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…)
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…’
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 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.”
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
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
Please Preview my books:
Please Follow my Blog:
Please Follow me on Twitter: