Three Dirty Birds on Voice and Style

The Dirty Birds are Voicing and Styling all over James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication. This time, it’s chapter 9.

threedirtybirds-400|Master List|

Ana: Look, I styled my feathers blue for this talk.

Kate: Now Ana truly has tweeted until she’s blue in the face.

Ana: All for you.

Kate: 🙂  This was another fairly short chapter, but my favourite of the three we read this week.

Zoe: And what did you like so much about it?

Kate: I thought he had some good advice about letting go and just writing, and how style has changed and the whole ‘nuke all adjectives and adverbs from orbit’ was maybe being taken a little too seriously by new writers.

Ana: That’s a good point; never believe in absolutes. Never.

Zoe: I thought he explained voice and style well—two concepts that can be elusive to newer writers.

Ana: I liked how he differentiated between them. It’s not that obvious how voice differs from style, and he did a good job explaining his take on it.

Kate: I’ve always thought that voice stayed fairly consistent between books, but style would change, depending on the demands of the story. I like how he recommends emulating pieces of prose you really like, but not imitating them. Basically, figuring out what the author did that you like so much, then applying that technique to something of your own.

Ana: I used to do that unintentionally when I read something I really liked. There’s some chapters in my first novel, just by reading them I remember what books I was reading at the time because I kind of copied that style.

Zoe: I used to copy style when I was younger. Now I find that reading a style that excites me before I start writing opens me up to being more playful with my own writing, in my own way.

Ana: Nothing inspires me to write like reading a good book. It’s like “I wanna play too!”

Zoe: Yes! Exactly that. Bad books make me think, “I could do better than this,” but good books make me want to play.

Kate: Nothing like reading a book that gets you right in the emotions to make you want to rush to the computer and start typing. I didn’t agree that his first-person story, flipped to third, was actually better. I thought they were both kind of flat, to be honest, but the first-person version had more character.

Ana: I flipped from first person to third once because I wanted to add a second main POV. I really liked the voice I had for my first person narrator at the time, so I was reluctant to do it, but thought it was better for the novel overall. In the end, I didn’t manage to retain all of that voice I’d had at the start though. (Maybe a more experienced writer could have.)

Kate: It’s hard to retain a first-person intimacy in third.

Ana: It’s definitely not as easy as just flipping pronouns.

Zoe: I think first-flipped-to-third could be a good way to get someone who’s used to writing in first to see how to convey emotion in third without telling, and flipping any POV is useful for getting unstuck, but it’s definitely not something I would do just to do.

Kate: Stories happen in a certain POV because it’s the best one for them. Flipping POV isn’t something to be done lightly.

I like the bit on Similes, Metaphors and Surprises. Those are the bits that stick out in your mind, the surprising usages of words that say in better than any of the normal methods of stringing words together can do. (On a side note, anyone else keep reading that as Smiles?)

Ana: (Every time.)

Zoe: I guess my day wasn’t as happy-go-lucky because I just saw similes. 🙁

Kate: Poor Zoe. 🙁 No smiles for her. (I’ll give you one of mine.  🙂 )

Ana: This is why I keep posting stickers on facebook. Just to brighten up Zoe’s days when all she sees are similes.

Zoe: The “clutter and flab” section of writing books is usually one of my favorites, but the one here was a bit of a disappointment. 🙁 (But then if I had my way, the whole book would be about cutting clutter and flab. :D)

Kate: What didn’t you like about it?

Zoe: It consisted almost entirely of an example of his writing followed by an example of his editing that writing, and it was just “meh, whatever” to me. It was a case, for me, of too much show, not enough tell. 😀

Ana: Oh yeah, I remember skipping that section.

Kate: I liked seeing what he did for editing, but I’ll admit, I was disappointed there wasn’t much more to the section. Maybe some information on how he decided that each of those sections needed to be reworked?

Zoe: Or we could have used a third example: the sample text after he made the changes he noted. Because that’s the missing piece. He has “tighten” for a note in one place and “confusing” in another, but we’re left hanging as to what he meant by them, without a final section of post-editing text.

Kate: That would have been helpful. I liked the exercises, though I only tried one.

Ana: It’s kind of funny to give writers advice on how to write their writing books. 😀

Zoe: We should write that book. “So You Want to Write a Writing Guide.”

Ana: The Dirty Birds’ Guide to Writing a Writing Book

Zoe: Ooh. Even better.

Kate: Add that to the list.

One thought on “Three Dirty Birds on Voice and Style

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