March 2nd, 2007

Thoughts on Writing

I get up in the morning, stumble to the living room, turn on a light and my heating pad, stumble to the kitchen, make coffee, stumble to the laundry room, put the cloths in the drier, stumble to the bed room, shake my husband a couple of times to wake him up, go to the kitchen, fix a cup of coffee for both of us, go back to the bed room, shake him again, go get my coffee, sit on the couch and lean on my heating pad or put it on a shoulder, and drink my coffee.

There I think my morning thoughts.

This morning I was thinking about writing and the craft of writing. I realized that I haven't had time to write anything for fun in a long time - years. All of my writing as been for school or technical writing for work, nothing for me out of my imagination.

I really like technical writing, though. I have known fiction writers that really downed technical writing as boring and taxing, something they might do for money now and them. But I love research - the questing, the hunting and finding, looking for obscure documents; then, there is the putting it all together, like a big puzzle. Technical writing is a work of art in its own right. Look at abstracts - how succinctly and precisely can you say something in as few words at possible, methods and results - thou shalt not mix the two together, official reports that pull together research and documentation from different agencies, knowing that your paper is going to eventually wind up in the hands of said and cited authors and government agencies (no pressure there folks).

Then there is fiction and the craft of writing fiction (I read speculative fiction, so I will mention those books).

I learn different writing skills by copying the styles of authors that I like. I LOVE the way Laurel K. Hamilton writes sex, so I went through a period of incorporating sex in stories to practice writing in her style (I think I may have gotten it down). Then there is George R.R. Martin, that man can write! I am/was still working on that. I haven't quite gotten the hang of him yet - every word, every phrase, creates his world until you can see it in your head and feel the cold. You live with his characters.

But for use of craft, I have not found anything better than C.S. Freidman's In Conquest Born. She so skillfully flows from omniscient narrator, to third person omniscient, to slamming you into first person. Each change in POV is carefully calculated, driving the plot forward while increasing your understanding of a character, which, in the discovering, contributes to the story as a whole. I have never read anything else like it. I have re-read that novel many times, not only for the story itself, but because the authors use of craft is so skillful and dynamic. I think I enjoy her style and skill in writing a bit more than the actual novel.

I have tried to learn this as well. I practiced it in a PbEM game I ran, since all such games are writing based. I wish I had time to pick that back up. It was wonderful practice in imagination and technique. I find it interesting to go look at the start of the posts in our yahoo group and see how the writing improved. I have tried to make it viewable to the public instead of members only, but I can't figure out how. Change in viewpoint is a skillful addition to a novel if used correctly and not randomly inserted due to poor proficiency.

I have also realized over the years, that enjoyment of writing style is subjective. When I first started writing, I wrote in a passive voice with lots of purple prose (I think because I like the sound of the words flowing together and the description). Different critiquing groups I belonged too told me this was not okay: I needed to write in an active voice and cut down on words that didn't do anything. I listened to them and worked on changing my writing style, then one day, I was reading The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. You have to understand that I have always thought the writings of G.G. Kay to be things of pure beauty, but on that day, I found passive voice and purple prose. I went HA!! even the professionals do it.

Writing styles and fashions change over time. The active dynamic presentation of words today are not in the same style as the 50's, and today and the 50's is a short stretch. So, when compared to works hundreds of years old, the difference is quite marked. I have read in my life many books written in old styles of centuries past: Spencer, Mallory, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, even the Venerable Bede. I think they have all contributed to the way that I prefer to write, the way I write when I am not thinking about it and just doing it, which is to say, not in the style preferred today.

So, as a writer, I still consider myself a newbie with a lot to learn and maybe my "style" really is just bad writing or maybe it is not. I guess only time will tell.



I don't know how they did it from just those questions, but the description is dead on.

I think they have been following me.

You Are a Marble Cake

Eclectic, inventive, and peaceful.
You are never willing to accept what's "normal." You live to push the envelope.
You find it hard to make up your mind. You prefer to have everything you want, right away!