I recently tried to explain to a writer the work of writing true.
It's an important distinction. So much writing is not. Writing true is about more than writing what's factually true. Being faithful to the facts is fine and good, but true writers must have a higher truth as their priority. True writing is something greater, something more real than mere facts. To write this deeper kind of truth, a writer has to dig deeper.
I've got 4 necessary steps to writing true. I like steps. They're very definite and clear. There may be more. But I think these are the essentials.
1. Respect your reader. Basically this means earning your readers' trust. To do this, you must be open, honest, vulnerable, and authentic. Each of these things shows you're trustworthy. You could add some other qualities to this list, but then it wouldn't be so simple and clear. And just this is tricky enough.
That's the how to write true. Now for the what.
2. Share only your experiential knowledge. Nothing else is as convincing or realistic as what you've experienced yourself. Fiction writers are told to write what they know. The reason? In order to make it authentic and real and true, it has to be drawn from your first hand experience. There are no shortcuts. This is significantly difficult as well for those who haven't experienced much yet, say students in writing programs, for instance.
Okay, so what's your method?
3. Employ as many contrasts as possible. All art is built of contrast. Alternate light and dark. Tangible and intangible. Long and short. Balance each element and aspect and your work will have weight and sophistication.
Think well about this. It's not easy to look long at your subject and train your observation to see and intuit what's really going on from several angles. But once you've discovered, you must be decisive with your descriptions and bold with your choice of what to focus on. Don't do one thing; do many things all at once. Give active, grounding details in the physical present, and intersperse it with reflection, meaning, and internal monologue where necessary. Give your scenes their necessary emotional significance, even if it's nonfiction, but don't tax your reader with any unnecessary didactic information. Learning what's necessary and what's not takes practice, so that's the last step.
4. Develop your skill. The skill you need to understand this and do it only comes with much practice. You develop it by writing. You discover it for yourself. You find your balance. And that defines your voice.
Do this and you will begin to see a spiritual truth in true writing. And once you've seen it, it becomes hard to miss. Eugene Petersen says the church should be ordaining writers and artists, and I agree. It's for good reason Jesus shared stories that weren't necessarily factually true. Spiritually, they were the truest stories ever told.
It's no different for any other writer, fiction or non. Let your loyalty be to these 4 things and you will be a TRUE writer of substance and inestimable value.