Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Writers Society: Experiment

First, don't forget to enter my contest! You still have until Tuesday, but you really don't want to miss out. I give pretty good crits, I'm told. My crit partners may be biased, but some of them are published, too. So...yeah. *nudge, nudge*

On to the meeting! I hope you are all doing well this Friday. It's been the first whole week of lovely weather Utah has seen since, like, Fall. So I'm kind of giddy! Sun! Warm! Celebration! And a summer full of cool authors coming to sign their books here! Wee!

Whoa, excessive exclamation marks. But hey! This is Happy Writers Society, and I'm allowed to be EXCITED.

That, and I'm talking about one of my favorite things today—experimenting. Most of my books have grown out of me taking a risk, out of deciding to try something I haven't done before. For Transparent, that was not only an invisible MC, but first person present.

The invisible MC was crazy enough, right? It took a lot of work, a lot of time figuring out the mechanics and envisioning how she'd see herself and the world around her. I put off writing Fiona for a while, maybe 6 months, but eventually I just had to try it out.

And then there was the first present thing. I'd read some books where I hated it, and some that did it extremely well. It's not for everyone, but the pov gives an even tighter tunnel vision, so to speak. It puts you right there in the MC's immediate world. I felt like this would be a good perspective for an invisible MC, since the reader would have to be connected to her in a very different way than a normal person. I felt like the immediacy and tunnel vision would lend the right suspense for the story.

So I gave it a shot. I kind of sucked at it, but at the same time it still felt right for the story. That, at least, I was right about. Yeah, I had to redo the whole thing, but those elements stayed! And I did much better with them the second time around.

Experimenting teaches you things. Not only do I think it's boring to stay in the same genre, but I think trying new stuff makes you a better writer, even if you never end up pursuing that piece to publication. I've done a lot of things to change it up—multiple povs, sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, contemporary, third person, first, past, present, funny, serious, etc.

Each time, I've learned something I can always keep with me as I write. I've learned a lot about world-building, from mistakes and successes. I've learned that I can foster a different kind of voice and mood just by changing person or tense. I've learned to respect genres that aren't necessarily mine, learned to love what they bring to the table. I feel like I've become a better writer by stretching myself each time I write a book.

For my current WIP, House of Ivy and Sorrow, description has been my focus. It's a book that needs pretty language, and I admit I'm not that writer who can spin gorgeous words and sentences. I usually rely on voice, plot, and, well, weirdness. But my goal in this WIP is to make it beautiful in the description department, and holy crap it's hard. Sometimes I stare at the screen, knowing I need a unique description and having no clue what it would be. Revisions will be a beast, just because there's so much I still want to improve in that respect.

Anyway, I highly encourage experimental writing. It can be fun and low pressure. It can teach you many things. And growing can be fun! At least this part of it is fun for me. Not all growing is fun, mind you, but I personally find great joy in trying new things.


  1. One of the things I loved most about taking creative writing classes in college was that they really stretched me in new ways. Specifically, my short-short fiction class was really hard, but so helpful, since it taught me a lot of lessons about precisions. The longest story I wrote was only 3 pages long, but I sure learned how to cram a lot into those pages!

  2. You are a brave soul. First person present? Man, it is so hard to maintain. Children write in that tense all the time, and we teachers try to break them out of that mold. I'll give it a whirl, and see what comes out.

  3. I so totally GET this post. I write in third-person past's what comes naturally to me. Except suddenly for my WIP. IT decided it wanted to be written in First Person, Past tense.

    The BEST part: My MC has an awesome, hickish, uncultured voice.

    The WORST part: How in the heck am I going to get her THAT super important piece of information?

  4. Stretching is how one strengthens, after all. :)

    Btw, I just finished what I would consider a highly experimental work: THE EYRE AFFAIR by Jasper Fforde. That is some crazy stuff! Very imaginative and entertaining, especially for literature lovers.

  5. Great post--and I completely agree. I wrote quite a few short stories early on in my writing, trying different things with each. Different POVs, tenses, just stretching my legs to see what worked best for me. I've discovered that I'm horrible with third person! Now I've been writing first present, and I never thought I'd say this, but I LOVE it.

  6. I'm doing a similar thing with my WiP. Usually my stories are VERY plot driven, but I wanted to write a quieter book which was more character driven. It also has an emphasis on pretty descriptions. It's hard, but it's making me a better writer. Plus it's fun!

  7. My default mode actually is first-person present, so writing a book in third-person past is so difficult, but with some stories that's what works best and I have to do it.

  8. I know what you mean about the beautiful language. I'm revising a earlier WIP and it utilizes more lyrical prose. We'll see how it goes...*fingers crossed*

  9. This is so appropriate for me! I am on my fourth novel now, and the first one has undergone so many changes like this one. With my second novel, I actually re-started the novel three times. I hated the main character the first time so I changed her for the second draft 16 chapters in (yup, had to start over), then got to about chapter 20 when I realized I had to tell the story from her daughter's POV (and rewrote it again from scratch).

    After wondering what was wrong with novel #1, I realized it was POV, and as soon as I started rewriting it (almost from scratch), it became SOO much better!

    I've only done present tense with one of my novels, but it NEEDED to be... POV affects affects tone more than anything else, and I find myself affected by tone as a reader.

    I also tend to be plot-driven, so your earlier post on increasing the stakes for your characters (and being mean and making them suffer) speaks volumes! I so love this blog!

  10. I've written my manuscript in three different tenses and the one I ended up liking and found that I had a knack for is not the one I would have expected.