When there’s been a hole in your writing

Lighthouse at night at end of pier. Text: What can change a writer's voice and style? Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU STILL WRITE LIKE YOURSELF?

The Holy Grail for authors is to be recognized from their writing, because it’s distinctive and personal and memorable. It’s called voice, and goes along with having a style, sometimes for series, sometimes for all your books.

It is an interesting milestone when you find you have developed such features.

And the question I’ve been asking myself since all the garbage happened (starting way back in November of last year) is: Am I still myself as a writer?

Life events change people

And writers are people.

On some of the days I’ve been able to write since the side effects of medications have mostly been out of my system, I have noted with some pleasure that I seem to have learned how to do writing the way I do it – faster.

The process hasn’t changed – I gather a lot of bits my plotting process has decided will be in a particular scene, fill in some lists I have made for myself with such things as ‘What is the heart of this scene?’ and ‘What would happen if this scene weren’t here?’ and such, and start organizing the material into beats which make some kind of sense to me – and then the actual writing seems to flow, dreamlike, from all the little pieces, as they show me where they belong.

Maybe it’s faster because I’ve stopped second-guessing myself: most of the material will fit in, and occasional bits will be postponed, and very rarely a piece will be added to an earlier finished scene.

But I question such gifts.

Is it real?

And is it still me?

I don’t want a reader to notice that something ineffable has changed, and Book 2 feels wrong.

I won’t know the answer to this for a while, but I made a plea to my beta reader to be especially aware of the concept of change as she reads the new material (my method is to send it to her, polished, a chapter at a time).

I’m not sure what the heck I will do it I’ve been changed in my writing by the recent health events. I will accept that maybe the speed has come because I value my tiny bit of functionality even more, now that I’ve experienced how it can disappear completely for months on end.

But first I have to know.

I await her judgment. If she’s not sure, I will get more readers from those who loved PURGATORY, and beg them to look at a couple of chapters.

It’s a scary thought – and one of the things that’s been worrying me along with the obvious aftermath to health problems.

If you notice

anything specific in my NON-fiction – comments and posts and emails – that makes you wonder whether I’m still here, please let me know.

I have literally run to the end of my DIY ways: I can’t tell. And I don’t know why I’m slightly uneasy, unless it’s simply the kind of unease that makes you question EVERYTHING once you trip over something that shouldn’t have been there.

Oh, and: has this ever happened to you?

 

 

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6 thoughts on “When there’s been a hole in your writing

  1. Jennifer

    You will be much more self-aware at present, Alicia. It’s inevitable, given what you have just been through. I agree with Janna’s comment: a writer’s voice does change over time (at least, in my reading experience). I’m so pleased to read that you are writing again.
    (((hugs from Australia)))

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks, Jennifer. The writing is good – I feel a fraud when days go by and something else gets that bit of time. The awareness of every little bump should stop. I’m just surprised that the bit of exercise I’m doing is not settling sooner into a less painful, fitter state – I’m doing the same exercise level for several weeks, and increasing very slowly. More pain than I’m used to is bad for sleep – and then the writing suffers.

      It’s been an eye-opener as to how little it takes to disrupt a good pattern, and how hard it is to get it back. That should also be better when and if we move – and worse before that!

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  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    Good points all, Janna.

    What I am REALLY worried about is it getting WORSE: since my brain essentially went to its off position, did I lose stuff I didn’t want to lose? The ability to write good dialogue, or to twist the plot as I do the writing? The vocabulary? Have I gotten simpler – not in a good way?

    That’s what I’m worried about: significant decline in whatever it is I use to write.

    It will go some day; I hope not soon, if I still have it.

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    1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

      No, you haven’t gotten worse.

      In your non-fiction, you show the same dexterity of thought, the depthful insight, the thoroughness, and the ability to parse the many facets of a complicated situation that you displayed Before the Maelstrom. You will be bringing all of those abilities to bear on your fiction.

      It is worth remembering that, for most writers, the second book is anxiety-provoking in an entirely different way from the first one. With the first, one wonders if one really can pull it off. Will I be able to finish? Is it actually any good? Will the readers like it?

      Well, you have those answers now. You did finish it. You wrote the whole thing. You even revised it as needed and self-edited it. It’s complete and out there. Furthermore, a lot of people have read it. And reviewed it. Most of them liked it. Some of them loved it.

      All of that adds a unique pressure to the second book. You’re more experienced, so the very process of writing has changed a little. In your case, you’re faster. But the change – even a good change – sparks worry.

      You have an audience now. It may be small, but it’s there. These people liked/loved book 1. You worry that book 2 might disappoint them. That’s pressure.

      You have changed, also, merely by virtue of being a published novelist rather than a wannabe. Which generates cause for more worry. I have changed. How will my writing change in response to that? Of course, you also have the immense experience of your medical saga pushing that questions, but you be having many of these worries even were the recent medical history not present. The medical stuff amplifies the other normal 2nd-book concerns.

      But your writing is fine, and you as a writer will also be fine.

      My 2 cents. 😉

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      1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

        I’m very reassured by your words. And you’re so right: I did it. I know where the rest is going. And I am pretty sure I can write it.

        The pressure is there – but I think I’ve had one of the severest tests I could have had, and I seem to be still here.

        I’m entitled to many years of perfect health (hehe) from the sents having opened up the clogs, and I expect to use them. I’m getting more exercise than before – even if it still exhausts me. That MUST get better.

        I am going to leave the worrying to someone else for now, and just get on with the jobs. Lately, every time I find myself becoming down, I just work through the process, move back to gratitude and joy at being alive and functional, and keep going. The alternative doesn’t work for me, and takes too much energy.

        Just don’t stop praying.

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  3. Janna G. Noelle

    I think it’s inevitable even under the best of circumstances that a writer’s voice will change over time. I chose to write the first draft of all three volumes of my trilogy up front (before bothering to do anything with the first volume) partly due to this concern, but in retrospect, I think the bigger part was more so to ensure I actually could write a trilogy.

    Nothing about publishing is speedy – even self-publishing does take some time to do properly – so there will always be time lags where one’s voice will evolve. Even if one doesn’t read a word during the intervening time (which I personally thing is a terrible idea; writers should always be reading), there would still likely be some change because we as people are always changing. We’re not the same people this week that we were last week, and our artistic expression will reveal this. I honestly don’t know how much readers notice or care about this. I’ve read series that had very long gaps between books. Even if I did notice a slight difference in voice/style, I’m usually much too excited to finally have the next book in the series to be put off by it so long as the story itself is solid.

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