IWSG—An old-fashioned style in a modern world

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s time again for the monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which convenes the first Wednesday of every month.

I’m still really floundering when it comes to marketing myself and networking, though I’d like to believe things will pick up when I have physical copies and am able to start distributing to indie bookstores. And given how my brain is wired, it’s not exactly second nature for me to go around asking people to promote me. It seems best to preface such a request with a line like, “I hope I’m not overstepping/asking too much/being presumptuous.”

It took awhile to mature and develop as a writer, so learning how to market myself is probably similar. As a Who freak, I can’t help thinking of how Roger Daltrey didn’t start out with the greatest range. The difference between his singing in 1964-69 and everything since 1970 is amazing. It took touring Tommy worldwide to give his confidence a huge boost, and that in turn improved his singing.

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I’m also painfully aware of how much of my writing style is out of step with modern styles. I’ve mostly only read older books my whole life, so I naturally picked up an old-fashioned style. I never got the memo that modern writers are discouraged from using adverbs, speaking verbs beyond “say” and “ask,” directly telling the reader anything, using third-person omniscient, having an ensemble cast, spanning many years in one book, or deliberately writing a very long book.

It seems like a lot of people have no familiarity with third-person omniscient anymore, and so genuinely believe they’re being helpful when they say a writer is “head-hopping,” or pose a question like, “How would [Name] know this?” or “Would she really think of her cousin by his full name?” Tell that to all the writers who wrote third-person omniscient when it was still the default.

I’ve definitely learnt to modify my style to adhere more to modern standards, but not in a way which diminishes my own voice and style. I use adverbs when they’re called for, instead of wasting 5-20 extra words. I use different speaking verbs to enhance the writing. And yes, I know someone can’t literally smile, laugh, or shrug a line, but my understanding has always been that a character is speaking while smiling, laughing, or shrugging.

I hate caveats like “That book probably wouldn’t have been published today” and “That was just the style then; people today have shorter attention spans.” So? Good writing will always find an audience. We shouldn’t have to kowtow to modern trends just to try to get noticed. I actually find a lot of the books coming out of the huge publishing houses lately to be rather corporate and flavourless, and find many of them to be indistinguishable.

I’d rather be one in a million than one of a million.

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12 comments on “IWSG—An old-fashioned style in a modern world

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    I’ll agree with that final statement. Sometimes it seems like books are just being cranked out by some giant publishing machine and author names are just slapped on them.

    There are readers for every style in every genre so I think you’ll find your audience if you persist. You will have to keep marketing in order to find that audience.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  2. You’ll still find your audience. And that you can write in third-person omniscient is amazing, because I couldn’t.
    It’s hard to ask for help with marketing, but don’t be afraid to. We are here to help!

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  3. Loni Townsend says:

    It’s tough when the primary source of feedback is focused on matching trends rather than the actual writing. Sometimes, it’s more productive getting feedback from people who are only readers and not people who’ve studied the different writing forms. Then you can work out mechanics of story and character, without having to worry about the technical details like smiling a line or limited perspectives.

    Best of luck!

    Loni

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  4. Chrys Fey says:

    I find it interesting to read books of all different styles. It’s like an adventure to me. 🙂

    I second Alex with saying that you shouldn’t be afraid of asking people to promote you. Go to all the bloggers you know who do promo posts for books and author interviews and send them an email. They get them all the time, so it won’t be out of the norm and you won’t be overstepping any bounds. All you have to do is politely ask if they are interested in promoting your book and they will all most likely offer you a spot. 🙂

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  5. jamieayres says:

    Wow, I love that last line! I think I’ll tape that up in my classroom 🙂

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  6. L.G. Smith says:

    I agree there is a corporate culture surrounding the major publishers these days. In some cases, it’s contributed to some bland books getting a lot of attention. Smaller publishers seem to be a little less averse to risk, though, and occasionally put out some great stuff.

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  7. Yeah… I’ve had a little guff for taking on a time-period appropriate voice for my historical series. It used to be told first person, and so that was the only way it made sense, but since transitioning to 3rd… *sigh* You can’t win them all, eh?

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  8. Nicki Elson says:

    People use the term “head hopping” without having any idea what it means — I agree that they seem to have forgotten that 3rd omniscient is a perfetly legit perspective. And yeah, sometimes an adverb simply gets the job done more efficiently and so is absolutely justified.

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  9. We all have very different writing styles and I think that’s great! I like writing different styles and ways someone told a story. Be proud of how you write – someone will love it!

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  10. Morgan Shamy says:

    Good writing will ALWAYS find an audience. And you are SO UNIQUE, Carrie-Anne. Definitely be proud of who you are and what you write and trust in your talent and magic. It’s clear you’re something special!!!

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  11. Good for you for making up your mind instead of conforming. You will find an audience and your blog presence definitely creates a team on your side who’ll help you promote.

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  12. I always write in 3rd person limited. All of the books I read are also written in 3rd person limited. I had no idea people were writing in 1st person XD I think it’s popular with the YA crowd? Well head hopping can still happen if you are writing 3rd person limited. I read a story where the person was writing 3rd person limited and swapped POV 16 times in 3,000 words. It was exhausting as a reader. You can switch POV with 3rd person omniscient, but you can’t get as much inside their head. That’s why i like 3rd person limited. I switch POV’s at scene breaks. So does Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) and Atwood (Year of the Flood). And write what makes you happy. Cormac McCarthy has gorgeous prose, and is an esteemed writer but he’s not as popular as Stephanie Myers.

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