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Jay Lake
Date: 2008-01-21 15:51
Subject: [process] Consistency vs innovation
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Music:house noises
Tags:process, writing
will_couvillier asked:
Is it harder to change your personal voice, your working style, once you find something that works for you and you use it regularily?

Can something effective become a rut?

Somewhat paraphrasing my original response in comments, every single writer will have a different answer to these two questions.

Me, I fear the rut. In some ways I'm too predictable already. All writers have their favorite tropes, favorite themes, favorite character voices. That's a challenge, not to be repetitive. At the same time, in order to build a reader base (not to mention a fan base), there needs to be a consistency in the work.

So is something effective a rut, or is it a voice? I dunno. That's a balance which never stops shifting.

I don't struggle so much with changing voices and styles. I've always been something of a chameleonic writer. Where I sometimes find a need for effort is in reaching for specific voices. That's part of growth, though, for me.

You see the same phenomenon in bands. I really like Dire Straits, for example, but I know people who say that all Dire Straits songs sound the same to them. (Clearly they've never heard the Twisting by the Pool EP, but I digress.) There are authors, especially in Big Book fantasy, who read all the same to me. Yet that consistency of voice sells millions of copies.

I"ll probably never properly understand where the line falls. Which is ok with me. Write what I want to write seems the best prescription.

How would you answer his question?
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The Green Knight: Writing
User: green_knight
Date: 2008-01-22 00:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
To the first question, I have to admit I'm lazy. Once I've found something that works for me, I keep it - I have no interest in breaking my process; I'll find challenges soon enough.

Can it be a rut? sure. I think the danger happens when you write something that is safe (you know the world, you know the characters, you know roughly how the story will map out) instead of stretching yourself and writing the difficult idea in a world you might not entirely understand.

The perfect balance... I dunno. Ask me in ten years' time, perhaps.
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Lawrence M. Schoen
User: klingonguy
Date: 2008-01-22 02:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is one of those questions that hinges on whether the thing-which-might-be-a-rut is working for you or not. If it is, it's not a rut, it's voice. When your voice starts getting old and tired to your readers (i.e., not working for you any more), then we declare it a rut.

And, for the record, although I quite enjoy Dire Straits, I do find that their songs all sound the same to me. Or rather, they all sound different from other music in the same way. Makes sense? I can't really say because I have very little music in my life. It is an area of mystery to me.
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User: kmckiernan
Date: 2008-01-22 05:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If we've stumbled onto something that is proving to be effective, exploring why it's effective does not mean you're succumbing to "the rut." Seeking to explore and understand the depth as well as the breadth of "the effective" is an active engagement. Whereas, while repeating "the effective" over and over simply because its comfortable and/or easy (a.k.a. passive engagement) might not necessarily mean you've embraced "the rut," it certainly could limit one's potential for growth and evolution.
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User: mevennen
Date: 2008-01-22 10:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It can become a rut, yes. I fear laziness in myself more than I fear the content of the rut itself (I always hark back to Graham Joyce's mining anologies when it comes to writing: this is my seam and sometimes you bring up gold and sometime you end up covered in dust).

Some members of my writing group occasionally do study sessions on other writers and the conceit is to send out the details of the next session in the form of an invitation written in the style of the writer concerned. Liz Counihan did a very good job of mimicking me when they had a session on me. Use of the word 'lambent' featured heavily, IIRC. Oh dear. Oh well.
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