Friday, August 27, 2010

Craft versus Voice

A writer friend, Frank Dorchak, poses the question of craft versus heart of writing fiction.

I say both are important and many others have said it better:
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” – Lin Yutang
“When a thought takes one’s breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence.” – Thomas W. Higginson

Inkpot says: We don't write just to show off craft or just to share our voices and hearts with others. We write like addicts when it seems we should give up. Why? Because the writing itself is cathartic and cheaper than a psychiatrist and drugs – unless they are generic.


  1. Hi: I googled Sister of the Quill, and ended up on The Quill Sisters site. Later, I saw the URL below your post (in the PPW digest). This is a lofty subject, craft vs. voice, and I don't feel qualified enough to take a stand, but from my humble perspective, they're inseparable. It's like being a good writer and not being able to tell a story--it won't sell. Anyway, enjoyed finding this place.

  2. Karen, part of my post (maybe not as well done as I’d intended) also was in trying to impart an undertone about "becoming one" with your work and that writing can be many things to many people. That it's about beliefs just as much as anything else. For good or ill, we believe certain things...we take those beliefs with us everywhere we go. I'm not saying I necessarily believe one camp is right over another--though I certainly have a preference. In this case I'm asking others to examine their BELIEFS about writing. If one believes that one needs to write in first person for a genre, and another believes they need to expect this for a genre, then that is the way it shall be. But examine your beliefs on the matter and work within those beliefs--or change them. If you want to do something different, you obviously don't need that particular agent or editor. There's nothing good or bad about that statement, it just is. In the river of life, go AROUND the rocks. Do what you feel driven to do, and move on.

    I also tried to get writers to understand the need for becoming one with your work, rather than focusing so much on the intricate technicalities that really CAN (doesn't mean it will) deaden an effort. Sure, learn what you need to learn, but then try to let that stuff work on auto pilot, in the background. Yes, there is the rewrite phase where we employ all the tricks of the trade, but try to let the heart of a story shine through.

  3. And if you become one with your explains why you keep writing even if told you'll never publish. It is part of you being just like most other behavioral traits, just as a reformed alcoholic often finds something else to be addicted to. At least writing doesn't usually lead to the DTs. Karen

  4. Never publish has a far different meaning in the 21st century than ever in the past. Prior to Gutenberg's time and even for some time after, to be "published" meant you were either the church or a very limited nobility. But then, of course it didn't really matter because only priests and nobility were allowed to learn to read.

    It wasn't until the penny dreadfuls of the late 1900s that reading became an activity for the common man. (Some will say "but what about Poor Richard's Almanac" - even in the 18th century most readers were landowners and wealthy businessmen.)

    Even in the 20th Century, large companies and powerful people sought to control what was read, and therefore published.

    Perhaps the 21st century definition of "published" will simply mean "available to readers". A blog that only connects with 1/100 of 1 percent of the English speaking world, still has an audience of 75,000 readers.

    Nice conversation, Karen and Frank!

  5. some people believe in a god (or gods), others state there's no such thing. In stating there's one way or another to reach a "perfect" balance in writing seems quite futile, in that writing is an intensely personal endeavor for each writer, and how they come to tell their story is equally personal. arguments for or against one method over another is like a mobius strip...perhaps there's no answer but the one the writer feels most capable of accepting.