“The writer’s ear” is not to be confused with “the writer’s voice.” They are two separate things.
The writer’s voice is that author’s style. The writer’s ear is what you have to have if you are to improve in your craft.
If you can’t “hear” what’s wrong with your writing, how are you going to get better? As an editor, I occasionally come across writers who have no ear. I can tell, because they write in a way that doesn’t flow. Sentences sound awkward or are badly structured, and often the repetition is staggering.
Authors with no ear write book after book after book and show no improvement. The best editors in the world can go through and fix their shit, giving them examples up the ass on how to improve their writing, and they don’t get it. All that fine editing is wasted on the author, even as it allows them to keep publishing.
They don’t have the ear, and that means they will always be mediocre, bottom-of-the-barrel writers.
Publishers who encourage this kind of writer are doing them and their readers a disservice; the author thinks he has talent (he doesn’t), and editors are busting their humps trying to turn a piece of coal into a semi-precious stone. If they self-publish, my bet is they’ll eventually quit because readers will drift (or run) away, and they may not even realize what’s wrong.
“Huh, this review says my writing sucks. I don’t get it. Looks good to me. Hey, this review says the same thing! Bunch of idiots. They wouldn’t know good writing if it jumped up and bit them on the nose.”
Well, yeah…. Quite a few readers know good writing when they see it. However, there are a lot of other readers who don’t recognize it, and writers with no ear will be lauded by those people. They have, in a sense, found one another.
I often wonder what happens when untrained readers run across good, even excellent writing. Does it shock them into realization, or is it all the same to them? Does quality not even register?
Based on some of the books that make it to the bestseller lists, and the reviews that are attached to them, I’m guessing a whole bunch of people go through life oblivious to the finer things in life. It simply doesn’t show up on their radar.
Examples of things an author with a good writer’s ear should hear and correct:
He put his hand over his mouth. (‘his’ repeated; first one should be ‘a’)
He looked around to see what was around. (‘around’ repeated; the second one should be replaced)
“See, I see exactly what you mean.” (you tell me; if you can’t, you have no writer’s ear)
Here’s the thing: get it down on paper as fast as you can. Don’t worry about how it sounds when you’re writing. But then go back and read what you’ve written. Doing it aloud sometimes helps. If you can’t hear the things that need fixing, you have no ear.
Can this be acquired? I don’t know. I have a writer’s ear. While I don’t catch every typo or screw-up–writers cannot edit their own work, which is why we need our betas–you should be able to correct most of it yourself. It should “sound off.” If everything you write sounds great to you, you have no ear and may never get better.
That being said, I started out making the same mistakes every beginning writer makes. But I kept writing and reading, and I learned. So a writer’s ear can be honed if it’s there to begin with.
Lavender Rose is in final edits and should be released this weekend. I’ll let you know when it’s available. 🙂