Loosening the Grip

First off, I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends out there in the USA. Here's hoping you count your blessings and give thanks for all the wonderful things that have happened to you over the past year.

I finished NaNoWriMo 2006 with 50037 words and 11 days to spare. On schedule and before Thanksgiving. Huzzah! Go Team NaNo. However I noticed something interesting happening in my writing style this year. And it distresses me a bit. My writing has gotten much more rigid and focused. I try and keep a certain pace, making sure I hit every "plot" point in my outline or... create a new point that sounds and works better than the old. Unlike past years where I had an idea for a story and a start and an end in mind and then tried to meander through some world to tie the two ends together so they became a novel.

I can write and write and write without stopping to think. Which is exactly what a good NaNoWriMo is, to silence the inner editor so that you can constantly write and work towards the final two words of your story, The End. But I'm noticing that this alone tends to produce staleness and blandness in my writing. At my friend's house, we wrote and shared paragraphs and ideas from our novels and her writing was much more relaxed and fluid and fun. Mine seemed old and uptight and well, bland. I wanted to write what she had... her's just seemed more fun and interesting than my psycho-dark fantasy thing.

I think what I do need is to loosen the grasp on the pen and look through things in a new light again. But I am not sure how or what to do? How does one put the *umph* and fantasy and fun back into writing again. Even when your whole life and world revolves around writing every day. Because that is what I do, write at the day job and write a lot when I get home. I wonder if a part of my stigma is because my writing at work tends to be more focused and concise than the fun, personal writing I want to see develop from my mind and scratch across the written page. So, this time I am turning to you for ideas. Do you have any ideas of how you would loosen up some stiff and dull writing? I'm all ears.

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Write a Children's Story


Try writing something totally different from your preferred genre. Write a light children's story.

Imagine a group of small children sitting in front of you, big eyes wide, hanging on your every word as you read your story to them. Point out the pictures that illustrate your book. Imagine them saying "oooh!" at the right spot. Imagine them clapping when you reach the end and close the book. They should be, maybe, four years old or thereabouts.

What would you do to keep their interest? How would your 'voice' change from your regular 'voice'?

Shake it up, do something different. Stretch.

As for subject matter, well, it could be anything. I tried writing stories about a cat I had when I was young. I wrote about her misadventures with hot coffee and trying to drag a frozen chicken off the counter to eat it.. She had a habit of bringing back small mice she'd nabbed outside, and putting their little heads on the front step as presents for us.

Try it. It won't take long and it will change your perspective a little. Thinking about how you would read the book aloud to an audience of children changes the language you use when you write. When you can 'hear' what you'd say to the kids, go back and read what your friend wrote. Hear the difference there. Then go back to yours and think about how your friend would write the same passage. How is her voice different and what would she say to get across the same point your passage was making?

And even if it doesn't give you any significant insights, it's still a fun change of pace.


I agree with shris, write

I agree with shris, write something different. Also, I've always found it helps to not focus on style, that might be affecting you. Just relax, and write something for fun. Maybe a few pieces of flash fiction, just about stuff totally unrelated to your normal genre.

I don't know if you're a

I don't know if you're a tech writer or not, but I've noticed that, for some reason, tech writers have a harder time of it writing fiction than other folks who don't have that as a day job. No idea why. (I'm not saying every tech writer has a problem or that if you're a tech writer you will have a problem, just that many of the ones I've known to try their hand at fiction do have trouble.)

Maybe some of the suggestions here - writing something completely different - might help. Do you study fiction writing? Perhaps doing the exercises in a craft book that speaks to you might help settle your creative mind into a new place.

Some that I've used in the past are:
- Ursula K. LeGuin's Steering the Craft,
- John Gardner's Art of Fiction,
- a recent edition of Janet Burroway's Narrative Fiction - that last is used as a college text so may be geared more toward academic fiction than you'd like*

(*The Gardner as well, but it's older and I remember it as less a text than an aid.)

Don't do anything rash with your current work though! It could just be the end-of-project blues and in a few weeks it'll seem much better to you.

Just wanted to add that I

Just wanted to add that I know many folks read craft books on fiction writing, so that advice might seem a bit specious. What I meant was that we as writers need to take the next step because often the biggest benefit comes from actually doing the exercises. It's not so much that we don't understand the craft intellectually, but that we need to take that knowledge from the intellect and place it where it can do some good - into the 'intuitive' part of the creative mind.

It's just my take on things, but it seems that if we just leave the information in the intellect, too often all that happens is that it gives the internal editor ammunition.

Ok, I've stopped digging myself into a deeper hole. ;)