Monday, April 27, 2009

Change: The Inevitable

image I went to a Cleveland Orchestra concert last weekend. It was a wonderful, brilliant performance by both the orchestra and Mitsuko Uchida.

But I left slightly depressed. The orchestra has changed. Completely. They used to have such a classical sound; now it’s brighter and more Vienna-ish. (In my mind. I don’t know how else to describe it.) I suspect they are tuning higher, too, but my ears are a bit out of practice to know for sure.

Their sound has been changing since the new conductor, but now the new sound is completely gelled. What was the Cleveland Orchestra sound is no more. I wouldn’t recognize them on the radio, nowadays.

Times have changed. As they should. And all the above changes I have, at some point, wished for them! Now that it’s here… I’m sad. I’m terrible!

Which brings me to fiction. People are reading more online. Writing online means shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs.

How soon before this style pervades fiction?

It’s already starting. The days of one or two or three paragraphs per page are pretty much over.

imageThe Internet has been blamed for the shrinking attention span. This weekend, I’ve learned my concentration has changed. I need to write out of order, if I’m to continue to produce.

My writing identity is that I pants and I always write in order. But I’ve changed. I’m different. I have to change my process.

In the first few years of writing, I used to try to discover “my process.” But a nice, safe, comfortable, predictable process is an illusion. We change. We grow. We learn new things. Writing will always be as much an internal adventure for the writer as it will be for the characters.

How boring would it be if the adventure were always the same?

How has your process changed in the last few years? The last ten years? The last year? Do you see a rhyme or reason to the changes? Or have you found a reliable process that works, every time? What is it?

28 bonus scribbles:

Edie 4/27/2009 12:39:00 PM  

This is funny because I came here from Erica's blog about adapting. My process changes all the time. With this one, I did deeper characterizations than usual -- and I hardly refer back to them. lol

I kind of knew the ending, and that's one constant with every book. I'm almost finished now and still don't know the ending details, but I have the gist now.

As for shorter sentences and paragraphs, look at James Patterson's books. Sometimes, though, longer sentences are necessary, whether it's online or not.

Janna Qualman 4/27/2009 01:07:00 PM  

I've definitely changed in the last year, as a writer and as a person. That said, I still don't have a handle on what works best for me. It's a continual tweakage, it seems, to find my true voice, to find the appropriate style. I just hope there's a place for me!

Michele 4/27/2009 03:08:00 PM  

Yep, I'm definitely changing my process with each book...and that's frustrating the heck out of me! LOL. With the one I'm working on right now, I'd started writing with just two characters in mind and an idea for the beginning...I've never, ever done that before and I'm not sure it's working for me now. I'll probably finish this chapter today, figure out where I'm going with the entire storyline, and then proceed with the writing. I'm just not a pantser. :)

In my past manuscripts, I had always figured out--at the very least--a rough outline of who most of the characters were and of the plot line.

But I see you mentioned writing out of order... I was actually thinking about that this morning, too. I just might try that.

Hope you're doing well! :)

Eric Mayer 4/27/2009 05:38:00 PM  

I'm amazed someone could tell the differences between orchestras. I'm sure I could distinguish the Cleveland Orchestra from, say, the Ramones.

I think sentences and paragraphs are getting shorter. But I have always liked short novels so I hope those will return. I always had an attention deficit!

Then too, I always have liked personal essays which are short, so maybe I don't need to change too much.

I'm sure my writing is always changing. I always try to improve but I guess I don't consciously work on specific changes.

Robin 4/27/2009 09:22:00 PM  

I need to stick with a writing project long enough to develop a style! I had Shrink Rap bursting to come out, but now I have all sorts of stuff I'm dabbling in - even a screen play. I need a process! Wah!

LaDonna 4/28/2009 12:41:00 AM  

Hey Spy, my wip has taken me on a quite a ride. I usually adore the first draft, and drag my feet on the revisions. This time, I can't wait for the revisions! This story is moving slower than norm. It's like everything in the process tipped upside down or something. Really wierd. You are so not alone, so many writers I've discovered are going through change.

Melanie Avila 4/28/2009 10:27:00 AM  

When I was working with my dad on our family's website I noticed a generational difference in paragraph length. Maybe I'm just more used to the internet, but I had to chop all his paragraphs in thirds.

I don't read things that are too long (paragraph-wise) but will start to skim, but mostly only on the computer. And I don't read comments on other people's blogs that go on and on and on. My eyes start to hurt.

I don't think my fiction has changed, but I've only been doing this for a short time so maybe I just started that way.

Liz Kreger 4/28/2009 05:08:00 PM  

Everyone seems to be saying "tighter, tighter, tighter". Well, I personally don't want tighter and I don't want smaller.

Sure change is inevitable, but I don't have to like it.

Anyway, I seem to stick with the same style ... so far. I have a general storyline idea, might scribble it out, then I start writing individual scenes. After I have about twenty of them, I start piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Works for me.

Rick 4/28/2009 10:19:00 PM  

Hello Spy. You have me wondering about the impact of this stylistic shift on the writer's creative abilities as well. How much of our talent will suffer from disuse atrophy because we don't demand more of our reader's time and attention?

Thank you for this so thoughtful posting.

sex scenes at starbucks 4/28/2009 11:14:00 PM  

I plot now. And as I go, I do more and more of my creative thinking during the plotting process. I used to think I had to write narrative for discovery; I'm finding it now through lots of other means. It's interesting and a bit unsettling.

Aimless Writer 4/29/2009 09:31:00 AM  

OOooo, I kinda blogged something like this today. I'm suddenly finding that what worked before isn't moving me forward anymore. I'm looking for new ideas.

Robin 4/29/2009 12:08:00 PM  

My process generally stays the same, BUT I'm thinking of changing it a bit more with my next story. I need to plot more, rather than pants. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it though. I generally try to just go with what feels right at the moment.

Marcia Colette 4/29/2009 03:04:00 PM  

Other than plowing through a first draft, not much has changed. My editor says she's seen tremendous growth in my writing from book one to book two, but I'm missing it. *shrug* If she says I've improved, then I'm going with it. Who am I to argue? :-)

spyscribbler 4/29/2009 03:29:00 PM  

Edie, change sure has been making the rounds, lately! I wrote on Magical Musings that I was wondering what the stars were doing. :-)

I usually know the climax, which probably means I know the ending, too. I should check out James Patterson! Janet Evanovich does it. :-)

spyscribbler 4/29/2009 03:30:00 PM  

Janna, I don't have a handle on it, either. A few things, like write first thing in the morning, but like you said: it's a continual tweakage.

I love that! LOL!

I bet there's a place for you!

spyscribbler 4/29/2009 09:55:00 PM  

Michele, pantsing sure can be scary. Sometimes I write stuff and I'm suddenly like, what the heck am I writing?

My brain is so disorganized, that writing out of order is all I can do, lately. I don't know what's up.

spyscribbler 4/29/2009 09:57:00 PM  

Eric, no amazement. You can tell the difference between singers, right? No biggie, LOL. :-)

This thought came because I've been feeling self-conscious because I sorta seem to have an aversion to writing paragraphs longer than two, maybe three sentences. I've been trying to "correct" it.

I'm wondering if maybe I should just leave it. :-)

Anissa 4/29/2009 11:47:00 PM  

The only constant for me is that I know the end (in advance that is). Not the climax, but the denouement. I find this rather strange. Yet somehow I do end up there.

spyscribbler 5/01/2009 02:34:00 PM  

LOL, Robin! I remember someone (but not who) calling those kinds of books "gifts." They sure are!

Dabbling is cool. It's fun. And eventually, it adds up to a whole book!

spyscribbler 5/01/2009 02:35:00 PM  

LaDonna, change has been so rampant in discussions and posts and conversation, that I googled to see if it was anything to do with the alignment of the planets, LOL! (The forecast for May pretty much said that change was in store for everyone.)

spyscribbler 5/01/2009 02:51:00 PM  

Melanie, I'm terrified of paragraphs over four lines long. Maybe five. I don't know why. Visually, it just freaks me out to look at all those words mashed together!

spyscribbler 5/02/2009 11:55:00 AM  

Liz, there's a place for every style. :-) I do get annoyed at those buzzwords. I know "tighter" is an actual technique, but... it gets to be an annoying buzzword, after awhile.

I love your analogy to a puzzle!

spyscribbler 5/02/2009 11:58:00 AM  

Rick, that's another side to it. I don't know. It's that balance between protecting the art and letting things change. Each generation evolves an art. I imagine people feared the same sort of thing when classical music shifted to atonal harmonies.

On the other hand, giving in to the shift means readers will be sorta trained out of what reading is to us.

I don't at all know the answer, LOL!

spyscribbler 5/02/2009 11:59:00 AM  

That's cool, SS@S. The discovery draft has always intrigued me. I've never tried it, but it sounds fun. I thought I was never a plotter, but I'm realizing, lately, that I do a whole lot of work in my imagination before I set finger to keys.

spyscribbler 5/02/2009 12:00:00 PM  

Aimless, me too! I need change. I need to mix things up!

spyscribbler 5/02/2009 12:01:00 PM  

Robin, that makes sense. Plotting and pantsing doesn't seem to be an either/or, but a balance. Everyone has their own balance, and sometimes I think each individual story has its own necessary balance.

spyscribbler 5/02/2009 12:03:00 PM  

Marcia, that's AWESOME! I don't see my own progress, either. I've been meaning to go back and read through my old stuff, just to get reacquainted with who I am as a writer, what my strengths are, and see my writing growth/non-growth, LOL.

But it's hard to see by oneself.

spyscribbler 5/02/2009 12:04:00 PM  

Anissa, that is funny! I see the climax, but not the end. John Irving sees the very last page, which I find fascinating. :-)