Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A fully paid-up member of the awkward squad

I think my writing lacks depth, which is why there's been a lot of navel-gazing going on of late. I have no style to speak of, and what I see in my head patently does not translate onto the page.

I've written one rambling manuscript (SoD), during which I read loads of how-to books, took part in crit groups, attended day schools and conferences, and read loads and loads of historical fiction from all eras. I fed some of what I'd learnt (including not to bother with general rules) back into the first chapters of the manuscript. It still got nowhere when I re-submitted first chapters/synopses to competitions, and a partial to the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers Scheme. The feedback from all concerned, wasn't good, or even hopeful.

LOTR had a much more auspicious start (writing group win) only to be stymied by the same old story again with the Winchester Conference, and worse, the critiquer thought I was a total beginner. The judges from this competiton are professional writers who know their stuff. So what the heck is going on here? I can only come to full stop in the face of this, as I don't want beloved LOTR to be another lamb to the easy slaughter.

Either my writing's earth shatteringly unusual (unlikely) or it's pretty awful (say no more) I reckon I still write like I am compiling reports, being very concise - as in habitually following report writing rules. It is not to say my characters lack emotions, but something is not getting across. It's extremely frustrating, and I am trying to find ways to get this problem moving. Part of me says 'oh just get on with it' but I have been getting on with it for around five years, to more or less no avail.

Hence back to the drawing board. Hence looking seriously at the novels I admire and trying to work out what they do that makes it all work. Hence trouble-at-mill (as usual).

Anyway, I'm hoping this, after all the ruminations, is finally the nub of the problem.


At 4:05 pm BST, Blogger Diane said...

Oh, Alex. This sounds like what Kate Hardy affectionately (?) calls authorial paranoia. We all get it at some point - just some of us more than others. (I come into this part.)

Keep going. Try something a bit shorter. Or try non-fiction (you know which articles are springing to mind here).

My biggest failing was characterisation, but everyone said I wrote good letters (like you write good blogs). So I settled on the idea of writing from the first person viewpoint as if I were the main character writing a letter to a friend or relative. My characterisation improved ... all I need now is someone to love it enough to buy it. And they all still say they love it, which helps.

Give it a go, but keep that writing muscle exercised.

At 5:48 pm BST, Blogger Stephen said...

It took me two false starts, trying to write books I thought that I really wanted to write and concluding after 25,000 to 30,000 words that it wasn't working, before I switched tack and wrote something that "mattered" much less to me (being an adventure romance rather than a historical biography) but which was much more fun. I got all the way to the end not because I was determined that the world should know the story I was writing, but because I wanted to know how it all turned out. I was definitely writing for me (although in a genre that is commercially viable).

So my advice would be to put to one side any fiction project that you feel remotely earnest about and have a go at something else. And forget about style - just write as you talk, let it flow, and see what happens.

It worked for me this far - the result may be rubbish but just having completed a 100,000 word novel is, i reckon, an achievement.


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