Thursday, September 15, 2005

Writing to order

I find it really difficult writing reports. When I had to do a lot of pretty superfluous reports for the archaeology work (that was what they required, btw), it got so I tried my best to avoid doing them. I'd view the material, no problem, but writing it up was immensely boring. Unfortunately, I brought this with me into other areas.

However, I think I'm cracking it now! I had to write up four events for my re-enactment group's newsletter, and once I started (it took me a long while to knuckle down ...) I actually enjoyed it! It was because I had to be creative, and look for some sort of an angle. One does not need to look for an angle with the type of archaeology reports I was (barely) employed to write, but I can control what I do for these event write-ups. I even liked editing them afterward, as it was part of shaping the pieces.

Perhaps the Winchester competition comments on my creative writing was picking up on restriction rather than me being a beginner. LOTR isn't particularly report-like, but there is a something of the I am following the rules about it. It's as if I need to set myself free. But will trying to emulate other authors' styles further restrict my writing?


At 5:41 pm BST, Blogger Sarah Cuthbertson said...

The rules, the rules. I take it you mean the "how to write a novel" rules? I'm sure you know them well enough not to be hidebound by them.

I don't think emulating another author's style is a good idea at all. By all means read writers you admire to see how they tackle technical problems like plot and pace. But it's important to let your own style and voice emerge and emulating other writers could inhibit that, in my opinion.

At 6:20 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Nope. In this case, the 'rules' are grammatical rather than anything else; trying to be clear and precise, as per the mentioned report writing, which I've been doing for waaay tooo looong just to walk away from. But there are rules, or at least marks to hit. Eg. the first lines in a novel are critical in grabbing a reader/editor's attention, and the writer must get it right (hence, there's some sort of rule going on, surely?). Or perhaps I'm getting the wrong end of the stick here?

My 'style' plainly doesn't cut it, so this style emulation is an attempt to try something else, which might be more successful. Otherwise, the likes of me are just stabbing in the dark; not all of us are born with divine prose or have the brain to just construct it! I'll have to read my chosen author very carefully and pick and poke at it for probably years, before I understand what makes them work for me.

At 9:10 pm BST, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

You should consider joining a larger online writing group like Forward Motion. What you need is more feedback on your first chapter than two opposite meanings. Only if the majority of some 6-10 crits tells you there's something wrong, be it style, pace or whatever, should you work on it. In other cases, a meaning represents the taste of a single critic, and while you should think about it, it won't be wrong to finally discard it as something that doesn't work for you.

You'd also find out that there are no Rules as in "if you don't do that / do that, you'll never get published". There are only recommendations. Some like "don't start a novel with a lengthy description of a sunset" hold more true than others. I've been told omniscient is a big NoNo by someone and later found out she only reads and writes genre romance where omni is indeed not accepted (if you aren't Nora Roberts), but I've read a lot of Historical Fiction and Fantasy that uses omni. The recommendation here rather goes like, "it's difficult to write well and it might turn some readers off." Fine, I write for the other readers then. *grin*

Maybe your problem - if there is one - isn't style, but pacing. Maybe you start your novel at the wrong point in the story and thus fail to hook the reader. I don't think imitating styles will help you. But analysing successful books on all levels, especially pacing, structure, action scenes that play like a movie for the reader, believable dialogues, might help you.

An online forum can give you the chance to ask questions* and you'll often see a red thread that goes through most of the replies, that's what you can use. Right now, Lazette is rearranging the threads in Forward Motion, but as soon as she's finished, I'll adapt my little guide to FM and send it to you if you want. You have to be a member to see most of the stuff, but registering is simple and won't swamp you with spam mails.

Don't read too many How To books, it'll end up as big confusion. There's one girl in FM who has managed to destroy her writing by following a lot of - controversial - "rules" instead of listening to her guts now and then. And when she critted my stuff, she looked only for all the rules I've broken; but she was the only one out of six people who didn't mostly like what I posted for crit (though the other five or course, had some valuable suggestions how to improve it). There is one book that migth prove helpful, though: Donald Maass: Writing the Breakout Novel.

My two mor maybe three, pennies.

*Just one recent example someone posted: 'My MC meets five new characters at a party, how do I do it without confusing the reader with a lot of new characters? Two of them will become somewhat important.' He got a lot of great suggestions.

At 1:02 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Sad to say, I've already done most of what you've said. I am a pretty poor writer, I guess :-(


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