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I received an e-mail the other day asking about how an author can balance having a voice, giving her novel a tone, and allowing her characters to have separate personalities. I’m pretty sure I read the question at least half a dozen times before I had any semblance of an answer.
Balance is one of those things in writing that takes a while to really get down—I’m still working on fine-tuning the balance in my writing myself. Our prose should have voice—but not so much that it drowns out our characters. We need to include detail—but don’t want to bombard our readers with too much. We need a good plot—but a well-formed plot means nothing if our characters are flat.
I don’t know about you guys, but my first drafts are rarely balanced. Thinking back to the first draft of my current WIP, I had a lot of plot and action and barely any voice. My love-interest was as cardboard as it gets and my antagonist… well he had potential, but some of his dialogue was embarrassing in retrospect and his motivations were shaky, at best.
Finding balance the first time around in your writing is really hard, and I don’t think most of us get it right immediately. And that’s ok.
Balance doesn’t often flow naturally—it takes some tweaking. Think about anything you’ve ever done that required balance—balancing a soda can on its edge, for example. Chances are, unless you have some ridiculous ninja-like balancing skills, you didn’t just set the can on its edge and walk away—you held onto it and tweaked it until it felt like it might stay, then you let go.
Writing is the same way. Nine out of ten times, the first thing you throw onto paper isn’t going to be perfectly balanced. It’ll take revisions—a round where you focus on getting the voice right, a round where you get the details pitch perfect, another where you focus on dialogue and so on and so forth. In my experience, anyway, balance doesn’t come right away—you tweak your manuscript in every which way until— aha!— you get it right.
It’s not an easy thing to master, but no one ever said writing was easy.
Have you had trouble finding balance in your WIP? Tell us your experience!