Sunday 7th March 2021
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this weekend.
I’m still a mix of emotions. There’s part of me that accepts that this is a business and as such shit happens. It’s not about getting knocked down. It’s about how you get back up.
But there’s a part of my that’s angry for a lot of reasons. There’s a part of me that’s sad. There’s part of me that’s worried.
Look, I have other stories. I have a load of other stories. But at the moment, my reading interests are such that they all link back to the same themes. And I know that whatever I do next it has to be different.
On the plus, the novel I’m currently editing is very different to what I’m feeling. It’s light and fun whereas I feel all dark and serious.
But thinking further ahead, I’ve given a lot of thought as to why another first draft felt like such a struggle. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s voice.
One of the things I always struggled with when I first took my writing seriously, was the concept of voice. What was it? How did I discover mine? I’m still not sure of the latter, but I do know what good voice is (to me at least).
When I’m grinding in World of Warcraft, I often like to listen to audiobooks. It helps alleviate some of the boredom that comes from doing things such as leveling your Xth character through the same old zones. I listen to all sorts but some are easier listens to others.
Now some of this can be down to the narrator. A good narrator will inject something into the performance. They’ll take words that are on the page and breathe life into them. But sometimes, even when there’s a good narrator, I’ll find I’ve not really been listening as I play. Some books become a struggle, even if there’s nothing technically wrong with the prose.
That for me is voice. I want a book that does things with language that grab my attention and hold it. I think back to recent books that have really stuck with me such as Nevernight and Addie Larue. Whether I’ve listened to them in audiobook form or read them as a hardback, the words on the page wrap round me like a warm blanket. I sink into that prose.
It has to be accessible. Go too far the the story becomes slave to the language, but balanced just right, language can elevate a story.
And that’s what I feel is missing from some of my most recent writing.
I can create worlds, construct a plot, build characters, but I also need to have a clear idea of voice.
I think back to Black As Knight. I had recently finished reading Wolf Hall and I loved the first person present it was written in. That heavily influenced me and when I came to write that book, taking something that could so easily have been a difficult style, just felt so natural.
So the real learning point for me this weekend has been that just as I need to outline before I start, I also have to have a very clear idea of voice. How I do this, I don’t know other than reading a ton of books and being influenced by what I read.
There’s work to be done here certainly, but I’m still processing the last week so it’s not something I’m going to resolve quickly. I somehow doubt I’m going to have a productive week next week, but I’m kinda resigned to that.
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