Writing To Entertain, Not To Pass A Test.

I mentioned in my last post: “Negative opinions and criticism can be hard to deal with about something we writers work so hard to create. But it comes with the territory. We lay our souls and hearts and feelings on the line for anyone with a platform to shout out how much they love or hate our work. It can be brutal.” So today, I’d like to continue talking about some of the criticism I’ve received for my novel Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book 1.

Most often I’ve heard “I love your writing style”, but once someone called it weird and felt words were missing. I learned that this person considered herself a writer as well, and all I can say is–I probably would not enjoy her writing style either. As with a lot of books, it would probably be too wordy for me. But that’s just me.

This is what I had to say about my writing style in the last post: “I write the way I prefer to read–in the most basic way of saying the most convoluted things. Bare bones. Choppy. Straight to the point.”

I learned this was the style I preferred to read during the year prior to writing Sleepy Willow–when I read FORTY-SIX fiction books.

So about my choppy writing style…

Let me just throw this out there right now–I know how to write. Throughout high school, undergrad, grad, and law school, writing was my STRONG area. I didn’t get straight A’s on writing assignments for nothing. I didn’t win national writing awards for nothing. Friends, colleagues, and professors didn’t come to me to edit their papers and journal articles…I didn’t ghost as a work-for-hire writer on assignments…or become a senior law review editor…for nothing. I know about subject and verb agreement, and that run-ons are a no-no. I can write as technical and as grammatically correct as the next one. I know how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, how to spell, and how to use some pretty big words doing it. And what I don’t know–I know how to research to find the answer.

This is not me bragging, dear reader, because none of this has anything to do with writing fiction. Knowing the rules for writing a convincing legal brief does me no good when it comes to entertaining a reader looking for an escape into an exciting imaginary world. All those rules have to go out the window because they are BORING.

The first draft of my novel Shameful contained very few errors but it was 156k words. YIKES! There’s no way all those words were necessary. I had to edit and edit and edit and edit some more until I got it down to 95k. NOW it reads like a novel. Now, it can be enjoyed. Or hated, depending on how you feel about Joanne cheating with a sixteen-year-old.

I had to remember I was writing to entertain, not to pass a writing test.

I’ll use paragraphs from the first chapter to illustrate how I write.

1. I use fragments and incomplete sentences to emphasize points: “Once I heard the smoke machine fogging the stage and felt the spotlight center on my coffin, I slowly raised the lid and held it there to give their human eyes a moment to adjust to the fog. To focus on me in the darkness.” Here, I’m emphasizing that they have to focus on her in the darkness. And I combine sentences to keep from breaking the flow.

2. I omit useless and unnecessary words: “Couldn’t see Remi through the white wraps across my eyes, but I smelled him. Sensed his essence, his soul. He was alone at his usual table on the far left near the stage, wearing his usual intoxicating cologne. I smelled his cigarette in the ashtray and liquor in his glass. Knew I’d taste a hint of both in his blood later, but it would still be hot, thick and delicious.” I don’t have to say “I couldn’t see Remi” or “I sensed his essence and soul” or “I knew I’d taste”. It’s implied. Anyone with enough sense to read, has enough sense to get the implication. Without the extra words it moves faster. Pacing is important in fiction.

Given all the profanity and grit in the chapter, that may be all the illustrations I should include here. That’s enough to make my point though, right? Or perhaps my use of profanity and grit is illustration #3. :)

There you have it. I prefer writing this way. Since my betas love it, I think I’ll stick to it.

Of course, there is no ONE right style. Authors should do what works for them. Readers should read what they most enjoy. Our differences make us interesting.

More criticism/feedback with author commentary to come. Examples: 1. Where are the black men in your story? 2. Willow gets her butt kicked WAY too much. 3. Your story’s well-edited. What’s your secret? I also have a comment or two from other authors on how they deal with criticism. Larissa Ione, one of my faves, took the time to write me back about this, so look out for her thoughts on it.

If you have read my novel and have something you’d like me to address, by all means comment below. I’d be happy to. You know me by now–no topic is off-limits.

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13 Comments

  1. I agree the writing in a novel does not need to be formal but some sentence structure is needed. You know I love your work so this doesn’t apply to you but boy do some SP writers out there need lessons in ho to structure a sentence because I have read some atrocious, twaddle that doesn’t make sense of late so don’t encourage them to totally forget their English lessons!!!!

    • LOL–So true, Jane! I read somewhere (wish I knew who to credit) that we have to learn the rules in order to know which ones to break and when. It has to be coherent and well-written no matter what. An author can’t just write without punctuation and sentence structure and call it “style”. I sure hope no one gets that from this post. :( I may have to elaborate on that in another one.

      • I like that quote ‘we have to learn the rules in order to know which ones to break and when’ I may use it in the next really bad book I review…………….(i will of course say where I read it lol)

  2. Hi Dicey! I actually read the sample of your first chapter last week and not sure if I commented then or not, but I have to now!
    I’m new to writing, but this is my view on it…
    Not everyone is going to like what we write, but then not everyone will like how we dress, or what kind of music we listen to, or what we read, but We have to write in our own style, putting down on paper the stories just as they are going through our heads, using our own voice. We can’t please all the people all the time. I don’t normally read your genre, (just like I don’t read romance, but it’s what I write) but from what I read, I don’t see any problem with the way you wrote it, I could actually picture in my head her lying across the coffin and them dragging him away and then her in the dressing room. I think that’s the point of our writing, to entertain and yet to get other’s minds to use their imagination to see it in their own minds, in their own way.

    • Thanks for the comment! I look at those I deem successful in their crafts, and I look at how BADLY they get slammed. You really can’t please all the people all the time, but as long as you keep progressing, it’s all good. If Beyonce’ had let all the negative comments get to her from long ago, she would never have been the star she is today. Same with Oprah. I’m sure the negativity inspired them to get even better though. And that, along with the support of people who believed in them, helped.

      I’m glad the scene was very vivid to you. :) Good luck with your romance stories!

  3. Great post about the uncrafting into your own pace and voice.

    • Thanks, Caroline! “Uncrafting”–that’s a good way to put it.

  4. I feel you, Dicey!

    There is definitely a lot to learn from reader feedback, even if it’s not all positive. However it’s also important to admit to one’s self “Ok, this is X’s writing style, and obviously others love it. It may not be for *me*.”

    I remember one reader gave my novel a low review because he felt the story should have started with her beginning training or her “origin” story, even though the whole point of the novel is her being at her peak, tired as hell, and trying to find a way out before she gets killed (or eaten) ;-)

    Can’t please everyone.

    • Alesha, it’s always funny when people tell you how the sequence of YOUR story should have gone. LOL How is that constructive criticism? I believe Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) once said if you have a story in your mind, you should write it. I think your reviewer should take that advice.

  5. I thought you nailed “entertaining” quite well :) I must have missed the “choppy” parts because I was enjoying the story. I am such a terrible reviewer for your books LOL

    • “I thought you nailed “entertaining” quite well”–And it thrills me to no end that you feel that way!

      An example of choppy: “Every instinct told me to move fast, get out her way. Dip. Weave. Block. Roll. Repeat. But I was slower. And in pain. Nevertheless, I couldn’t let her catch me again.” You remember this scene? All those one-word sentences kept the pacing quick and descriptive with as few words as possible.

      You’re a fantastic reviewer. Don’t know how you’re going to feel about Book 2 though. Whole lotta craziness going on…

      • “An example of choppy” – back to my examples of the difference between good “storytellers: and writers. In most instances the former is more entertaining even when they might not measure up to somebody’s definition of “good writing”. To me your example feels more like you are in the story, the flow was good to me and we have already decided your editing was exceptional so we will just ignore those :choppy” people LOL

  6. […] write more about my bare bones writing style in a continuation of this post. Today, as the title indicates, I want to focus on the “cheap […]


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