There is no better curse than to be a writer.
Why constrain yourself to one world and one life, when you can build thousands for yourself?
With imagination you can climb impossible mountains, fly dragons, and win wars.
You can die, and be reborn.
You can solve great mysteries, or create them.
Make people, and then make them hate one another or fall in love.
Send them out on perilous quests that they might, at your whim, win or lose.
You can go with them, or decide to watch them from afar.
Yes, there really is no better curse than to be a writer.
Sometimes when we write, the ideas tumble out in a dizzy onslaught that our fingers can barely keep pace with. Perhaps we are doing something unassuming, such as a task that does not require our mind’s involvement, and a scene unravels in such rapid and startling detail that we dash off to our computer, or failing that a trusty pen and pad.
At other times we have done some planning, and we know roughly what needs to transpire in a scene. We sit down at our keyboard with predetermined intent.
Sometimes the story chugs out like train carriages passing through a station. The ideas are orderly. They flow into one another without urgency, but always the next waits to fall into place just as you need it. You can see where you are, but only the next sentence is ever revealed. I often find this style yields the most surprises. Perhaps a character reveals a hidden detail about themselves, or a sudden insight into the wider plot makes itself known. These chapters need very little editing, and they leave you feeling satisfied.
Sometimes we sit down, and even knowing where the chapter must take us, find ourselves in a fight. The story resists at every single step. We try to coax it, and then we try to push it, but neither option really works. We get to the end by shear force of will, and with a greater sense of relief than satisfaction. These drafts get the job done, but often need extensive editing to tune the quality, with whole paragraphs chopped back into a single succinct sentence. While writing these scenes may not provide much satisfaction—editing them always does.
“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”
~ Leo Burnett
When I was little there was a children’s book I read, and in the book you got to choose what happened next. Such books were not new then, and they are still around now. I saw an adult version of this not very long ago. You know the kind…
Lots of exciting stuff has happened…do you:
Open the door – go to page 64
Turn around and walk away – go to page 72
This got me thinking about the writing process, and how, when we write, we sit out of time, as if we are sitting on the edge of countless parallel universes.
Nobody knows the exact way the book will turn out when they start to write. Writers are always talking about the way characters can surprise them, or how the story can twist itself unexpectedly.
But what about us?
What if we sit down to write a chapter today, would it be the same chapter if we wrote it tomorrow instead? Would it be close, slightly different, or very different? And if it was different, could it shape the entire rest of the book.
Hence my parallel universe reference.
It’s a little mind blowing to think that if you sit down at your keyboard you may write a scene in a completely different way just because you are feeling particularly happy or particularly sad. And what if the phone rings and interrupts you, and when you come back you have decided that a character needs to die, or fall in love, or something else that you had no inkling of before.
It’s in that moment when you decide to stop writing, when you move away from your keyboard for whatever reason that a new parallel universe pops in, like a deck of cards on endless shuffle, or a kaleidoscope shifting sand, you never know exactly how the dice are going to fall until they do fall, or in writing terms, sit back down at your computer. And when you do everything has shifted and you sit down to a different place and a different head space.
Every time we write a story, we could have written a million more.
Would those other variations have been better or worse or just different?
Life too, is full of choices and the consequence of those choices impact everything that comes after, so it seems only fair that our fictitious worlds should be subject to the same whims.
We might think that there are a million stories or a million lives we could have lived, but ultimately there is only one story, just as there is only one passage through our life, and that is the one we choose to write.
A question I have considered a time or to myself…I’m not averse to killing a character off 🙂
I’ve been working on one of my short stories lately, because I want to at least try to get something published this year…and I ran into a little snag. On Sunday, I finished a rough draft for it, but it didn’t seem complete. I had alluded to the idea that one of the characters does […]
Professionally known as a Style Sheet. I’m not referring to a list of what matches what hanging in your closet. Or the hottest trends from InStyle Magazine. No, this is a document where you define the writing style and rules that apply to your WIP. Is the style of your WIP American or British English? Do you use contractions? […]
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD
A writer’s voice can be an illusive thing. It is easy to see when you are not using it, but hard to know you have found it unless you are an experienced writer with enough books under your belt to be comfortable in being quintessentially you.
You often instinctively know when you are allowing your conscious fears to get in the way of what you really want to say, but it can be so difficult to do something about it. Whether it is word choice, style choice, character choice, or some other choice you are smothering, it can be really hard to quash you inner critique and just let the inner writer out.
So what is the definition of a writer voice?
The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of their common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works) Source Wiki.
One of the things I grapple with is my use of unorthodox words. There were a couple of places in my book where my editor pointed out ‘better’ words, but I decided not to use them. Of course, there were plenty of other places that I did take her advice on. I guess there are certain words that just interest me, and although there may be a simpler word, I just like the alternative ones.
I actually talk in the same way, it’s part of me, and I think there is nothing wrong with leaving a little me in place.
I’m glad I did, and for no reason other than it allows personality into my book.
But is there such a thing as too much voice? Many bestselling writers write with very little ‘voice’, because if they don’t have a voice no one can be put off reading their material, and it will therefore appeal as universally as possible.
There are also writers who can have a very unique and extreme voice for a variety of reasons. I once decided, in my infinite wisdom, to read the complete works of Jane Austin, for no reason other than I was working my way through a number of what I considered classic works because I felt it was a good thing for a writer to do. Now, Jane Austin definitely has a voice! And the thing about reading a writer with a strong voice is that it rubs off on you, and you find yourself writing like…Jane Austin! Given that I mostly write scifi or fantasy, even when I am just ‘play’ writing, it was a rather bizarre mix! I recently re-read some of my scribbles from the time and the change in style was really quite noticeable. And funny.
It is good to recognise the importance of what we read, and to be aware of how it ultimately impacts what becomes our voice. There’s nothing wrong with reading Jane Austin, but perhaps with hindsight six books back-to-back was a bit of a style overdose. 🙂
Whether you are an advocate of the neutral voice, or prefer reading books that have a voice, we all have one ourselves, and we can choose to let it out or not.
One of the curious things about writing a book, and getting feedback on your book, is the translation that occurs between the writer and the reader. As the writer, I would like to think I have the ultimate authority on what my book means…at least I always thought so.
I was discussing background information about one of the characters in the story with my father, when he interrupted me by vehemently insisting that it was not like that at all. I tried to defend my point with the argument that “I wrote the damn thing, and so I ought to know!” But a heated ‘discussion’ still ensued, until we finally both realised how ridiculous the conversation was and started to laugh.
I think I found and read the sentence that explained the point too him, but he was still adamant that it implied a different truth.
My father remains convinced that he was right!
I later talked to my husband about the ‘discussion’ I had with my father, and then he stated that neither of us were right, and something else entirely was obviously the case!!!
Which brought me to the conclusion that…
a) I am either a terrible writer, and no one can ascertain a damn thing from reading my words.
b) That particularly implied information, or even seemingly unambiguous information, is subjective, and as readers we layer over the top of it our own truths of life and so may come to completely different conclusions.
To avoid feeling depressed about my lack of writing prowess, I am going to assume b 🙂
I think particularly the words the characters say can be open to interpretation, but also their actions as well. And I have seen a few heated threads on book forums where readers thrash out opinions on what they think events or conversations in their favourite books mean.
So, has a reader ever argued with you about what happened or what something meant in your book? 🙂
I have been writing for so long now that it is hard to remember where I started, but writing does start somewhere—it starts with a daydream.
Daydreaming is awesome.
There is something wonderfully fresh about a new daydream. When the blank space opens up to allow the industry of imagination to begin. The ideas that take hold can go in many directions.
When it starts you have no preconceived ideas or constraints.
You know it’s the one
Life is full of daydreams.
Some are better than others. Some are worthy of a second look.
You know it’s the one when your conscious and subconscious keep coming back for another visit.
You explore it, you examine it. After a while you just know it’s right.
You have to start somewhere
When you find a new story, it is so hard to know where to begin.
Do you plan? Plough right in? Decide the end? Character profiles?
Finding your flow.
After a while you stop worrying about the plan, the beginning, the ending, your characters, because they all just sort themselves out.
You strap in, get ready, and prepare to enjoy the ride.