Monday, January 10, 2011

Changes in Writing

I was Anastasia's guest sometime ago, and it slipped my mind that I was over for some crumpets and chocolate and stuff. *Ducking* I'm reposting here anyway. Here I go (ahem):

Today, I’m posting about a particular struggle I have as a writer.

One thing that I do—which I believe is the bane for many writers—is every time I finish a how-to book on writing, and after I apply it, my writing changes. My book was thin, starving and gasping for rich oxygenated imagination. Well, I was able to apply the correct techniques to get it closer to publication, but I had to find a happy medium so that it wouldn’t stifle my creativity.

After reading a book on writing, I wrote an entire novel (Rock Star). I was so excited to get it all out. I finished at only 26, 442 words, approximately 109 pages. How bad is that? I remember as I wrote, I was so careful to apply the rules of dialogue—keeping it snappy, lively and natural. I also applied the speech tags: Editors/publishers, for the most part, like the ‘said’ word rather than their exotic synonyms. I had also learned about infodumping. That was my biggest downfall! My scenes were short and choppy. I didn’t go into character or setting description for fear of infodumping.

Yes, I was very frustrated with my book and confused on how I could fuse my newly acquired knowledge with my writing. I tucked it away and wrote an entirely different novel. After submitting Rock Star to my critique group, I was ready to fix it.

I grew a lot 2 novels later when I got back to Rock Star. I was able to apply the learned rules, plus more, without hurting it. Now it is 115,220 words, 371 pages! I’m slowly editing my novel and will submit it pretty soon. I’m so thrilled to do this!

Have you found that about your work, when you’ve just learned new writing rules? That it makes you write so differently, it almost feels forced? Stifling? How do you cope with it?

photos from

You might like:


  1. Yay!! Well done you with Rock Star!! Good luck editing and then submission!! That's so exciting!! Yay!!

    I get so much out of joining a writing class more I think than reading a how-to book. I like that we are able to discuss the how-to's and so feel comfortable with the techniques. I think for me it was practicing, getting my work marked, then practicing some more with corrections that ultimately helps me!!

    Take care

  2. Well done on getting close to submission! I know exactly what you mean, though -- I can definitely be guilty of learning something new then trying it out all over the place. I don't have much advice on how to avoid it, but I'll be watching the comments to see if anybody else does! In the end I know it'll come out in the editing, so perhaps practicing the new skill isn't so bad.

  3. First it was adverbs, then it was "was", and well, the editing process never stops does it.

  4. Absolutely. Reading a book on writing is word-oxygen for me. Somehow, the words smell more distinct when I use them. I can hear them in my head, too. I also think the confidence I gain from reading those help books flows into my writing, making it new all over again.

  5. I wish I could say I cope with it well, but I get frustrated and have to take breaks.

  6. Firstly, congratulations on Rock Star! A real achievement.

    Secondly, I understand where you are coming from with how-to writing books. I will read one and apply the advice, and my manuscript is often the better for it. BUT it depends on the advice. If it is a book on how to plot or create backstories or other such pre-writing techniques, it totally stalls my writing. Maybe it's because I'm a pantster rather than a plotter? Anyway, I've learnt to avoid those books!

  7. My problem is slightly different from yours, but equally frustrating. Every time I read a book (a novel, not a how-to book), I begin to question whether or not I'm writing in the right genre. I've discovered that so far I really haven't found my niche. I'm not writing the books I love to read, I'm writing the books I know. But I'm trying to fix that now!

  8. I think maybe it's good that I don't read these books much... I can see that that would make me nuts. I prefer to get my advice in the blog sized snippets--I hit some GREAT ones from time to time, and they DO affect my writing, but it is one little tweak at a time, so hopefully the change is more organic.

    Congrats on your substantial rewrite! I am a deep believer in TIME helping us see our work fresh and improving it that way.

  9. Writing books are good, but I have found that actually writing and getting good feedback is the most help to me.

  10. Jennifer, I love classes, too. I'm handson and I can see how very effective, even fun to be in one. Imagine being able to interact with the instructor and classmates? Instant critique group with a pro! *sigh*

    Amie, learning a new skill is great, it's applying it sparingly that I struggle with until I adjust. I wonder how to step out of my head and use it wisely? I really like what Hart Johnson said about time. <3

    Em-Musing, I hear ya! I was a lover of adverbs and purple prose. Now it's other things. You're right, it never ends! Ack!

    Salarsen, wow! I love the way you expressed yourself here. You're right. We do gain confidence with a brand new tool. For me, I stumble a bit in over-use because of how excited I am to have it with me. Tee hee! ;)

    Angela, I feel as if I'm pressing the reset button and think I have to go back and redo my MS. Is it more damaging to read a how-to book in the middle of editing an MS?

    Ellie, oh so true! I get what you're saying. I, too, am a pantser! I try not to let the editing get in the way until I'm done writing. Ugh...

    Kim, when I started out, I used to worry about which genre I fit so much that it stalled my writing. But just dive into it full force and ENJOY. Don't worry about it until the MS is done! You could ask your critters which genre they think it would fit into! <3

    Hart, I love what you said about time and finding nuggets from friends. It's more meaningful in my opinion! :)

    Shari, you're so right about getting feedback. I'm so blind to my own work I really appreciate honest feedback, too. Thank you so much for visiting! :D

  11. I guess that's why we just keep writing and writing - at some point, it feels natural, and then we can write something really good. Or, at least with a better starting point!

  12. First, big applause for completing Rock Star! Secondly, my writing feels unnatural when I read something that makes me look deeper into myself. Once I get this new window open, I feel as though a new world has opened and write with increased vigor.

  13. I've done this too. I read something and then over-apply it. I've come to realize that the "rules" of writing really apply to overuse, not elimination, and they are just guidelines that may not even apply to your genre or style. So caveat emptor with these things.

  14. Good luck with the new year and your writing!

    I have read a few things that have helped me a great deal. It is wonderful to be able to craft my work through the generous guidelines of others.

  15. Alex, so true. I know that many of the things I've studied have become a part of my style. :)

    Kittie, writers are amazing and the most flexible people in the world (we better be if we ever want to become published!) How right you are about applying what you learn and how it changes perspective!

    Andrew, *sigh* Yes, you are right. To find a balance and inner harmony is very important, isn't it? It'll show in the writing, that's for sure.

    Glynis, I'm grateful for the help of others who've 'been there and done that' and are generous in their findings! <3

  16. Hey, my google reader showed a post that said, "I write like___". Where did it go? I thought that was a neat result you got. Way to go!

  17. Michelle, look at your gorgeous headhot! Hot mama! ;)

    I'm sorry about that. I hit 'publish' too soon. It's tomorrows post. Thank you for your compliment! Please drop by tomorrow and tell me who you write like! *HUGS*

  18. It's a fine line that we walk. I want new ideas to influence me, but I don't want to be writing for something that might stifle my creativity. So yeah, we want to keep our voice but also be the best writers we can be. It's tough.

  19. Congrats on completing Rock Star! I know exactly what you mean. The first time I got significantly far in my book, it was only to realize that I had 65K, and only two weeks had passed, and nothing had happened!

  20. Jolene, so true, so true! I wonder if the writing styles will revert, just like fashion does over the decades?

    WritingNut, thank you! Oh no! I'm sorry that happened. Ugh...


Welcome to my blog! I love reading your comments, so please don't be shy and comment away. Also, because of the outrageous number of Anonymous Spam comments I've been receiving, I have opted from that availability--I apologize for any inconvenience!