T.E.A...D.A.T.E...W.I.T.H...B.A.B.A...Y.A.G.A

BOOKS ....... FREE STORIES ....... TALES OF TAM YS ....... ARCHIVE ....... EDITING ....... SARAH


A Jumble of Tales

I am currently writing two manuscripts which are very different from each other not only in tone but style. So different infact that even I, the writer, think that they seem to come from two hands. I can of course write various books in different styles, but it's important to ME to have one clear voice, to be known for a certain way of writing. Like many women, I have had to struggle to define myself in most areas of my life, usually in the face of conflicting opinions and demands from other people. Writing is my soul's work, and as such it calls for me to have a clear identity within it. I want to write in such a way that when people encounter an excerpt from my works, they will say "that sounds like Sarah Elwell."


john bauer



Today I wrote here about the two manuscripts I mentioned above, and a third less developed one. I was partly expressing my inner turmoil, and partly hoping readers would say, "this one sounds like you," or "this one is best." Of course, few people comment on my blogposts even though many read them. That's okay. In the three hours it was up, I got two responses. One was along the lines of, "I love everything you write," which is always so exceedingly kind and much appreciated and also unhelpful. Another was from a fellow writer who said, "I can relate."

It's amazing how much difference it makes to have someone relate to you. This woman was able to put into words what my heart was trying to say, and I felt seen and valued. (She is, by the way, the lovely Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, a wonderful writer, poet, and mother.)

I felt seen and valued. Isn't this key to our best reading experiences? Yesterday, I wrote about books that changed my life. The novels that had the strongest influence on me were those which seemed to echo my own heart, even when I was deaf to that heart myself. The very existence of words and worlds which reflected my inner world gave value to me.

Sometimes that relatability comes from characters who remind me of myself. Sometimes it comes from a vision of life which I also have. And sometimes it's just a feeling - like the shadowed winds of Pern, the dream of flying, the longing to have someone smile at you or rescue you the way the hero does in a certain book. A reader recently told me that they loved Deep in the Far Away because it was real and romantic. I thought that was the best praise I'd ever received, and I vowed to keep it at the centre of my writing always after. Even the dreamiest, strangest book ... or the funniest, lightest book ... can have a real heart, something that allows its readers to feel seen.

I'm not necessarily any closer to deciding between my manuscripts. But I do know now why the decision is so difficult, and that is giving me important answers.

I've deleted most of the original post but will leave you with these excerpts from the three different pieces, just so you know what I've been talking about.


A. "Without stopping to change clothes or even put on a cardigan, I ran from the room and down the long swoop of stairs. My white nightgown billowed around me; my hair streamed down my back. It would have been quite cinematic except that, halfway down the stairs, I tripped over Anna's confounded cat and almost tumbled to my death."

B. "Alone and unknown beneath the floor, she ate her feast. Every mouthful was a moment, like light from a magician's opening hand or something drawn unexpectedly out of an acorn; every breath inbetween was peace. Afterwards, she drank cold chamomile tea from the jug she kept tucked at a corner of the bed, unbraided her hair, and lay back to dream. Mould specks made black stars on the cupboard ceiling. A spiderweb draped in one corner was her moon. Unravelled voices murmured through an air vent like the faraway poetry of forests. She remembered real moons, real trees. The world out there was a dangerous place."

C. "He looked wilder than the wild things of Sironet Forest, the black-fleeced things too shy to be named. He was beautiful, strange, dark-haired, calm-boned. On a thong around his neck were speckled feathers from a rare linel-bird, making a feral heaven against his breast. How he got them is anyone's guess. Picked them up from the roadside, traded them for a song, plucked them cruelly, caught them in a storm."

8 comments:

  1. I am having an especially hard time with categorizing, choice and the like lately. All I can say is that I understand what you are seeking...and that the first two excerpts caught me most...and that I do believe that those us who know you would say upon finding your writing "that sounds like Sarah Elwell."

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    1. Thank you :-) I appreciate your lovely note.

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  2. C. makes my heartbeat faster, and has me wanting to read more. also the one that reminds me most of you.

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    1. Thank you :-) Yes, I'm currently not writing C but I added it in because it's typical of what I think is expected of me, and because it's the sort of thing a lot of my readers like in other books by other authors - that earthy fairytale mythic kind of story. I appreciate your feedback :-)

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  3. Jeez Louise! (tongue in cheek here) If you leave a post up for 2 hours, and your readers are fast asleep on the other side of the planet, how can you possibly get a response? I often open my blog reader in the am and click your posts at first scan through, but then get to the disappointment of nothing when I turn the tabs because you've removed something.

    On my way out the door, so I'll come back in 2 hours and hope to have time to read the second half of THIS post. :)

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    1. Haha I know, I am terrible! To be fair, you didn't miss much, my thoughts clarified considerably in those two hours and you got the benefit of the delay :-)

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  4. She's baack!

    C. does nothing for me, really. A bit contrived somehow. A. could be written about/by me, LOL, B. is weird and a bit disgusting and definitely has my curiosity peaked for knowing this story deeper.

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    1. As it were I'm not a big fan of staying in character. Let yourself flow, grow and evolve. I always get bored with authors after a couple of books if they keep on keeping on with the same thing. Which is otoh probably why I'll never sell any paintings, I don't bother with repeats and most people seem to enjoy those, the familiarity. So the question is, do you want to be you or do you want to be popular? I made my choice in kindergarten and have stood by it. So I'm not succesful but I'm also not malnourished, so whatever...

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