Archive for July, 2005

Another How-To Book

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a little nuts about reading how-to books. I’ve received a new one, just today, called “Finding Your Voice: How to put personality in your writing” by Les Edgerton. So far, so good. I’m on page 19 and already I’ve run across some wonderful advice.

He has a theory about “natural voice” in which he says (on page 4), “…readers select certain authors to read in much the same way as they select their personal friends: on the basis of the ‘voice’ (personality) of that person. All human beings in the world have a circle of people who like them and want to be around them…and they also have folks who don’t like them all that much. The same is true of an author’s readership. They are the ‘friends’ he or she will accumulate.”

I can’t disagree with this statement, because I believe it. I read authors because I like the way they write. And if given the chance to get to know any of those authors, I’m sure I would like most of them. :-)

It’s very rare for me to enjoy reading only one book by an author, but not enjoy any others, and vice-versa. If I’ve had trouble reading one book by someone, usually I’ll have trouble reading the author’s other books too.

I also think that’s why voice is so important. It’s unique, it’s you. It’s your one chance to make an impression on someone, to let them know just what kind of person you are–for good or ill!

On page 19, Edgerton says, “…how you achieve your own voice is governed largely by the words you select to place on the page. When you select the only word you feel fits in a particular sentence, then you’ve made your choice–a choice many others wouldn’t have made–and the accumulation of those choices is largely what determines your own style.”

I know this, but it was nice to hear it so neatly explained. It also sheds light on an incident I had with another writer a few years ago about the use of the word “pervaded.” I wanted that word in my story. It was the exact word I felt it needed. She wasn’t fond of it, and she thought I should use a different word. Of course, it was my book, so I won the debate. :-) But the point is that she wasn’t wrong. And I wasn’t wrong either. She was just unknowingly trying to get me to rewrite something in her voice, instead of staying true to my own.

I like “pervaded,” just like I like lots of other words that aren’t words she likes. That’s what makes us different, and that’s what makes our stories unique and our voices our own. Our plots may end up similar (haven’t yet–but you never know what someday might bring!), and if they do, our stories will still end up totally different, because of our voices.

So why am I reading this book?

Because I can’t trust myself to trust my own voice. I’m hoping this book has the tips I need to learn that trust. :-) Wish me luck!

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I’ve been thinking about the choices I’ve made as a writer. My first attempt at fiction revolved around glitz and glamour, which wasn’t such a big surprise, since I started out reading my mother’s Barbara Taylor Bradford and Sidney Sheldon books. Before long, I was reading V.C. Andrews, Sally Beauman, and Dean Koontz. With Koontz, I found happiness and I was a huge fan for many years. Then I started reading category romance and I was hooked on love.

One of the reasons I’ve always liked Koontz is his ability to write into his books a very genuine affection between his lead characters. He often writes romance into his stories and for that I’ve always been grateful.

Somewhere in here, I read a lot of fantasy and science-fiction, but no particular author stands out, with the exception of C.J. Cherryh.

I read tons of historical–historical novels and historical romances–and I can remember a few Jayne Taylor books and more than a few books set during and after World War II. But the author who stands out the most, the author who became my absolute favorite historical writer of all time was Johanna Lindsey.

About the time high-school ended, I was reading more romance than anything else.

But I didn’t automatically start writing romance. My next story was a romantic thriller. And the one after that was too. And then I finally decided I should get serious and I started major revisions of that last book and made it a died-in-the-wool romance.

These days though, I’ve been getting restless. My reading has tapered off, and romance isn’t as engrossing as it used to be. Despite this, I still prefer to write books with a strong focus on the hero and heroine’s relationship, and the thought of writing something without romance in it at all makes me not want to write at all. So I think it’s clear, my problem isn’t with romance, it’s with reading.

I don’t want to read the way I used to. I could lose myself in a book only a few years ago, but today, I feel like reading is a struggle. I find myself wanting to say it’s just a phase I’m going through, which might be true, but how stupid does that sound? Just going through a phase… What is this, a pre-mid-life crisis or something?

How could I go from totally loving to read, from spending every spare moment I have reading, to barely reading at all? To not even wanting to read?

I want to know the answer to that question, but it’s not here. I don’t know.

I’m going to have to stop thinking of my books as romances and realize they’re just books. Books I want to read, after I finish writing them. I’ve strangled myself with the conventions of a genre I don’t feel like I even know any longer. I’ve let rules lead me astray.

I’ve given in to the need to write the perfect romance, when I should be concentrating on writing the best novel I can write.

I am not a romance writer. I’m a writer who writes romance novels. I have so many ideas, so many stories, and to limit myself to only one genre of fiction seems like the easy way out. Learn one thing and learn to do it well.

How boring.

Why not learn many things, and learn to do them all well?