Thursday, February 17, 2011

Style Changes

Over the last few weeks I've been going through the Talera trilogy one more time for the conversion from print to ebook. Reading the three works back to back like that has been fun, sometimes surprising, and sometimes I've just had to say "Doh!"

The "Doh" has come from the fact that in both Wings Over Talera and Witch of Talera I sometimes misspelled my own invented words. In "Wings," the city of Revenor is sometimes spelled RevAnor. In "Witch" the distance measurement of "tahng" is spelled "taung." I've even got a series bible where the correct spellings are listed. Why didn't I bother to consult it? I couldn't tell you.

The surprise has been in noting certain stylistic trends that have changed in my writing over time. I went from using very little italics for emphasis in Swords of Talera to using too much in "Witch" and backing off of that for the ebook. There's also something I've always done stylistically, and that is to repeat certain words to give emphasis in sentences. I might say, for example, "he was running, just running." However, I see that I relied on that element a bit much in "Witch" and am also backing off of that for the ebook.

At one point in my life I thought of a writer's style as largely fixed. Mine certainly hasn't been, and there are deeper changes than the ones I've mentioned above. That probably calls for another post.

In the end, though, reading through the Talera trilogy has primarily been great fun for me. I have to say I like them pretty well. I'm proud of them.

But how about you and style? Has your writing style changed enough to notice over time? Or have you noticed changes in the style of some writer you love to read? I'd like to know.



David Cranmer said...

I'm editing several short stories for my upcoming Cash and Miles antho. I've noticed in the earlier tales the dreaded passive voice and I used way to many adverbs. Isn't nice to be able to correct? (I heard Poe did quite a bit of updating as well.)

Ron Scheer said...

Smiled at your discovery of "misspelling" your own invented words. A colleague of mine created the language spoken in AVATAR and found that fans were studying it and writing him with questions. Sometimes he had to make up rules for why there are inconsistencies.

ivan said...

Friendly Note to David Cranmer,

The lucky world has entire essays by Poe himself on writing, and specifially, his own writing. You can probably google it.


You ask about style,

Seems when we all start writing, it's sort of Victorian, sort of Jane Austen: "Her answer was in the negative; It was akin to a lie; or 'We are absolute fanatics about playing whist'"--and all that.

We then go though our reading of the bestsellers of our times, and pick up the literary shorthand of a Hemingway, or the stream- of- consciousness of a Faulkner or Joyce Carol Oates...(I seem to remember entire passages of Wise Blood).

Very quickly though, we pick up the way people around us talk..Natural dialogue...We start to write American....Actually, my own style sometimes approaches ghetto..Maybe it where the most creative part of our culture lives!
And yet there was ghetto creativity long before rap, the pathos of Depression America in song and later of literature. (With Stenbeck?) And loneliness. so much loneliness.
The "sharecropper" white songwriter john Prine:

Make me an angel that flies from Montgom'ry
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.

Yep. Send me a cut-out angel.
Send me anything from your hand.
Just don't let me languish here all alone.

...Now how many words have we wasted to achieve such sinple, but striking poetry?...Especially if you play Angel from Montgomery on guitar and hit the F-chord right at "Angel." It is an accidental chord, a dramatic sudden mood shift from the G-chord and invokes an empathy, almost passion that tugs at our very heartstrings.

This is maybe what we are striving for. To take powerfully felt emotion and place it on the printed page, if not with tact, then with simple, evocative poetry.

...But have you tried writing poetry? It's impossible. :)

As for style, mine is certainly eclectic. :-)

j said...

I don't have a body of work like yours (unfortunately) but I can see changes in my writing style over the past three years of blogging. Sometimes it is all I can do to not delete old posts or edit them.

I watched a television show last night that you might appreciate. It was on the SyFy channel and was called Face Off. Makeup artists were creating characters for horror movies. It was really interesting!

Charles Gramlich said...

David, it is nice. I'd like to think I fixed all the problems but probably not.

Ron, lol. I have yet to have anyone ask me such a question. I would probably appreciate it if it happened.

Ivan, I have written poetry but I understand it less each time I try to do so. I certainly when I first started out writing sounded like whoever I was reading at the time. Now I don't, but even so my style still alters over time.

Jennifer, I've seen the previews for Face Off and would much like to see it. So far I've just not had a chance. It looks interesting though.

Deka Black said...

I write mostly for fun. But still, i noticed a thing: earlier i used to much the ",,," points. Lately, i do no tuse as often as earlier.

Drizel said...

Yes my style has changed through the years, heck it actually change from story to story..:)

I did notice a style change in an Afrikaans writer. I did not like how he changed and never read his work again. So I guess it can be a great thing but also a hidden evil..

Stay well friend.

BernardL said...

More polished, but I don't think I've shifted style.

Golden Eagle said...

I've noticed style changes in my own writing; if you compare something I wrote in a first draft, say, a year ago to what I wrote recently the latter is a lot easier to read.

David Cranmer said...

Ivan, I will look for them at some point. Thank you.

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka, I seem to be into using more ellipses these days. I have to keep an eye on that.

Etain, I noticed that I like Ray Bradbury's early writing much better than his later writing. He has changed.

Bernardl, It seems to be fairly little things for me, or even an "emphasis" of something stylistic that I used before.

Golden Eagle, it is nice to see that kind of improvement.

Lana Gramlich said...

Looking back at my older works sometimes makes me wince almost visibly. That's probably a good thing, however. It means I'm progressing. Yeah, yeah...that's the ticket!

laughingwolf said...

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose...

the more things change, the more they remain the same...

i like to think i change, here and there... for the better... but not sure, cuz i have no novels to compare

Steve Malley said...

I'm still in the middle of a deep and savage rewrite on my first novel, Blood and Skin. To say my style's changed since then is an understatement. Talk about derivative!

Even Poison Door, the first one I wrote where I started to hear my own voice- formatting it for Kindle and print, I couldn't help but look back at those long paragraphs of description or exposition and sigh...

Change is natural. :-)

G. B. Miller said...

I don't know if I noticed any kind of subtle changes to my writing style over the years.

Sledgehammer changes, absolutely.

I did develope a couple of distinct styles (I hope), one for blogging and one for writing.

About the only thing I've really noticed with my writing now compared to what I wrote even a couple of years ago is that I've made a visible effort in not being so verbose when it comes to writing scenes.

Overall though, I have noticed that I'm a lot more patient with my writing. Previously I had a tendency to blitz on through stuff to the point where it made absolutely no sense, but now, I've been forcing myself to think things through, especially when I'm doing stuff that I'd never done before (like world building).

Merisi said...

I love reading what you write.

Regarding your question about changes in style of writers I know, only one comes to mind, the German writer Arno Schmidt, but he is in a league of his own. Several of his books have been translated into English by John Woods (last I heard he is working on Schmidt's magnum opus, which would be an even greater accomplishment than the congenial translation of "Evening edged in Gold"). I could imagine that you'd find "Nobodaddy's Children" interesting, especially "Black Mirrors".

X. Dell said...

Never fails, does it. You read and re-read something you've written. You pick it back up years later, and see all of the things you wouldn't do now.

I don't know who said it, or who this was about, but I recall a story about an author complaining to his agent that his recent output wasn't up to his past level. He asked the agent over the phone, "Am I really getting that bad?"

The agent replied, "You're actually getting better. The problem is your tastes are improving."

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana Gramlich, I think if we get to the point where we think our older stuff is better than our newer stuff then maybe we should quit.

laughingwolf, I would say your writing, which you share with manic mondays, is improving for sure.

Steve Malley, I sometimes wonder about whether changes I notice now are attitudinal changes rather than some particular progression in writing level or skill. Interesting to consider.

G, I've gotten considerably better at having patience, of letting a story develop. I used to do the same thing as you, blitz through the story and make it fit what I started out for. Now I'm gonna let things grow more organically.

Merisi, I don't know that name but will have to check it out. Sounds interesting.

X. Dell, lol. Now that's an intersting take on it. I'll keep that in mind when I start looking back at my old stuff with nostalgia.

Cloudia said...

Interesting looking back on our own work. . .

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, it definitely is.

Tyhitia Green said...

Even though I only have one flash piece published, I have a couple trunk novels--and my style has changed. I was told by my friend who is an author that the first novel I publish won't be anything like my latter novels. I've really notice the change--and it's for the better. LOL. :-D

Ty said...

I recently went through and did some minor tweaking to some of my e-books, nothing major, but I had more than one of those "Doh!" moments. I use more italics now than I did when I wrote my first trilogy five years or so ago. And I'd like to think my writing has improved over all.

the walking man said...

Dunno if my style has changed or not. I don't pay attention to it much. I just know that when I want to put a piece in print some of it gets edited and some not because I don't see any flaw. I just write. *shrug*

Now when I give Porch Smoking to Michelle (cover artist for STINK) I am sure she will see many many, many, many, punctuation and, grammar flaws. hahahahaha Keeps her busy between classes.

Angie said...

The "Doh" has come from the fact that in both Wings Over Talera and Witch of Talera I sometimes misspelled my own invented words.

Eek! That makes me want to just crawl under my keyboard and hide when I do it. :/ It's definitely good to have a chance to fix that stuff.

My style shifts depending on what I'm doing. A scary paranormal will sound a bit different from a humorous contemporary, for instance, or even a humorous paranormal. Sometimes a particular story or character will just demand a different style, and I try to play along as well as I can. :)


Charles Gramlich said...

Tyhitia Green, I have one of those trunk novels too and I can see flashes of my current style in it but also lots of stuff that just doesn't work well.

Ty Johnston, I like the italics because it really lets you get the reader to emphasize just what you want to emphasize, but I do think I do it too much at times and it gets in the way instead.

Mark, Editors are good for that kind of thing. :)

Angie, I notice a big difference between my fiction and nonfiction style, although I think most of my fiction at least has similarities, even if they are in different genres. We writers may be too close to our own work to really see it clearly, though.

laughingwolf said...

thx charles, appreciate that :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, I am far less likely to write dialog in complete sentences since I read a piece by Al Guthrie calling attention to how rarely people do that. I also use far less adverbs and adjectives than I used to. I almost never use anything but "said" now and not even that if I can avoid it. I never use exclamation points. Back then, I did all of these things.

Jodi MacArthur said...

This post tickles me. That your style & technique is an ever evolving changing thing is exciting, because it means you are growing as a story teller, if you were to tell the stories in the same way with the same styles how boring would that be? I'll have to get these series when you re-release. It's been awhile since I've immersed myself into a good fantasy world. I think Sarah Ash was the last series, and I loved her work.

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, aye, tis true

patti, I only use exclamation points in dialogue. and yes, seldom use full sentences in dialogue. I still like adjectives though.

Jodi MacArthur, The weird thing is how I can actually see 'trends' in my work, say more italics at one point and less at another point. It's kind of interesting.

Mary Witzl said...

Yes, my style has changed, and thank GOD! I go back whenever I can bear it and read stuff I wrote years ago. It's almost always over-written, full of itself, cloyingly didactic and pretentious. Once in a while, I'll find a gem of a sentence that's got a great metaphor or similie.

I've learned so much -- that's the one good thing about keeping old stuff; you see where you've been and how far you've gone. And in my case, that's quite a distance.

Rick said...

Style changes? Yep. We change, so our writing should, too. Predictable is bad in the creative arts. Unless we get paid a lot! :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Mary Witzl, that's certainly true. My writing is generally much more clean now than it used to be.

Rick, that's true. Maybe like the guy doing the little blue dog images in his paintings.

Travis Cody said...

I've never really considered what my style is as a writer. Is it bad, not to really be aware of a particular style in your own writing?

I think I do fall into some of the pitfalls that inexperienced writers passive voice and mixing perspectives, and losing track of tense. But I don't think of those in terms of my style, because they are often just mistakes that can be corrected during re-writes and editing.

I'll have to give this style thing some thought.

Harry Markov said...

Style changes constantly. Whenever you read something new or think of a new way to work the words, the style goes through nuanced changes. As a general vibe, I have to agree that it is fixed, but if it's not moving a thing is dead. Only way ahead is through evolution.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Cody, because of my love for poetic prose, I think I pay more attention to style, myself and others , than many people do. I become very conscious of it.

Harry, I agree it changes, although I think the pace of the change slows down. Partly it's a matter of having consummed much material. The more you've read the less any single piece is likely to move you.