I think that too often, writers just don’t trust their instincts when it comes to their stories. When I speak of writing I often talk about using your gut instinct. If something doesn’t sound right, then fix it. I’m bringing this one up today to focus mostly on the voice and style of your writing. Along with finding the right characters and the right plot, you still have to find a way to find your own voice and one that works well with the story.
There are many times that I reject a story because it is either too forced or too flat. In both of these cases, as I read the story, I can see what it was that allowed the story past their critique partners. It was full of a lot of great small paragraphs or sentences that, when read on their own sound great. The problem is that when you combine it with the rest of the story, it simply falls apart. Let me break down each of these for you.
FORCED WRITING – I see this one a lot with people who are writing single title and see their writing as really fitting a literary fiction market. The easiest way to describe this style of writing is to relate it to modern day poetry. As many of you know, I love poetry. As a literature major, I loved the Romantic Movement in particular. Part of the reason for this, is the shift to writing for the common person. Prior to the Romantic movement, the writing was very forced and promoted intellectualism, with the belief that if you didn’t understand it, tough luck. I see modern poetry in much of the same way. Writers using metaphors and similes with connections that only the supposed intellectual would understand.
Writing doesn’t have to be complicated. But lively. It doesn’t have to be deep or intellectual, but functional and accurate. You don’t need to refer to the color of the hills in the sunset as “Super Tuscan Chianti in color dripping with the trailing strands of an Apollo like lighting kissing the cliffs.” First of all, huh? Secondly, just describe the hills. Use the senses, take us there but don’t go over the top.
FLAT WRITING – In this case, I see writing that have more of a staccato feel to it. The writer is trying so hard to make sure that details are in place about the character or the setting and misses the fact that it simply sounds terrible. For example. “Bob walked into his office. As usual it was hot. He walked to his desk and sat down. The work to be done would be long and hard. Still it had to be done.” Again, bear with me on the quality of the writing but I think you get the idea. I this case, the writer needs to take some time to consider blending sentences. Create sentences that might be a bit more complex. Begin with a phrase instead of a clause, combine sentences.
For many writers, they have the tools necessary to have a great story. I can see in their writing they have attended great sessions or have received great comments about their writing. The problem is simple though. Applying those ideas for the sake of applying the ideas will not work. You have to still listen to the writing and see if, in the end, it makes sense. Trust your hearing.
Best of luck with your writing!
Scott C. Eagan