Today is the first day of the ancient Roman New Year, so happy new year, kids! That is all I have to say about that. Okay, don't turn your back on folks named Brutus, either. Which reminds me of this joke:
Brutus walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, "I'll have a martinum."
The bartender says, "Do you mean a martini?
Brutus says, "If I'd wanted a double, I'd have said so!"
Oh, that one just slays me every time. Latin jokes are hi-sterical. And now enough of this ides of March stuff.
Today, I think, I want to talk about voice. My last novel was written in a sort of mashup of the styles of Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, Herman Melleville and the King James Bible. Which was a lot of fun and, I think, appropriate for the story I was telling, but it was exhausting to maintain and a few steps removed from my sort of normal prose voice, which is similar to but not as chatty as the way I'm writing this very minute.
The book I wrote before the last one had a sort of modernized Elizabethan English prose style, based as it was on Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Again, that voice was appropriate for the tale but it wasn't my voice. It was me doing a voice, doing an impression of Shakespeare, kind of.
The next book I write (and it could be any one of three novels at this point; I haven't truly decided) is going to be in a modern American prose voice, by which I really likely mean a mid-20th century prose voice similar to Hemingway or Chandler or O'Connor, or possibly what I really mean is the writing will be similar to mid-20th century translations of 19th-century Russian novels, because I think that's really where my sort of bedrock, basic writing style comes from. Or not. I'm not actually certain about that.
My point, however, is that the next time I seriously pick up a pen to write, I'm not going to be attempting to create any historical mood or sense of place with the prose style. I did that for two or three books and I'm tired of it. Now I just want to write in a clear, elegant manner. It's true that none of the three ideas for novels I'm considering is actually set in 2011 (one's in 1914, one's in 1923 and one's in 1790), but my current approach is to be a guy in 2011 writing about previous time periods, not to have the narrative seem to really "live in" those time periods. That may be a mistake, but we'll see. Since I don't consider myself to be a writer of historical fiction, I don't think that it matters. The tale and the telling are the things, not any sort of nod to ideas of history.
But right now I'm in that sort of fumbling about in the dark stage before I've actually committed to writing a specific novel. It's like being in heavy fog. Yesterday at lunch I sat and wrote out a rough outline of one possible book. It was not very good, frankly. I realized that I don't know enough about the ending in order to start writing. Though, truth to tell, I might not let that stop me this time. I might just throw all of my rules for rational writing to the wind and just grab a pen and see what happens. After all, I lean most strongly toward writing not a novel but a novella right now, and not even something that would be for publication. I'm possibly burned out from the last couple of years of writing Serious Literature and maybe, I think, I might want to just have some fun and write something frivolous and possibly not even very good. We'll see. Yesterday Domey mentioned that he's not really writing with an eye to publication right now and he's happier with his work than he's been in a long time. I am envious, so I might follow his example.