I was reading a lovely post on Points of View by my friend Nat Russo and it occurred to me how easy it is to tear apart a book – and writing in general – in our effort to improve our craft. Since deciding to become an author, I’ve studied countless books, posts and articles on writing. Most focus on a single aspect at a time. For example, I benefited a lot from Rayne Hall’s Word-loss Diet and the rest of her great Writer’s Craft series.
However, while studying as hard as I could, I also struggled to find my voice – or, rather, not to lose it. You see, I feel that we are all born with it, but school, university, courses, books etc. drown it out. Some of these influences resonate with us, enriching our voice, and these are the ones we should embrace. However, others feed our fears instead, thus muting our voice, turning our writing into well-polished boredom. Learning to recognize which is which is a daunting, lifetime effort.
We are taught that successful books are true ones, then are taught how to mimic someone else’s writing. “Don’t use adverbs, don’t use passive voice, don’t start a sentence with the -ing form…” How is that supposed to work? Learning a technique is great; learning a structure can be very useful; learning how to set up a scene can be marvelous. Unless in the process we end up destroying our voice, turning into a mere copycat. It takes great care – and a masterful teacher – to combine the two successfully. We are taught various different techniques, and are asked to practice them, when in fact we often already know what and how we want to write.
Some editors are like that, too (and traditional publishers are the epitome of that). They will forbid you from using passive voice, even when your voice tells you that’s the perfect sentence for you. Or adverbs – what’s with their hatred of them? Sometimes I feel like I’m asked to write with one hand tied behind my back. I love the English language, which is why I write in it. If I have to cut off half of it and throw it away, how can my writing be complete?
That’s why I approach courses with great care (and, indeed, have been kicked out of one). I like to hear the teacher’s point of view, but not necessarily implement it. Sadly, most courses actually grade students, which means we regress to our conditioned response of striving to please the teacher, when in fact we should be trying to feed our soul, freeing it from all foreign influences that do not align with who we are.
One of the reasons I love Indie authors so much is that they’re closer to their inner voice, unfiltered and amateurish as their writing may often be. I prefer an original, awkwardly-written book to a perfectly well-polished cliche. But maybe that’s just me.
To return to Nat’s post, it made me reflect on my own writing. I use an unusual variation of the third Person in Pearseus. Every chapter is from the point of view (PoV) of a different character. So, one starts from the point of view of Lucas, then moves on to Croix, then back to Lucas etc. In each chapter, we only share that character’s experience, but – and here is the trick – I never change PoV without changing the chapter, too. Having a plethora of characters, I find this technique makes it easier on the reader.
Some readers have found it confusing, and that’s OK. I respect that. But I won’t change it. I prefer to focus on those who love my writing, judging by their feedback. Interestingly enough, an unexpected side-effect is that most chapters end up being pretty short. This gives the book a staccato rhythm I find appealing, and allows me to build up tension nicely.
So, by listening to my voice in choosing my PoV, I ended up influencing my pacing, thus proving that a book should not be broken down to individual parts (pacing, writing etc) like prying an insect apart, but is best conceived as a multi-faceted unit.
Hopefully, one written in as close to one’s voice as possible.