C Is For Consistency

If you’ve read my last few blogs posts (mainly What To Do When You’re Uninspired and 5 Sure-Fire Signs That You’re Procrasta-Writing) you’ll know that I’ve struggled to write anything besides blog posts for the last two months. Some of that has to do the doubt that rears it’s head when starting a new writing project, but the majority of it has to do with consistency.

The lack of having a fictional writing project to work on saw the daily writing habit I’d built up over the last few years fall by the wayside. Sure, I’ve still been churning out a weekly blog post, but what used to take me a good solid day has been happening in little bursts across the majority of the week whilst I spent the rest of my precious writing time invoking procrastinating classics such as the sudden need to clean every room in the house. I’ve been consistently avoiding writing when I should be consistently at my keyboard and working on the one thing I actually miss doing.

So as I push myself to get back into the swing of things, here are some other key areas that can be helped by invoking the ABC’s of writing and making sure C is for consistency.

Consistency With Your Writing Routine

Some writers write daily, some Monday to Friday, others just on weekends. They write sun up to sun down, during the magical hours when children are at school, five am before having to get ready for work, during lunch breaks, the hour-long train ride to and from work, or nine pm to two am when everyone else sleeps. They have a day of the week and a time during the day or night when they can write—and they do it. Everyday. No excuses.

This type of consistency allows for plots to be planned, characters to be created, endless edits, the killing of darlings, the slaying of repeats, and books to be written.

It doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing routine (unless you want it to be), it just has to have some consistency (daily, weekly, monthly) and involve some actual writing (a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter).

Consistency With Your POV (Point of View)

One aspect of writing that really does well with consistency is Point of View. If you write from only one POV then your job is done. If (like me) you prefer multiple points of view, then you need to learn to be consistent with it.

The key to this is to stick to a specific number of different points of view (spoiler alert, it shouldn’t be too many) and to consistency pull off the POV switch. POV should change with a scene or chapter break so the reader knows that they are now reading events from a different character. If you aren’t consistent with this, you’ll risk confusing the reader and the dreaded head hopping between characters.

Consistency With Your Characters

Besides ensuring your characters are consistent in appearance, dress, characteristics, personality, and traits, you can also use consistency to make an impact.

For example, let’s say that you have a character who never takes things seriously. They avoid responsibility, don’t show up for the important things, and they always call the MC by a nickname. It’s consistent throughout the whole book and the reader becomes used to this nickname calling, no-show of a character. Then during a big moment, that character shows up and they call the MC by their actual name! The consistency becomes inconsistent—and the reader takes notice. Consistency with your character has set up an expectation, and when that is shattered, it leaves an impact the reader won’t forget.

Consistency With Your Voice

Writing a book is a big challenge and can go on for years (and years and years), during which time you will grow as a writer. The last chapter in your book won’t be anything like the first chapter or the middle chapters. Your writing voice will vary, especially if you wrote chapter five three years before the epilogue. Inconsistent voice can jar a reader and may be something you don’t even notice because you’re too close to the work. Have a beta reader or friend read your MS and highlight any parts where your writing voice changes. Then, work through the story from start to finish (yes, once again for the millionth time) and focus on making your voice consistent.

Consistency With Writing Mediums/Genres

The final key area applies to those who write for different mediums or genres, and know the value of keeping the consistency within them. If you’re a multi-genre writer then your romance novels are going to be very different in terms of style, voice and plot compared to your sci-fi or murder mystery books. The same goes for writing a book versus a blog post. My blog posts are different in tone and style to my YA novels because that’s what the medium calls for. Just as a freelance writer would adjust their voice for different jobs, learn what you need to bring to each medium/genre, and be consistent with those rules.

— K.M. Allan

14 thoughts on “C Is For Consistency

  1. Thanks for this. I feel like the only thing I’ve done consistently lately, is to be consistently sporadic in just about everything. If only I could procrastinate effectively enough to clean the whole house! But, really, I hope you find your groove. And blog writing is writing–even if it’s not the big project you want to begin. I feel like sometimes the writing comes in cycles: some months I’m a blogger, some months a fiction writer, some months a reader only. And that’s okay, I think!?

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  2. Loads to think about here, so great post! One I am really struggling with at the moment is my POV consistency. I write from two perspectives in this novel, but sometimes one of the characters needs a couple of chapters before the switch to the next POV. I think this is something I will need to re-consider in the next edit. x

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    1. Thanks, M. I have a similar issue. One of my books is told from one POV for the majority of the opening chapters before switching to a different character, and a beta reader gave me some feedback about this throwing them off. Now I’m planning on looking at which chapters can be rearranged or rewritten to a different POV to add some variety and so the book doesn’t seem as if it’s only from one character, but then abruptly switches to another. Good luck with your changes.

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  3. I tend to hop POV inside the same chapter and or scene, which I have been told is a bit jarring, but in my head makes more sense to do that then having a scene break. Must look further in to it and find ways of not having it confuse readers while still maintaining my own specific “style”, I think. Consistency with your voice is an excellent one, I started writing a series in Portuguese in 2008, and going back to rereading its start it’s like those first chapters were written by someone else entirely!! Right now I have no time to delve into that project, but plan to. At the moment though, I am working on something that has different timelines: parts of the story take place in our days, others are set in the Dark Ages, and so I am using different voices in both timelines. My writing is deliberately different when penning down scenes in the middle ages and scenes in 2016, and I have asked a few people what they thought about it. Some told me that is a great idea, to differenciate between the timelines, others said I should only differentiate the epochs with the use of dates. I’m going with what feels right to me, but am aware this may be a huuuuuge mistake a definite way to making people not want to read this series eheh. As always, some very good food for thought on this post.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Ruth. I used to head hop all the time and not realise I was doing it until an editor assessing my MS pointed it out. Your different timelines and voices sounds intriguing. I think as long as your consistent with the voice in both, it should work.

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  4. Enjoyed the post. Writing on a schedule is not my problem. Much easier since retirement. POV writing is something I struggle with. I like to hop around inside the heads of my characters and I enjoy stories that do that. I’m currently working on improving that area of my writing since it is an issue for so many.

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  5. It took me 13 months from first to last chapter of first draft and if there was a proof that I learned something on the way, it was that I could hardly believe they were written by the same person. Good part of second draft was just fixing that.
    Anyway, I am glad I found your post and will read more of your tips. Hopefully to learn more 🙂

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