My Writing Style & Substance

My Writing Style & Substance

by BR Chitwood

For the record: I’ve written twenty books, many of them fictional but based on actual criminal events and my intent was to use as much of the true data about the event, that is, the crime itself, forensics, police data, some author-embellished narrative pieces of media accounts of the crime(s); I’ve written stories of love and romance, mixed with mystery and suspense, some with historical backgrounds, science fiction, some that had fanciful moments; finally, I have written two memoirs that convey my life’s journey – warts and all – and some of that bio-stuff doesn’t embarrass me in the least, though it might have during the time it was occurring, with its romantic and nomadic relevance, my ‘searching period’, as it were.

For anyone who might be interested, number twenty-one’s first draft is getting closer to its second draft, and, maybe, a possible third, yet, by then I can promise myself and anyone there will be no fourth.

‘Style and Substance’ can be a heavy couple of issues to put into a blog post, daunting for the guy writing about S&S, to hold readers, and other writers rapt with some really fancy finger-tapping on the laptop with a plethora of high octane words and phrases describing what those two Esses mean to him.

Might as well add gambling to that romantic and nomadic above, ‘cause I’m going to try’…

For me, Style and Substance in my writing has a rather simple explanation that covers three areas: 1) Plot(s); 2) Pace; 3) Resonance. Mind you, I said I was going to try…what I mean is, I’m not writing a dissertation for a Master’s or a PhD … that’s way out of my league. I’m a pedestrian writer who once taught Advanced Writing to high school seniors who were on their way to college – bright kids who, in the beginning scared hell out of me with their beautiful minds. Those were the days when there was a shortage of teachers, and school district superintendents would hastily make decisions on first impressions, particularly if the ‘good-looking’ guy sitting across from them had great cum laude college credentials and an AB degree.

(Smile, your hyperbole niche is on display…)

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Generally, I believe most writers believe they do their phrase-turning and word choices as well as authors turning out ‘best seller’ novels…several names of author-friends of mine come to mind, but I won’t dwell there. The fact is, with millions of books printed every single year, and millions of writers who join the horde – see my first sentence in this paragraph. (Talk about ‘glut’ in the market.)

Add to that the seeming aura of mysticism from the publishing world – a la, how to write a ‘query letter’, how to(s) up the grommet from the arcane council – I know, sounds rather like I’m unduly bitter.

Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for me, writing is my therapy – sort of, like, writing becomes a ‘private session’ with my own personal Shrink.

Bottom line, do not stop believing in your ability as a writer. We perhaps never get published, but think about what you leave for your children, family, the few loyal followers, and, who knows, some well-known authors have found publishing homes after all their allotted orbits are complete.

Onward to my enlightening ‘3-course words of wisdom…’

Plot(s):

That parenthetical (s) means to me there are likely a number of sub-plots that will come into play when all is written and final edited…If I’m writing a ‘Mystery/Suspense’ novel inspired by actual crimes, I want to be true to all aspects of data connected to the case via local and national newspapers, special police information, evidence, forensics, television, and library microfiche.

For example, my fictional narrative, “Daddy, No!” of last summer’s true and tragic murders of a Colorado mother and her two small daughters (ages, 3 & 4) by the father/husband. That terrible reality stewed in my mind for some time, and I finally had to write about it.

The first few chapters set in motion that tragedy, those merciless and mindless homicides, but my major fictional story-line covered the ‘Life in Prison time’ that the narcissistic SOB would spend in a bleak and dark Colorado prison…time the killer had not officially started at the time I began writing the book.

So, I opened the book with what I hoped would be a vivid and truthful depiction of the vicious homicides, presumed demented reasons behind them, and the raw and awful evil of a monster.

The remainder of the book, fictional in the narrative, deals with the daily prison time and my own FICTIONAL plans for the beast that could kill so easily.

Pace:

Pace is very important and it is an almost inherent trait in a writer, an ability to keep the reader locked into your words and phrases by the tenor and tone of your narrative voice.

I believe, I hope that I’ve grown in this important aspect of writing. Going back in time and reading some of my early prose and poetry, I can in my mind see the growth in my writing pace. Whether my muse teases me with banal platitude or not, I’m reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s assertion on the banality of awkward praise: “a passage of platitude which no critical prejudgment can force us to admire.”

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Do I think pace can be achieved by writers who are devoted to growing and becoming better at their craft? Of course, I do, even, those Writers who will not be talked away from their lofty writing dreams, not even when acclaim and the denouement of a huge publishing house contract finally arrive.

We many writers believe in our skill to turn a phrase, to make words near-musical to readers’ ears, and many of us give-up the fight and return to other dreams. Most of us stay the course and find therapy .in our writing. I know that I do. My long bony fingers will have to be pried away from the laptop when my scheduled passage to another adventure calls me away.

Pace – Pace – Pace. Give it all you’ve got. Fill a line and paragraph with power words and images to keep the reader turning the pages of your book

Resonance:

In the background of the scenes in which you put your characters, good and bad,  are the readers’ hearing the music in their minds you’ve created with your words and images? Are your words in your lines and paragraphs building to crescendo? Are they keeping the readers eagerly turning pages to see what comes next on the ensuing pages? In the next paragraphs and chapters?

No, no, don’t leave! Tis but a ‘play on words’.

If you will, remember one of your favorite all-time classic movies, say, Gone with The Wind, or, Sound of Music. Do you remember how the music so beautifully built the scene you were watching? How it brought tears, laughter? How it resonated with you?

If the scene you are writing portrays two in love having a disagreement on some issue until it builds to an intense anger, have you turned the phrases, used your colorful word power, and created the appropriate music for the reader to get the full impact of the scene?

(C’mon, man, music is not part of the writing ‘gig’.)

 

(Okay, just give me a moment to get over my ‘hurt feelings’…okay, they’re over.)

Some kind followers of my writing have indicated there is a literary flair to my prose, and I’ve taken the remarks as a positive reinforcement meant to encourage me to go on and continue to grow as a writer. I like Classical Music with my ballads, so that might account for the ‘literary flair’.

Of the soon to be twenty-one books, over 400+blog posts, poetry, songs, some I humbly believe were worthy of traditional publishing. They are all self-published, and on Amazon and other sales channels.

Finally, I am generally a Pantser, with some Plantser leaning. After I build my good and bad characters with the attributes that come to me, I allow them to create the paths I am to follow – with options to change the course in later drafts. Always, I try to remember the music playing in the background, blaring trumpet, tenor Sax, and soft violin…and I match the words of my players with the music I hear in my mind.

What? You didn’t know?

Well, before you laugh it out of your system, give my idea of resonance a chance. Think of it as focus hocus-pocus if you must, but, be daring, try it, and watch the word count grow.

I’ve got a book to finish.

BR Chitwood – April 16, 2020

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Synchronicity, Style, Substance

Synchronicity, Style, Substance

Okay, what is this guy writing about now? The alliteration is fine, but what are these ‘Title’ words supposed to convey?

If I saw this title occupying space on my lap-tap as a blog post, my first impression would be, “Ah, someone is about to enlighten me on ‘writing’, ‘music’, something about the world of artistic endeavors, fundamentals that might be important for those pursuing careers in those areas.

Well, whatever, I’m going to risk what  barely usable sense I have  to coordinate the title above with my writing, what I perhaps strive for when pecking on these keys…so, here goes…

‘Synchronicity’

With ‘Synchronicity’, I’m loosely using Carl Jung’s conceptual rendering  of what he called  meaningful coincidences if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related…

Don’t worry, I have neither the brain power nor the patience to delve into Jung’s Analytical Psychologist’s mind, but I do like how Jung’s concept fits into my little package here.

So, in my writing experiences, my books, my blog posts,  flash fiction, poetry, short stories,  I brazenly use Carl Jung’s concept of ‘Synchronicity’ to describe my near paranoid need to relate human exceptionalism, foibles, tragedies large and small with the first word in my above title. In building a character, I like to go as deep as my experiential history allows me in bringing out those character traits mentioned above, through the personality and events which deepen the fictional characters’ wonts and personae.

Why?

Because, I believe that most writers seek to find themselves as they pick through the traits of her/his characters. I’m fond of saying: ‘I find pieces of me on and between the lines of what I write’. That is why the first ‘S’ in my title above dips in and out of my stories, embellishing and making the narrative hopefully more readable and enjoyable. For many writers, this ‘S’ is natural and automatic.

For beginning writers, maybe this mind-wandering can help a bit.

‘Style’

‘Style’ is of course an individual thing.

For me, that ‘S’ comes out in my writing as perhaps too personal at times, too humorous, too deep and at the point of coming across too Sophist. too ‘clever’ and specious in its verbiage. I especially enjoy writing in the ‘first person’, and I can get so wrapped up in stylistic ‘cuteness’ at times that makes editing a real chore.

I’m not suggesting here that I do not like my sometimes folksy ‘Style’, my attempts at a modicum of humor, and/or my serious in-depth look at the evil doers of the world. I like my style of writing and it won’t be changing until my next Life…

Now, that’s a ‘happy thought’.

Beginning writers will find out at some point in their careers if they have the manuscript of which those main-streams publishers are searching, or, they might prefer going the self-publishing route.

‘Substance’

‘Substance’ is the liquid in my ‘bottle of wine’, my words that fill the reader’s eyes with real or fictitious occurrences that make the mind quake and the heart rise or slow in palpitations… my words that are the emotional events that cause a reader to stop momentarily in mid-paragraph, to re-read a line, a section that moved them with either smiles or tears.

‘Substance’, together with ‘Synchronicity’ and ‘Style’, if woven in a believable tapestry of drama, humor, emotions, events that give the readers’ Souls a chance to cry, to laugh, and/or rejoice, you are a writer, my friend.

Even as you read your manuscript, make your editorial changes, given it all the ‘spell-checks’, diction-checks, reality-checks, re-read again and again, and know in your own heart and mind that it is better than good, then, send it off to an agent and/or publisher only to be rejected, remember, you are but one writer of millions who must wait for your turn on the publishing ‘wheel of fortune’.

If you know your writing is good, do not give up.

Go to your next writing project.

Write for you!

One day, it could be for the world.

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Billy Ray Chitwood – January 22, 2020

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