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.
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?