Questions for Anne Lyle

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,405
Location
Highlands
Hello Anne. :)

I've just picked up The Merchant of Dreams, and what strikes me immediately about the writing is how crisp and clear and polished it is.

(Anyone else can see it by using the "Look inside" feature at Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0857662775/?tag=brite-21)

My question is: how difficult is it for you to achieve this?

I ask because as a relatively new author you don't seem to struggle to say what's important. You also have a really clear and engaging voice. All too often something comes up as recommended, I check the first page, and give up within a few sentences.

How much of your voice is natural expression, how much is honed through rewriting and editing? Simply put: how come you're so good at it? :)
 

Anne Lyle

Fantastical historian
Joined
Sep 3, 2007
Messages
1,440
Location
Cambridge, UK. Or London, c.1593 - some days it's
Define "relatively new" :)

True, I'm relatively newly published, but I've been writing for literally decades - I just didn't finish a novel until 2010! On the plus side, this means I had loads of practice at writing scenes and chapters and generally honing my prose, both through belonging to a writers' group and through private study, i.e. lots and lots of how-to books! (I strongly recommend Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan to anyone who struggles with description, for example.)

As for how much editing I do...it depends. Firstly, when I'm "in the zone" the words flow pretty smoothly and end up needing only light revision - and that's a product of the long practice and study mentioned above. A good example is Mal's nightmare in Chapter VIII of The Alchemist of Souls, which is pretty much as I wrote it for NaNoWriMo, apart from a bit of editing to transform it from a flashback into a more disjointed dream sequence.

Secondly, I'm very much a "top down" reviser - I start by making sure that the story makes sense and that I'm not contradicting myself (which can easily happen when you're writing a draft over a course of weeks or months). Then I focus on consistency of characterisation, character voice, whether I have the right emotional "beats", and so on.

Finally I do a fine-tuning of the prose, where I check for over-used words (in the pre-copyedits draft of The Merchant of Dreams, there was an awful lot of rummaging - in saddlebags, chests and other containers!) and generally polish it all up. I try not to over-polish, though, as I think it can drain the life out of your writing.

So to answer your final question: because I worked damned hard at it for years, not because I have some kind of miraculous talent :)
 

Coragem

Believer in flawed heroes
Joined
Nov 4, 2010
Messages
518
Location
I started writing a door stopping wedge of a sci-f
So to answer your final question: because I worked damned hard at it for years, not because I have some kind of miraculous talent :)
Oh how I wish I'd started writing earlier. Being utterly honest, I think I have "some" talent, but it's so meaningless without the years of work.

Anne, when do you think things clicked into place with your writing? What do you think most helped that happen? What factors do you think are most important in taking your writing to a high publishable standard?

Coragem.
 

Anne Lyle

Fantastical historian
Joined
Sep 3, 2007
Messages
1,440
Location
Cambridge, UK. Or London, c.1593 - some days it's
Anne, when do you think things clicked into place with your writing?
Finishing a first draft, and realising I didn't want to leave the story alone until it was publishable. Not sure which was cause and which the effect, though!

What do you think most helped that happen?
NaNoWriMo. I really needed a kick in the pants to get me to push through the 20k "I'm not sure where I'm going with this" barrier :)

What factors do you think are most important in taking your writing to a high publishable standard?
Hard work and practice. Honestly, I'm not sure what else to say. I read lots of books on writing technique, joined a writers' group and got critiques, and my writing just gradually got better over the years. But at some level you have to have an ear for language, and be able to tell the difference between good and clunky prose. Until you have that skill, you're unlikely to improve much!
 

Coragem

Believer in flawed heroes
Joined
Nov 4, 2010
Messages
518
Location
I started writing a door stopping wedge of a sci-f
… not because I have some kind of miraculous talent :)
But at some level you have to have an ear for language …
Thanks for the responses, Anne. I have to say, I think you definitely have a lot of talent. As you say, an ear for language. You also appear to be amongst a lucky minority capable of writing both quickly AND to a very high standard. Sure, you worked very hard but, as with any top athlete, the grain of talent needs to be there to work on.

I guess all writers have talent in some areas more than others and have to strive to develop the aspects that don't come so easy. A major target for me seems to be to try and be a bit more like Anne Lyle! Not getting into Elizabethan history etc. but looking for some of the discipline you got from NaNoWriMo – I need to start looking like I can actually finish a novel before I die of old age!!!

Coragem.
 
Top