Finding Your Voice

Writing isn’t easy
Writing is a marathon, not a sprint
You have to read read read before you can write write write

Do these sound familiar? They should be if you’ve been writing for any length of time and study the craft as much as actually doing it. Yes, I said “Craft”, not “Art”.

A Google Search on how to write will bring up about 519,000,000 results covering a range of areas from how to write a book using 10 ridiculously simple tips to Hollywood turning to something or someone called “Big Data” to write the next blockbuster (Note to Hollywood: QUIT IT WITH THE REMAKES AND REBOOTS!). I barely go past the first search page or two because most of it repeats in one form or another and that takes away from my writing time.

I don’t consider myself an expert on writing. I’m merely a guy with a word processor, an overabundance of ideas, and the balls to publish stories whether anyone actually reads them or not. But that’s not the topic of discussion today.

Today I want to talk about finding your voice or the ability to express yourself in writing. Personally, I find the idea of “Voice” to be a subtle and somewhat mysterious thing as figuring out how you breathe the way you do. It just happens as you do it.

We learn from an early age how to express ourselves through education and watching other people. We learn our ABCs, progress to grammar and punctuation, and then to more advanced concepts like usage and sentence structure. It’s not always an easy path and takes practice to be proficient at it. Fiction isn’t any different except that when you go beyond the language mechanics, the parameters change to using your imagination and creative instincts (they are there, trust me on that) to paint mental pictures using words.

While I often take issue with reading to become a better writer (mostly because I feel it taints the imagination by snagging what someone else has already done), I will concede its benefits to those who are still learning the craft. I believe in reading for enjoyment, not trawling for ideas. If I want ideas, I do research and read non-fiction to give the gray matter that little kick to get things moving.

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I haven’t actually defined what “Voice” is. That’s because unlike many terms, I don’t believe that there is one catch-all definition for it. Yours will be different from mine and so on and so on again.

You’ll know it when you find it.

Character Development: Group Personalities

Note: This post was originally going to be a Writing Dilemma discussion, but I thought it would be fun to expand it to encompass a character group.

We all know that when creating characters it’s a good thing to sketch them out in terms of physical descriptions, dominant and secondary personalities, and whatnot. However, new challenges tend to come along when those same carefully-crafted characters are thrown together and their personalities start to interact.

It’s a cookbook!

Actually, it isn’t, but I always loved that Twilight Zone line…hehe. Seriously though…

When you put characters with different personalities, interesting things start to happen. Just like in Real Life, people attract, repel, become indifferent, etc. A group dynamic forms that can range from a unified front to a factional situation that leads to conflict.

This is also a good thing!

When characters jump off the character sheet and act on their own, you can see the 4th Wall close up and the fictional world comes alive with a new breath.

Reentering The Writer Pool

In my younger writing days, I spent a lot of time writing and submitting to traditional publishers. Accordingly, I also collected quite a few rejection slips along the way. It was only the past few years have I been giving self-publishing a spin. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been tremendously disappointed with the reception that my books have gotten, but lately, I’ve been feeling that something is missing.

No one goes full tilt into the prospect of rejection (unless they have some kind of subconscious masochistic bent), but given that the workload to engage with Traditional Publishing isn’t as cost-intensive as Self-Publishing, there’s a reason why it’s been the mainstay for what most of us consider the normal route for writers to take.

So, I’m about to dip my toes back into the frigid waters in addition to my Amazon and Createspace efforts. I’ve been away from it for far too long and I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.

I guess we’ll have to see how it goes. God knows that I need to update my Writer’s Market books…hehe.

When The Ending Doesn’t Feel Right

I was reading Parallax again (yes, I read my own books) and something about the ending didn’t sit right with me. Not the last scene, mind you, I liked that.

I typed “End of Book 1″…

I mean, what is that? Yes, it’s a trilogy, it says so on the cover. It also states that Parallax is Book 1 but did I really need to specifically state it on the last page? I probably didn’t, hence the conundrum between deciding between “End of Book 1” and “The End”.

Createspace takes around 24 hours to do their file review for any changes involving the interior file so I had to really think if it was worth holding up potential publishing time for two letters. Also, any changes to Createspace have to be duplicated on Amazon so that’s at least another 12 hours after approval.

Obviously, I went with “The End” because, in my mind, that should have been the way to go in the first place.

Parallax: Genesis/Lights and Shadows: The Writing never stops.

Writing diligently on one story is effort enough, but when you take on two at the same time, a new set of challenges come into play. Unless the two stories take place in the same story universe, you have to make sure to keep their details separate from each other in order to avoid confusion later. Here are a few things to consider when slugging it out with multiple projects. This is not a complete list, by any means:

1) Different Story Universes, Different Resources.

Every story has its own needs so it’s best to keep Story A’s stuff separate from Story B’s. Records, story notes, etc, should be in its own file so that you don’t mix the two and have your 21st Century Accountant doing The Dragon’s taxes, though that would be amusing on its own…hehe.

2) Different Schedules.

This one can be done in a million different ways. You can set up certain days to work on each story or whatever. The more distance you can conceivably put between projects, the more focus you can exert on each. Unlimited ways to go.

3) Backups, Backups, Backups.

It goes without saying that backups are important. Save early, save often and keep the backups in a safe place just in case.

4) Take breaks.

You don’t work in a sweatshop so don’t put yourself under any undue stress. If you have a deadline to meet, structure your time accordingly. If not, then set a reasonable goal and meet it. However, your health and sanity are important for creativity so don’t neglect yourself.

Anyway, that’s enough of that.

A few updates on Lights and Shadows and Parallax: Genesis:

Lights and Shadows:

I’ve just about finished Lights and Shadows, Chapter 11, barring the usual distractions. It’s funny how a story that is completely outlined and planned out would present so many issues. Maybe I’m subconsciously rebelling against all the structuring, I have no idea. In any case, I’m forging ahead and it’s gratifying to see the story take shape as I go. I may not make the April 30th goal I set so if I don’t, then it will get pushed back to the end of May. In any case, it will be finished as soon as possible.

Parallax: Genesis:

P:G is still in the planning stages but I have the Initial Concept and The Preliminary Synopsis written. The Timeline and Characters are carry over from Parallax, so that’s a time saver in itself. There’s a small matter of sketching out the story settings and doing the working Plot Outline, but that’s nuts and bolts stuff which shouldn’t take so long. After I get the Plot Outline finished, then it’s actually writing the story. My goal is to get it finished and published by the end of December, but it’s more realistic to say that it will be done as soon as possible.

That’s it for today (I think). Obviously, I will keep you all informed as events unfold. Have a great day.