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Writing Journey: Journal Entry 77

June 29, 2022

Week 90

Emotional State: Existential Reflection


I’m on a mission to improve my writing. I’m writing more than I ever have, but I don’t know if the growth I’ve achieved is what it should be. I want to be a good writer. I want to craft sentences that make me ponder, cry, laugh, and get sucked in, just like all my favorite authors. One way I’m doing this is to write more. And I am – a lot more. Another way is to learn from those who have gone before.

There is a lot of information out there about how to write, how to edit, how to publish. From books, blogs, Youtube, Tiktok, Instagram – everyone thinks they have the secret keys to being a good writer and author. And I’ve read a lot of them. Some have been helpful, some not, as is the way of things when someone tells you how to do something.

It may resonate with where you are at or it won’t. It can be helpful or harmful. It could be some of it works for where you are now, and some of it resonates a year from now. I’ve not seen anything particularly egregious nor patently wrong, but I have seen some fluffy how to write books that I was glad I read for free on KU.

That leads me to my latest dilemma. Or conundrum. Or existential crisis.

I started a new craft book, How to Write a Novel by Harry Bingham. His perspective is on the language we use to convey our stories. I was particularly intrigued by this book because it focuses heavily on words as I am still in the editing throes of multiple books. I want to know not only how to improve as I edit but also as I draft, so that I can edit less (I hope that is an achievable goal but I’m not sure).

This book goes into great detail on precision of word choice and a less is more slant. He argues that every word should be chosen with purpose. Remove those adverbs and adjectives, unless they bring something to the content. He provides loads of examples and it’s all good.

Except for that existential crisis.

I decided to try this out on my current paranormal cozy first chapter. I stripped out all the adverbs and adjectives, took it down to the bare bones and then read it again. It was better. I readded the necessary adjectives, making sure they added to the content and created a fun concept of a monotone existent with bright flashes of color to create an image of my character’s journey.

That was the good part.

But then the existential crisis commenced. How much of what I write is the story, the words on the page, and how much of is it my voice? An author’s voice, as I’ve come to find out, is incredibly hard to pin down.

It’s not the story, the structure, or even how your characters act. It’s less specific than that. But did I remove my author voice by removing all the ‘fluff’ in that chapter? And did I take it too far away from the character I’m representing on the page?

Cue the crisis and a check in on Twitter, that funny app that most people think is toxic, but that I use as my writing community. The writing community on Twitter is supportive, helpful, funny, inane, and at points, also toxic, but I’ve blocked and refined my feed to only really show me the good stuff. Which is why I like it. It works for me.

What I found from my not-so-scientific poll is that no one can tell you what their voice is. It’s this subtle quality underneath the words – the phrases you’re most likely to use, the way in which you put your sentences together. You know what it is, even if you can’t describe it.

Feeling better about my author voice and having not completely lost it by being precise, I then decided I stripped out too much. My first chapter had a different tone than the rest of the book – bleaker, darker, and more thriller noir than a funny and warm set up for a story. So, I added a few things back in to make it fit better to the journey my character is on, while keeping it precise.

While not perfect, and by no means have I managed to do it for other chapters, it has shown me that I can write more genres than I think. It has also given me a new benchmark to hit with writing and editing. The more I practice it, I hope the easier it gets, but we’ll see. If nothing else, it’s been a fun way to play around with the words I throw down on a page.

And isn’t that what writing is all about?