1. schizo-analytic writer
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    schizo-analytic writer New Member

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    Stuck Between Writing Worlds

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by schizo-analytic writer, Dec 6, 2012.

    You know those people who don't really have a native language? Like they grow up in one country, learn that language sort of, and then they emigrate to another country, learn that language sort of. And they're left with 2 second languages, 0 native languages.

    On the one hand, I just can't stand the structure imposed on my writing by the generic standards of various academic disciplines - creative writing is such an important part of good scholarship I think, because facilitates creative thought and creative communication; I have peer reviewed so many essays where I can just see the author sitting there behind the words, seeing no need to come out and speak with their reader - it makes for a really boring essay and the impression that they're only writing because they have to. Needless to say, my academic writing is quite creative, often seen as eccentric.

    On the other hand, when I try to write creatively, to write fiction (don't get me started on the relationships between fact and fiction!), I feel I always need an argumentative goal, that I have to write rhetorically - I really struggle with simply trying to write something beautiful which will communicate something important about life to somebody - I'm always thinking, "how can I disguise my essay as a short story?" or whichever. But I don't want to write essays, I want to write short stories. Or novels. Or novellas. And there is a reason - that's for the Why Do You Write? thread.

    But basically, has anybody else undergone a transition like this, from somebody who writes a lot to somebody who writes a lot of fiction? My academic writing is ridiculously creative and my creative writing is ridiculously academic. While a little cross-pollination is good, I really want to find a way to write creatively without writing academically - later on I can implement more scholarship into what I write, but for now that's my best course. Thoughts?? Thx!
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i suggest you immerse yourself in the best works of the best writers of modern fiction... throw in some classics, too, for balance... constant reading allows good writing practices to be absorbed by osmosis, if you've a receptive mind...

    so, if you want to write fiction, concentrate solely on fiction and ignore non-fiction and academic works, till you've found your fiction 'voice' and can write confidently and effectively in it...
     
  3. popsprocket
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    popsprocket Member

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    I experienced something similar when I was going through uni. Even though I'd been writing for about 8 years at that point, my academic voice would bleed into my fiction voice. It just takes a bit of practice to develop two voices that you can keep separate without any issues.

    Just read and write more and more.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Two voices? At least!

    Let's assume you write in a number of genres. You might present a very different author's voice for your horror pieces than for your romances, and yet another for inspirational stories you submit to your religion monthly. Far-fetched? Not at all. Our own Terry Erwin writes fantasy with a touch or horror and faith-centered fiction. In fact, if you try your hand with several genres, you probably have the drive and the versatility to succeed.

    Then there is the matter of character voice. The ability to adopt, or at least to observe and present, a variety of distinctive personalities is unquestionably a powerful writing asset. It may literally be voice, in the sense of dialogue, or it could be body language and mood shifts that communicate the character's opinions, attitudes, and fears.
     
  5. popsprocket
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    popsprocket Member

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    I was referring to one voice being academic in nature and the other being entertaining in nature. Not necessarily a comment on limiting yourself to a single cover-all author's voice.

    Writing academically and writing fiction are two different frames of mind, it takes practice to separate them easily.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, but still applicable. We all wear different hats, and we all shift voices when we address different audiences. When I give a presentation to the department heads, as I did on Monday, I use the language and focus the values of business advantage. In another meeting with technical colleagues, I speak with the voice of an engineer and/or a mathematician. When I visit my mother, I speak as an artist and a photographer, or in one of the other languages/roles natural to her.

    It doesn't hurt to be aware of these mode shifts. If you are, you are less likely to "drift" into a mode foreign to your audience.
     
  7. Cynglen
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    Cynglen Senior Member

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    I really became a writer during High School, and that was mostly with persuasive, argumentative, and exploitative essays for class. I loved figuring out how to use language to my advantage while simultaneously entertaining the reader, leading my "matter-of-fact" works to be quite flourished in language. Once I reached college and my days became filled with nothing but math equations, my analytic writing gave way to creative writing. However, I still found the same general mindset worked: get my point across while making the reader enjoy taking time to view my work.

    So, yes, I am one of those people who's gone from a lot of writing to a lot of fictional writing. However, I'm not so concerned about avoiding crossing the "line" as you are. The goal of my writing is as much entertainment as it is message-delivering (sometimes leaning more towards one or the other).

    Obviously you know what you don't want to write like, since you've spent so much time reviewing bad papers, but do you know what the kind of "good" fiction you want to write looks like? Do you want Dostoevsky's dark and humanity-filled narration, Tolkien's epic adventures and witty humor, Homer's incredible grasp of detail and low-level characters, Swift's satire-in-a-children's-story tone, etc.? If you want to write in a non-academic style, then find a non-academic author you like and read his/her works to get all the examples of how you can write like they do, and gradually develop your own techniques as you grow as a writer.
     
  8. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    I never really understood the point of an academic essay. We, the student, are tasked with reading a piece of literature such as Hills Like White Elephants. Hills Like White Elephants is a story in which the reader's own interpretation of what is being presented is pivotal to what makes that piece good. Its the subtlety, the complexity of the dialogue, and what is left unsaid that makes it special. Yet in an academic essay we are required to argue, not present or discuss, argue, what the story is about. What makes it good. This methodology seems relatively counter productive when discussing art. What we should be doing is teaching students how to create works like Hills Like White Elephants, asking students: what did you notice, why is it interesting to you, and what did you like about it? Rather than hedging them in with these trivial essays.

    The greatest issue that I have with the academic essay is that it doesn't teach you how to write the thing that you are writing about. You spend hours picking apart every detail of the piece, only to learn nothing by the end of it because you're missing the soul.

    I'm fine with writing academic papers when discussing things such as law or science, areas in which the rules that govern the avenue of study are clearly defined (that statement deserves an entire other discussion when referring to science, but you understand what I mean,) But when discussing literature the academic paper falls short, because their aren't universal rules that govern what makes something good, and I feel like it is the purpose of an English course to help students to create the next generation of classics. I mean if you're going to study something you might as well teach the student how to make the thing you're studying while you're at it. Every other branch of academia does it, why should literature be any different?
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Rafiki - that's probably because English Literature is not about good writing, it's about the message of the book and how it is conveyed and its significance for the generation of people who would've read it at the time of publication. It's more about culture, politics and history than any discussion of writing quality.

    What you're referring to is Creative Writing courses, and in those courses you do learn to write what you're reading about I think!

    As to the OP - read a lot of fiction. You pick up the style that you read, generally, and personally I'd stop writing essays altogether if possible just to get it out of your system! There's something useful in essay-writing though - it teaches you how to structure something, and even fiction needs that. It might not be as linear but certain things still need to follow a certain order.
     
  10. schizo-analytic writer
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    schizo-analytic writer New Member

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    Wow, thanks for all the advice! Time to a) immerse myself in a whole lot of fiction, b) zero in on a style of narrative voice I like, and c) develop a baseline "fictional" voice from which to develop many others.

    Arigatou, sensei
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm curious as to what you mean by 'baseline fictional voice'... can't even guess...
     

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