

One thing was clear. Each author developed their own methodology and style. Some hewed to classical structure, while others let the story lead. John Irving (World According to Garp and Cider House Rules) said he always envisions the last chapter before he begins. Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) said “I can’t imagine how to do that…” Flynn lets her characters lead. But their differences make these authors special. And by studying their craft, then working on and in it, they all found their unique voice that attracted a large readership.

The best distillation of writing style came in the final session with Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, who was interviewed by John Krakauer (Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven). Chouinard said, “Life is a lot easier if you’re not trying to follow the rules.” When you read great authors, your speaking will reflect their influence. And when you apply these principles to speaking, your own voice will emerge-- which is your greatest power.

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