In my day job as a professional writer, people hire me to write for them. Sometimes this is marketing copy and other times lengthy articles or reports. Regardless of what I'm writing, however, the objective is always to deliver what the client wants or what I perceive the marketplace to most readily react to.
That's where I failed in my first manuscript. I had a great story idea but my execution was all wrong. Business writing and fiction writing are not the same. In my first manuscript I wrote what I thought the marketplace wanted, what agents wanted and I wrote it in the way I thought the novel and characters should sound. I inserted overly poetic prose to demonstrate that I could write and I censored my characters to try to give them more mass appeal. I tried to write a marketable story instead of simply writing the story in my head.
In short, I wrote for other people instead of really writing my characters and I think this is where a lot of writers fall short. We try too hard to control the story; we over-think.
This time around I've sworn to let my characters go completely uncensored. I remind myself (since I'm writing YA) that I'm not an adult critiquing their behaviors but, rather, a conduit or observer to share what they're going through, saying, thinking. I don't try to change my friends; they come to me fully formed though also growing and adapting and that's how characters are too. Sure there's character development that writers have to do but I believe it should be more like a reality show: develop the premise and story arc along with the conflict and then throw your characters into situations and see what they'll do and what they'll say. See how they react off one another.
I've done this thus far in my current WIP and I believe the voice of my MC rings so much more true because of that.
What have you learned about writing along the way?