January 20th, 2009


Thoughts on Writing #22: Changing Time, Tone, and Type.

Because we like progress around here, it's time to take a step forward and present the twenty-second essay in my ongoing series of essays on the art and craft of writing. Here's the precis, in case you're new around here: there will eventually be fifty essays, all of them based on my fifty thoughts on writing. (Past essays are linked from the list of thoughts as they're finished, thus allowing people to tell me when I contradict myself.) The essays are being written in the order of the original thoughts, to keep me from becoming completely lost in the twists of my own logic. It works. Mostly.

Here's our thought for the day:

Thoughts on Writing #22: Changing Time, Tone, and Type.

People will talk about 'authorial voice' and 'developing your own way of writing,' but the truth of the matter is that each of us will develop multiple styles of writing. They're going to be very different, and they're all going to be uniquely ours. The trouble is finding a way to force them all to get along with one another. That takes us to today's expanded topic:

Your writing style will actually change over the course of a single day, not just over the course of your lifetime. I write very crisp, sharp prose in the morning, and very purple, rambling prose at midnight. My sentences start turning into spaghetti around ten o'clock at night. A finished work is going to need to stick to one of these styles of prose, and I need to be aware of that when I'm editing, because otherwise, the transition can be so organic that it isn't visible until someone else gets a look and starts screaming at me for blinding them with adjectives.

A lot of people fail to account for what state of mind can do for their writing styles. They also fail to account for what state of exhaustion can do for their writing styles. This is, I believe, a mistake, because if you don't understand your own quirks, you're not going to know how to compensate for them. (As one of the quirkiest people on the planet, I get a lot of practice compensating.) So how do you identify your cycles? How do you compensate for the changes in tone -- and how do you learn to catch them?

That's today's topic. Ready? Excellent. Now let's begin.

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2009 is clearly my year.

So let's pause a moment. It's January 20th. I'm about to be the Guest of Honor at a truly awesome convention. My first novel comes out this year. I have stories appearing in two upcoming anthologies, one of which is going to help a dear friend in her time of need, the other of which involves wiping out the bulk of mankind. Researchers have sequenced the 1918 flu, because we know that never ends badly. Multiple awesome horror movies are slated for release. I have already been part of a mad-awesome concert. I spent New Year's Eve watching Freakylinks on the Chiller channel. This should have been sufficient proof that 2009 was, in fact, my year. It has been manufactured entirely for me.

Don't worry. I'll share. And that's a good thing, because here's some more awesome from 2009:

Scientists have discovered what they say is a completely unexpected new giant dinosaur that lived 70 million years ago in Argentina. Meet our new buddy, Austroraptor cabazai. He was the largest raptor ever known. I mean, five meters of raptor? That's a lot of massively predatory dinosaur coming for your tasty flesh, buddy. Thanks, Argentina! Also, as this is a totally new dinosaur -- relatively speaking -- it hasn't been on Primeval, and I'm allowed to have one. Hooray!

Oh, and also? The Black Death has reportedly killed at least forty al-Qaeda operatives in North Africa. Now, they're talking about bubonic plague here, which, as everyone knows by now, I do not believe was the cause of the Black Death. But they're so vague about the details that it could just be something cheerfully making itself look like the bubonic plague. PS: if this is actually the Black Death, and is actually a virus, rather than something bacterial, we're all going to die. So 2009 might also be the end of the human race.

I am okay with that, because this is awesome.