Sunday, February 10, 2008

When Your Writing Changes

My writing style has changed, I think, in the last two novellas. And I feel like something bigger is clicking. I’m not just crafting sentences, words, characters, and emotions. I feel like I’m crafting the whole plot, finding and seeing little threads to weave in and out.

I feel like I’m shaping the whole novel, rather than the pieces.

Yet it’s strange to see how much of my writing style is still the same from seven years ago.

But it still feels different. I guess I feel like I have more control over the big picture. And I don't know why my style is changing.

Writing is a weird thing, though. Because when you think you’re growing, when you think you’re changing for the better, the fears come out to play.

What if, in changing, I’m losing the bits that the readers liked and connected with? What if I’m editing out the good bits? What if, in stretching myself, I’ve gone too far this time?

I love Nora’s books, and I love her style. Lately, I’ve wondered if she hasn’t outgrown some of her readers, you know? Her style has gotten much more wordy and vivid and ... I don’t know. She uses bigger words now, more complex sentences. I’d definitely say she’s a better writer, definitely. But I’ve heard more than a few people complaining that they just don’t connect with her spark anymore--non-writers, so it’s not like there’s jealousy or easy-target in what they’re feeling.

Hah! Does it sound like I’m comparing myself with Nora? I certainly didn’t mean to, LOL. I’m so not there yet.

But I was just wondering if there’s a point at which growing as a writer can make your readership less ... wide. What if you grow past that which your readers connected to in the first place?

I used to think I was pretty down to earth and not at all neurotic about my writing.

But sheesh. It would be embarrassing, if I got embarrassed about such things. :-)

17 bonus scribbles:

The Literary Prostitute,  2/10/2008 01:30:00 PM  

It's kinda like 'selling out' in reverse, isn't it?

Lots of musicians go from underground type work, really writing what they feel, to catering to a wider audience for radio play. Authors often work the other way, catering first to a wide audience in order to get published, then narrowing their focus and honing their craft once they've built a loyal readership.

I guess it really depends on what matters to you most: developing your skills and improving your writing, or pleasing those who might pick up your work. Of course, I'm a firm believer that it will all equal out in the end.

Edie 2/10/2008 04:47:00 PM  

I love it when a writer gets better. I noticed it with Nora too. This last week I picked up books by two bestsellers -- and I couldn't get past their beginnings. Just lazy writing. So I can't answer what other people might think, but for me it's more likely that I will buy Nora's books. And I won't even pick up the two other writers' books from the library.

My writing is changing too. For the better, I think. And I'm loving it! Stop doubting yourself, Spy, and enjoy. :)

Zoe Winters 2/10/2008 05:04:00 PM  

It's better to get better than to get worse. on the flip side of that you have authors who write a few really great books and then it goes downhill. This is really common in a series. The first few books are really great and then the writing quality just goes DOWNhill.

I'm on book four of the Sookie Stackhouse series and so far the quality drop hasn't happened yet. I really hope it doesn't. I've had a couple of beloved series already that after the first several books just bombed. Though actually in most of those I think it was the 6th or 7th book where everything went to hell and the writing got sloppy. Probably pressure from deadlines.

But JK Rowling had to have a TON of pressure yet she didn't let the writing go downhill. With one of the books she took a whole year longer than expected. Her audience was still waiting at the end.

I wonder if the quality would go up if authors of series would put their foot down and say: "Look, sometimes it takes time to get it right. i'm not shirking deadline here, I'm doing what's in the best interest of both our bottom lines."

Sorry, went off on a tangent there on the opposite problem lol.

Bernita 2/11/2008 07:19:00 AM  

"What if, in changing, I’m losing the bits that the readers liked and connected with? What if I’m editing out the good bits?"
You know, I think that's a prefectly legitimate fear.
And it's almost impossible to determine if that sort of change may be the cause of a loss of appeal, with so many other factors in the mix.
But just being aware of the danger may prevent it from happening.

StarvingWriteNow 2/11/2008 09:16:00 AM  

Should we start calling you "La Natasha"? :)

Karen Olson 2/11/2008 10:49:00 AM  

I think my current book and the next one takes my writing further in a lot of ways but at the same time it still retains the voice in the first two books. I think if we can learn how to expand our repertoire, so to speak, but at the same time keeping our voice, our writing will be richer and we can grow.

Travis Erwin 2/11/2008 07:01:00 PM  

Hopefuly your readers will grown with you.

Avery DeBow 2/12/2008 09:10:00 AM  

I don't think a few complex sentences will deter your readers. If you turned into Umberto Echo overnight, that might be another story.

At your core, you're still you. Your concepts and inspirations are still from your soul. Your plots and characters will still be yours. The tweaking of word arrangement can't change that.

As with anything in life, stasis is not good. Change is inevitable, and growth during change is encouraged. Keep evolving. Move your craft forward. Those who truly enjoy reading your work will follow along.

Josephine Damian 2/12/2008 09:24:00 AM  

In a perfect world Better = more fans, not less. Let's hope.

spyscribbler 2/12/2008 03:52:00 PM  

Literary, what a great way to put it, LOL! Like Josephine said, in an ideal world, better = more readers. "Better" is such an abstract and meaningless concept in reading, sometimes.

spyscribbler 2/12/2008 03:53:00 PM  

Edie, isn't that great about Nora? It's so cliche that reviewers say, over and over, that Nora just keeps getting better. But it's true! Although, in the past two years, there were two books that I ended up skimming a whole lot.

spyscribbler 2/12/2008 03:59:00 PM  

Zoe, very true! Although, in some series, the writing gets BETTER with each book. I love when that happens!

Who wrote the Sookie Stackhouse series, again? I've been wanting a funny series, lately. I'm missing Evanovich.

spyscribbler 2/12/2008 04:00:00 PM  

It's so true, Bernita. Writing is so unscientific, in that regard. We can't do "controlled" experiments. We can do experiments, but like you said, there's so many different factors involved.

I hope you're right about the awareness!

spyscribbler 2/12/2008 04:02:00 PM  

You make me blush, WriteNow!

Karen, that's a great way to look at it. Richer is good, but switching from milk chocolate to dark chocolate would be a whole new readership, probably. :-)

spyscribbler 2/12/2008 07:21:00 PM  

Travis, one can only hope. And neurotically obsess. ;-)

Avery, so true about change. If I don't shake and rattle things up every now and then, things take a nosedive into a rut.

Josephine, one can only hope!

Zoe Winters 2/17/2008 06:15:00 PM  

Spy, the Sookie Stackhouse series is by: Charlaine Harris. I have links to several of the books on my 2008 50 book challenge page on my blog. The first book is called: "Dead until Dark."

I really think You'll like Sookie.

Amie Stuart 2/17/2008 08:25:00 PM  

Spy even if you lose readers, you'll probably end up picking up new ones that connect with your writing in a different way =)

For what it's worth, I've noticed my writing changing too--maybe it's a growth spurt *g*