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?
Didn’t you also have some time when you weren’t writing all that much? That can result in a shift in voice.
I used to use “that” a lot. I’ve just about broken myself of this, but after I’ve written a book, I use the “find” feature in word to weed out all the unnecessary “thats”.
I think maybe you might just be out of practice since, for awhile, you didn’t write as often. I also think you let the situation with DOTH discourage you too much.
In answer to your question about whether we’ve had writing laryngitis? My answer is…I’m not sure. I THINK my voice is the same all the time. My beta readers/editors haven’t mentioned anything. But I’m not sure I would be able to catch that myself since I’m too close to my work. But page fright? Oh, yeah.
I think the best idea you have is to reread what you’ve written in the past. Reading your own work should help you get your voice back. Delve back into that world.
I’ve got some major writer’s laryngitis AND page fright going on so I relate. I overloaded my brain with way too much information on writing, self pub and everything that goes with it. Now I’m so locked up the only thing I can write are journal entries. lol
Some of what you mention here is further evidence of you being Borg. 😛 Unplug, baby!
You mentioned reading more. See, that would knock me off center faster than anything else. I don’t read when I’m writing. There’s no way I’m going to maintain my story and voice if I’m filling my head with other people’s voices while simultaneously talking to my self about how I’d have done that differently/oh that didn’t work/don’t do that/yes that’s awesome/boo/yay. Naw. For me, staying clear of reading ESPECIALLY in my genre is important so that I can shut off the inner critic/editor part of my brain.