Tuesday, 1 July 2014


I'm worrying this month about the notion of not writing well enough. Two things have sparked this. One is reading through the 2014 Best SFF as part of some reviewing I'm doing. Another is working through some re-writes on a piece. The one is about the idea of all this incredible writing right in front of me, while the other is about being told outright that something needs work. Which is an occasional occupational hazard.

But there's the other half of that, which is about other people's standards. At what point does wanting to write to the standard of something else spill over into not wanting to write like yourself? Not wanting to be yourself. I know I have a particular voice, so at what point does that become a problem? How much is it worth changing things, and at what point should you push back and say that doing so isn't going to work.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think you have to stay true to your own voice, just improve upon it. Changing it would only work if it was a natural change in you.

L.G. Smith said...

I suppose there is a certain pressure to conform to genre standards. Creatives like to push those boundaries, though, and when it works it's great. Like steampunk. Someone went off the rails the first time they came up with that combination, but now it's grown into a legitimate sub-genre. I guess the only way to know is to use the old stand-by of getting feedback from people who understand your genre and what you're trying to do.

Donna Hole said...

I have similar concerns this month. If I could answer my questions, I could answer yours.

Questions are good. They make you think is certain directions, especially when you don't need specific answers. Just voicing those rhetorical questions can be enough sometimes.

I hope so anyways :)

Elizabeth Hein said...

I agree with Alex, stay true to your voice. That being said, perhaps figure out what the absolute rules of your genre are and stick to those. The rest of the standards might be mere suggestions.
Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hi, Stu! Thanks for dropping by and commenting on my blog. :D

About finding your own voice...I know I have lost my voice several times--particularly after reading a selfhelp book on Writing. Tough stuff, that's for sure.

One thing for sure that I have learned over the past 20+ years, is that to be true to yourself. If you are not, that's when Writers Block will rear its ugly head!

I love what Alex said, "I think you have to stay true to your own voice, just improve upon it. Changing it would only work if it was a natural change in you."

So true!


S.K. Anthony said...

It's hard not to wonder how others will perceive our work, but I think staying true to ourselves and our voices is better. If it's not natural our work might suffer. A challenge is good, if you look at it that way, but it must fit the story, too. Best of luck dealing with this month worries . . . I can definitely relate.

Toinette Thomas said...

This is a good topic. I have this issue a lot. Sometimes matters of style get confused with what's proper/grammatical and what’s not.
Also, there are different standards for different genres, so unless you're genre smashing, your voice should be a personal reflection of that genre's standards.
I'd say, get multiple genre specific options and then make the ultimate call yourself. Be true.

Lexa Cain said...

Improving your writing usually means strengthening your voice - but if people you trust are saying the voice isn't working, then you should think about changing it - or getting new CPs! Good luck!

cleemckenzie said...

I had coffee with a high school writer just last month who voiced the same concern. He asked if I ever tried to copy famous writers' styles, so I'd be successful.

"Of course," I said. "I try that all the time."

Then I assured him, I failed all the time, too. In the end you can only write your way. You can only be who you are. Improving your writing is possible and essential, but trying to write in a way that's not your own, won't work.

Jennifer said...

Stay true to your voice. Sometimes the suggestions of others are for clarity, but if you have to change to fit someone else's standard so much it's not even recognizably you, then what's the point?

Christine Rains said...

I agree that you need to stay true to your own voice. Only you can write that. And the whole writing business is subjective. Go with your gut.