Like every other writer out there, I’ve talked about writer’s block. And I’ve talked about page fright. This morning I’m thinking about a different kind of problem that I’ve not really ever had before out of conjunction of the rest:
The loss of one’s voice.
Before the Hammer’s critique, I was panicking and worrying about the structure, whether the plot held together (which was the issue with DOTH). And I had my requisite flail and figured out how to fix the issues I had. After the Gobsmacker’s critique, now I’m freaking out about the actual WORDS. Because the prose is just flat. And dear, freaking God, WHEN did I start using “that” like it was table salt? There’s all this redundancy and passive voice and weak clauses and…stuff I didn’t used to do. And certainly I’d have caught some of it during a pass to tighten things up, but in general most of it doesn’t seem to have my distinctive voice.
I don’t see this as a permanent problem. Just like real laryngitis isn’t. And certainly I can go through and make dedicated passes to nuke the passive voice, repetitive words, redundancies etc. And I will. It’s just…disconcerting. Even more disconcerting that I didn’t SEE this myself before someone else pointed it out. I mean, I know there are always things that you see in other people’s work and not your own, but I used to be better about being able to see such issues in my own work. More issues that I’m chalking up to my long-term splintered focus and having been burning the candle at both ends (I believe we are on year 7 of what was supposed to be temporary).
Frankly, it kind of terrifies me about starting the next book. Because I’m SO excited about it and I don’t want to screw it up. And I know, I know. Anything can be fixed (theoretically). But I don’t want to write it and think it’s okay, only to find out that it’s really REALLY not and I’m going to have to kill my soul and rewrite it from scratch. Which, after DOTH, is probably going to be a fear I carry with me for a long, LONG time.
There are, I think, a number of ways to combat this issue. The laryngitis, not the fear. That’s a whole other issue that is going to take some time to work through.
The first and move OBVIOUS choice is to READ MOAR. I read as much as I’ve been able, but I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like. Only two or three books a month, one or two of which is in audio (I do a lot of audiobooks in the car), which really doesn’t do the same thing for my brain in terms of exposing me to well put-together language as seeing it in print. I’ve actually been doing MORE than that lately, but the other half has been largely research, which, while interesting, is not the same as reading fictional prose. It’s often kinda dry. And it kind of triggers the academic writer in me (something I go to great pains to try and suppress because it’s SO counter to what I want to do in fiction). I didn’t start the research until nearly the end of Riven, so I’m certainly not blaming it on that. In any event, I need to read more, and not just MORE, but read really WELL WRITTEN STUFF. A lot of the things I’ve been reading lately have been entertaining but nothing special in the actual prose department. Not the kind of things that make you want to linger and savor the words themselves. Which is not to say the latter is the kind of prose I tend to WRITE (it’s not), but it still gets my brain in a place for VOICE.
I also need to go back to trying meditation. I managed it for maybe 3 weeks and then fell out of the practice. I can’t even call it a habit. I didn’t get that far. But meditation would go a long way toward helping combat my splintered focus.
I need to stop trying to multitask as much as I do. That just encourages MORE of the splintered focus that’s becoming a problem for me. Shallow focus, shallow thinking. It’s a symptom of the internet and living in our information rich society. I’ve had a lot of stuff about this popping up in my inbox lately, so I’m pretty sure it’s a message from the Universe to say HEY YOU! YEAH YOU! PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!
And for this book in particular, I want to go back and reread all of my Mirus stories already out there. This isn’t a bad thing to make sure my Series Bible is up to date anyway. Stuff like “Did I capitalize Shadow Walkers all the way through?” “Did I ever describe what Matthias looks like?” And it’ll remind me of the voice and tone and pacing I was so comfortable with before.
What about you? Have you ever had writing laryngitis? What’d you do about it?