Who Wants To Write Like Jane Austen?


 

As a writer there are times when you feel as though you’re writing just isn’t good enough. You question the theme, the plot, the characters and your ability to tell the story.

This can happen during the first, second, or last draft of your manuscript. Of course it can definitely happen after you’ve published it but today we’re talking about the early stages of crafting your story.

You read over your manuscript and make notes in the margin with a tiny bit of confidence and this goes on for the first 100 pages or so.

The next morning you wake up early and prepare the creative side of your brain to tackle another 50 pages. You sip from an oversized soup mug of hot coffee while you scroll through emails because as a writer, 99% of your emails are from writing blogs. You search the subject titles for a bit of inspiration or a magical resolution to whatever it is you’re stuck at in your own phase of writing.

There’s one.

You open the email with a tinge of excitement thinking this might be exactly what you need to get the damn story finished. You think to yourself, I hope this inspires me to get through the next two thirds of the manuscript. And so you read the email that gives you examples from a Jane Austen novel on writing better description.

Obviously you read the example and it’s written in perfect prose and you know it’s the best writing ever. Why? Because people told you it was the best writing ever. History tells you it’s the best writing ever. Universities tell you it’s the best writing ever.

You read it again while you mentally compare it to your manuscript wrapped in your pretty hopes and dreams and then the anchor of the Jane Austen Titanic crushes you to the bottom of the sea of dreams. You are no longer swimming diligently to join the big fish of the writing sea, heck you aren’t even swimming with the little fishes anymore; you’re basically a scum sucker fish.

Then you realize you are a human being and not a fish; you begin to look around you outside the writing sea and you wonder, am I good enough at anything thus far?

After waddling in your self-pity, you decide to take a quick look at the way Jane Austen wrote. (I’ve never read her novels but I’ve seen the movies produced from them.)

You scan the first chapter of Sense & Sensibility and immediately you are bored. There isn’t much description of setting at all. You go to another chapter further in the book and still can’t find much description of anything except for the characters and that is very little – but there’s plenty of dialogue.

You think that perhaps it was Jane Austen’s first published novel so you go to Mansfield Park and read a little. Still boring and still not hardly enough description – lots of dialogue though.

My opinion of Jane Austen’s writing voice is a bit drab. She was long-winded with her paragraphs and dialogue. I couldn’t picture the characters and I could not get into the story. I felt as though I was reading from a journal or a first draft.

Was Jane Austen a great writer? Absolutely! But times have changed since the 1800’s. People have changed. Writing has changed and the readers have changed. There are more writers and more readers in which many different writing voices are heard and recognized and the readers have grown used to certain types of writers and the way they write.

It all balls down to the writing voice and the technique of the writer. There are readers who prefer a dialogue driven novel while others prefer more interaction with setting of a novel. For instance, there are people who like to listen to country music as opposed to other people rather listen to classical music. With that said, some people may understand my example and some may not. You get the jist of it, right?

So here is my advice; if you are a writer, do not compare your writing voice and technique to another writer. If you are a reader, accept the fact that each writer is a different personality, a soul unlike any other. If you, as a reader, like the author’s way of writing, great, by all means tell them and share it with the world.

Writers, accept yourself as an individual. Scrutinize your writing technique with your own set of ideals and not that of Jane Austen or anyone else for that matter. You are not them!

Imagine the world if every writer wrote the same way…how boring is that? Reading books would be a very uneventful thing to do. Imagine the book market!

Do I like Jane Austen’s writing? No. But I love British romance movies and I like the Jane Austen book-to-movies. I was never one for reading and comprehending Shakespeare but I like Shakespeare plays and movies.

Writing isn’t about how good one writer is compared to another; it’s all about engagement and the ability to put the reader into the setting of the story with the characters. Fiction readers want to be sucked into the story and at the same time be conscious enough to reach for their popcorn or bag of chocolate kisses.

I know I’ve read a great book when I walk outside feeling a part of me is still in the setting of that story interacting with the characters.

What about you? What makes you realize you’ve read a great book? And for those of you who have read a Jane Austen novel, were you actually engaged within the story?

 

Split Scenes and Layer: Repeat Until Done


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For the past two weeks, I have managed to find a few hours here and there to fatten up my new story although I have increased the word count only by a smidgeon. It hasn’t climbed much because most of my writing has consisted of adding review comments to paragraphs within each scene.

 

I start by splitting my manuscript into scenes and numbering them which took me about two days between my busy work-outside-the home schedule and other priorities that have cut into my writing time. Otherwise, this should only take a few hours.

 

After my scenes are split and numbered, I go through my handy-dandy index card file and flip through the revision and editing card bundles that I have accumulated and consolidated from writing professionals such as; Jami Gold, K.M. Weiland, Janice Hardy, Donald Maass, and James Scott Bell. (Memorize and familiarize yourself with these names!)

 

I take each scene and go through the card prompts where I make notes within my manuscript for added layers of internal conflict as well as external conflict. This part usually takes the most time but it is well worth it and to me it is fun and challenging. This step of the writing process is a great way to add layers to the plot and liven up the characters within their spaces and inside or outside their heads.

 

Janice Hardy from Fiction University recently posted an article titled, Do You Feel It? Writing With Emotional Layers. I read and re-read this post and transferred the prompts onto my note cards – her post is definitely something any writer can utilize.

 

Although, most of my scenes have what Janice Hardy informs, I still go through the individual scenes wondering if I can tone it up or tone it down, or tone it up then tone it down, and vice-versa. This is where I enjoy playing around with the possibilities even though I may have to cut a good portion of it later, or not. Just remember to stick with your plot.

 

Breaking the story into scenes after the first or second draft helps you focus exclusively on the characters and the setting they are in. You can see them interacting within the space more vividly, observe their body language, and engage one-on-one with their actions and reactions. It helps magnify their uniqueness.

 

Think of it this way.

 

Writing with emotional layers for each scene allows the writer to be both director and actor of their story.

 

The director is similar to the writer – adding props for the scenes, directing the actors within the setting and making sure the actors proceed according to the plot.

 

The actor is where the writer needs to become one with the character – they are the character. They channel into the character to absorb their individual personality, their goals, their emotions, their action and reaction within the setting.

 

Splitting scenes up and focusing on each of them with the hat of the director, then the actor, and back to the director is a way to guarantee an engaging story for the reader and that gives the writer the accomplishment they have worked so diligently for.

 

Studying the craft of writing from qualified professionals is imperative.

 

Since my first book, Attached, I have come a long way as a writer. The people I have mentioned in this post have helped improve my writing skills to better tell the story from deep inside and I mean really deep inside. I believe that a writer’s story comes from the soul more than just an idea from the mind when that story is written, or told, with as many as layers as the author can muster.

 

What about you? Do you have a certain writer or teacher of writing you follow and learn from? Tell us about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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