Friday, May 8, 2009

Switchin' Up Ye Olde Blog Chain

Archetype (Carolyn) chose the topic for this round. And not only is the topic about keeping things fresh and churned up, but our chain has recently gone through an overhaul as far as the order goes. Now the uber-awesome Michelle is before me and the ever-wonderful Annie is after me. Be sure to go to Archy's post to start from the beginning.

Here's the topic: How do you keep from telling the same story over and over? What are your tips and tricks for finding fresh ideas and adding new twists to your work?

Um, I don't? I've written lots and lots of things. 4 complete novels in various stages of editing, revising and curing. I'm writing something new right now. I've started and abandoned half a dozen other stories. I've written oh, maybe 4 short stories. So how in the world do I keep things fresh?

Not very well. Sometimes I'll think, "Oh my gosh, this sounds exactly like Control Issues." Or, "Freak! Gabby did this in Elemental Hunger."

So I have to stretch myself. I don't like it. It's like that wheel of torture on The Princess Bride. I feel like that. Then I realized (when I was looking for a pic) that that thing isn't really a wheel. So that sort of freaked me out. All this time, I thought it was a wheel. Well, there are wheels in the picture, so use your imagination.

Ahem. Back to keeping things fresh. I have two things I try to do:

1. Listen to my characters. Kat had a super-fantastic post on characters and letting them drive the story. This is what I do. The characters for each novel should be authentic enough to propell the story in a different direction. From the things they say, how they react, to what they choose to wear/eat and what their motivation is should be enough to lend diversity to your stories. I feel like I've talked a lot about characters this week. Click to meet Jag and here for dialog.

2. Decide on my style of writing. I've written some novels where it's very straightforward, just tell the story with all the commas in the right place. Heck, I even used semi-colons. Other things are more literary. Still others are more...something. In between? Maybe. But I try to mix up the styles a little bit, so it's not only the stories and characters that are different, but it's the actual writing that is different too.

My writing style is most often influenced by what I read and/or my mood and/or whether or not I have Ginger Ale in the house or Adam Lambert on repeat. haha.

So I read The Book Thief and went through this period of mourning decision that I would try to write more literary. Elemental Hunger is in this style of writing. It lends a different twist to the story--and to the writing. The story is unique because of the arrangement of the words I chose to tell it.

Then I read Wintergirls. I so want to write like this. My current WiP is sort of in this type of writing where it's all angsty and periods and commas and stuff aren't really that important. A semi-colon would never be invited to this party. We'll see how it goes. Already it's making the writing different. The way the characters are "allowed" to speak and narrate makes a huge difference, and that makes a unique novel with a different twist. It's not necessarily the idea. It's all contributed to the writing style.

Okay, three items. Oh, come on. You knew it was coming.

3. Write with the intent to delete. No matter what, I just keep writing. Sometimes this means major deletage if things don't work. Whether that be plot items that are too similar or voice that's too similar, it doesn't matter. I am not afraid of the delete key.

So what do you do to keep things fresh? Sometimes I use Febreeze and my daughter refuses to go a day without spraying the Lysol. Four-year-olds are funny like that. Too bad those aerosol sprays don't work in Word.... kenyit


PurpleClover said...


Sorry having a Princess Bride moment.

Anyhow, love this advice. Especially the "Write with intent to delete". This is what I do. I know it will suck while I'm typing and if you saw my rough draft you would cry. My best chapter is my first one because it is the only one I've edited and I continue to get great feedback on making it better. But you can't move forward unless you have something to work with right??

Let it suck, and then start trimming away. ;)

beth said...

As I'm not published yet, I'm ok with repeating some things--maybe it will work better in this story rather than that story. Once I am published though, I will have to not repeat myself, so what I'm doing is trying to develop characters with different motivation. Then, even if the situation becomes similarly, they'll react differently.

Lisa and Laura said...

How amazing was Wintergirls?? Her style is so fresh and her characters are so real it's scary. I will never forget the moment I got to those blank pages. Chills.

Rebecca said...

Like I have room to talk - I've only completed one novel so far!

Still...I have five more started. And they are all completely opposite from one another and fresh, well at least they are to me.

When an idea comes to me I start typing, even if it's a scence smack in the middle, I get it out so I can build from it later. That helps me stay fresh and work on what matters at that moment. I'm a jumper but I know that scares some people.

I do have a plan in place in case I see my work getting dull and redundant. Switching it up from beloved first person POV or past tense. Eekk, I hope that day never comes!

Love the pic!!

Eric said...

Great post. How do we get involved in the blog chain anyway? I'd love to be a part of it.

Tess said...

Yes, yes....I had that 'The Book Thief' moment as well. You know, the one where you are sobbing at the end and your 14 year old daughter asks why you are crying and you can't decide if it is the beautiful and sad ending or if it is the whole amazing book or if it is the realization that you will never write anything like that in your life.

Well, that was my moment at least :)

And, shout out for Princess Bride - Wesley was the 'Edward' of my generation!

Michelle McLean said...

Ooo, I love the writing in different styles idea. I guess I sort of do that with my different genres, but that is a great idea for fiction writing. I'll have to remember that one ;-) And deletage...yes, deletage is always good for freshening things up :D

Sandra said...

I like your idea of switching writing styles. Of course, if you're writing in character, your style will shift to reflect the POV.

WindyA said...

Awesome post. Great advice, I know some of this I was doing already without really defining, but it does help put things into perspective.

Anonymous said...

I knew you'd come up with something "fresh" to say on this topic!

I love the different writing styles thing - I am going through that now, 'cause I am always influenced by what I read!!!

Nice job!

Kat Harris said...

Write with the intent to delete.

YIKES! You mean we're allowed to do that? :-)

When I was about 15 years old and started writing for the fun of it, I took pride in the fact that I hadn't yet had to throw out a page. Of course, part of this pride stemmed from the fact that I was writing on a typewriter -- remember those? -- and ink was expensive then too.

Now, I've tossed out enough words to make the 15-year-old writer in me curl up in the fetal position, suck her thumb and search for her happy place. :-)

Great post Elana!

Windsong said...

Very nice list of ways to keep things fresh. Fortunately, my characters are always yammering at me. I've never thought about writing with the intent to delete before. Good thoughts!

Mary Lindsey said...

"Write with the intent to delete."

That's why you have such cool story ideas.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I love that you play around with different styles of writing - that is a really great way not only to stay fresh, but to constantly challenge yourself as a writer.

Carolyn Kaufman said...

Oh yes, I do that -- writing madly and shutting the critic up by telling it "we can always delete." And I swear to you, that stuff the critic is freaking out about is often the best.

Annie Louden said...

But I hate deleting! Although, I guess I can just move everything over to a new file and never look at it again.

I also loved what you said about changing up your writing style. It's a good trick.

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