I’ve never been to a clothing-optional beach, but I have seen b-roll that accompanies news stories about these peculiar hot-spots. It’s not sexy, is it? All that pasty skin, sagging flesh, and the exclamations of “Good lord, is that my grandmother?”
I have heard that once you get over the visual attack of all that nudity and you boldly bare your bits to the sun, being naked in front of other people can be liberating. Out in clothed society, people are packages of clothes, shoes, watches and other status symbols that can mask their true natures. Style disguises substance. But when you’re all together in the all-together, you relate to people as human beings, flaws and all. What you see is what you get.
I’ve been thinking about what this could mean when it comes to writing, and I’m giving naked writing a try. Writing naked, for me, means ignoring everything except telling a good story. Substance comes first—style comes later.
Never mind what your critique group might think about your writing. Forget about the synopsis, the query letter, and your platform. Don’t think too hard about the agents you’ll be querying, the publishers they’ll be pitching to, or the booksellers who will be trotting out your wares. Focus on the story first. The style of it all will come later.
Of course, don’t neglect basic rules of writing, like correct spelling, proper punctuation and good grammar. Think of it as putting your best naked self forward. Good grammar is like good grooming—the maintenance you need to take care of before you let anyone see you in your birthday suit.
But don’t be shy. Writing naked is all about exposing yourself and your characters. When you’re writing naked, it’s you, the story, and the reader. This is where you’re getting up close and personal and telling your truth. Vulnerability, honesty, and bravery: these are the hallmarks of naked writing. You’re using the most authentic voice you can. It’s all you, baby—no pretension, no hype, no high-concept approach to fit the market.
What you might consider flaws (the imperfections of your characters, wonky plot lines) could be the substance that makes your story a true, human one.
So, take it all off. The literary world is your nudist beach.