IWSG: When’s It Ready?

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Each month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gives us a question to answer. I usually forget about the question, or I choose to ignore it because there’s something else I want to/need to talk about. But this month, the IWSG question gets to the heart of my chronic insecurities.

When do you know your story is ready?

Short Answer: As soon as I have a story that’s ready, I’d be happy to tell you.

Long Answer: My Tomorrow News Network short story series has been “ready” several times now. The first time, my stories were ready because:

  • I’d set self-imposed deadlines for each story. When a deadline came, whatever I had had to be good enough because I needed to move on to the next story.
  • The problem was that most of my stories were rush jobs. They felt amateurish to me. Even though I’d created my own world populated with my own characters, at times my stories read like bad fan fiction.

So I worked with an editor and did a lot of studying on my own. I learned a bunch of writing rules and editing techniques (remove adverbs, avoid the verb to be, cut your manuscript’s length by 15%). After all that, my stories were ready because:

  • I’d fixed the specific issues my editor had identified, I’d cut my manuscript’s length by the recommended amount, and I’d conformed my writing style to the rules I’d learned. My stories definitely felt more polished, more professional, but….
  • I realized that my stories now suffered from something that I now call generic narrator syndrome. I can’t put my finger on what defines a generic narrator, but I know it when I see it. I think it happens because when everyone follows the exact same writing rules, we all end up having the exact same narrative voice.

So my challenge now is to establish a unique J.S. Pailly narrative voice for my stories. Not sure what that means. Don’t know yet what differentiates my voice from everyone else’s. But I think I’ll know it when I see it.

At that point, my stories will be ready. I hope.

* * *

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

28 thoughts on “IWSG: When’s It Ready?

  1. There’s a woman in one of my critique groups who hates everything (or appears to). Her praise is rare enough to flatten the receiver. When SHE says something sounds polished – it’s done. By this benchmark I finished one whole story this year!


  2. I’ve come to the conclusion that much a a writer’s voice comes from which rules they follow and which they don’t. If you can “tell” something in a funny way, for example, it can often be better than “showing” it following the rules. Try breaking some rules and see what you beta readers say about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. On the rules, I think it makes sense to try to understand why each rule exists. Then you’ll know what you’re giving up if you break one. Some rules appear to be the utterly arbitrary preferences of current New York editors, and only apply if you want to get published through the traditional route.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about your generic narrator voice. It will develop naturally on its own. One big problem that seems to show up in a good deal of self published work is writing that tries too hard to adopt a certain kind of voice, probably one the author intensely admires, but just doesn’t seem to suit their personality.

    OTOH, it does make sense to think about the voice of your current viewpoint character. Even if you’re using third person, it’s most likely third person limited to one character’s viewpoint, at least for the current scene. A hard bitten detective’s viewpoint should sound different than a female hippy’s. (Unless the hard bitten detective *is* a female hippy, which would be an interesting viewpoint.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On an intellectual level, I know the “rules” are just guidelines. Unfortunately, I get hung up worrying about these rules, so I change everything around, and then I’m unhappy with the result.

      There are certainly some writers that I admire. I wish I could write like Frank Herbert. But what I’m trying to do right now is just be authentic to myself and to my characters. So long as I do that, I’m sure this generic narrator thing will clear itself up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. George RR Martin (the Game of Thrones author) once admitted that he wished could write like Jack Vance, but after trying it, realized there was only one Jack Vance, and that he needed to write like George RR Martin. Now many people wish they could write like George RR Martin.

        (Myself, I just wish I knew which thesaurus Vance used.)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I understand completely what you say about generic narrative voice. I worry sometimes that my own novels suffer from being all to alike in voice. But then maybe they buy my books because they like my same voice all the time. Conundrum.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Voice can be so difficult to capture. I want to think, if you really, really know your characters, which takes a lot of imagining and planning, then their voices may come naturally.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m trying to make sure my characters sound like ‘them’ rather than ‘me’ (and then there’s that other gender narrative). As someone else has said you really do need to know your characters. Best of luck with it all James! It’s good to meet you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really know what you mean about the generic voice. I think of it as “Internet voice,” kind of the way so many videos are edited and look the same. It’s amazing how hard it is to get away from that. I know when I go back and read things I’ve written that sound that way, It sort of ruins all my work, and I have to go back and edit. Good luck with your writing. Keep up the good work, here’s to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hope you’re able to pinpoint your voice and break out of that generic narrator. It’s good to learn the rules but it’s funny how those rules can sometimes get in the way. I try to avoid it a bit by writing like you’d talk, doing character interviews, have my character’s back story influence how they react, talk, think, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great to “meet” you this month, James! I’ve had the same problem. You can edit a story to the point that you edit out your own voice.

    Good luck with your stories. Hope you find the balance between edited just enough and over-edited.

    Liked by 1 person

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