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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