Friday, January 25, 2013

Things I Have Learned So Far

I'm not through with my journey writing this novel, but here are some things I've learned so far.

1: If you’re gonna pants it, prepare to edit. A Lot.

Pantsing. Discovery Writing. This thing I do when I'm just starting and trying to make a blank page not so blank by filling it with thoughts and voices and observations from a brand new character's point of view. Since starting this novel, I have done a ton of research in learning how to write and edit. But I started by jumping in and writing. When I hit a few snags, didn't like where things were headed, I listened to more writing advice and joined a writing group. After I figured out where my story had been and where it was going, I wrote an outline and a synopsis. Some things I’d started with just weren’t working and so I changed them. Halfway through. This meant my writing group who was getting chapter by chapter were now getting chapters that did not mesh with some of my changes. This is why I say join a writing group after you have a complete MS, but, you know, it's not like I follow my own advice, ever.

2: Take some time to world build just a little before you start.

This advice is specifically for me, even though I’ll probably never take it. If I can’t get immersed in the story to figure out the voice of the characters, what’s happening, and a hint of what’s at stake, I just won’t care about the world enough to want to build it. However, at halfway through when I realize that this one power is solving all the problems super easily, it’s kind of late in the game to find myself interrupting writing time to research Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. I could have saved myself some time and a whole awful lot of upcoming editing if I’d figured out beforehand how things work, why they work, what their limitations and costs are, and how my characters can and cannot/will not use them. Don’t get me wrong, I know some of it, BUT, I think that clarifying some of it beforehand would have saved me some headaches. Then again, this is why I have lesson #1.

3: It’s ok to write down some basic ideas of plot/resolution before you start.

Beginning, Middle, and End. Now that I’ve written a synopsis and outline for this work in progress, I've changed the end three times. I really enjoy the whole process of putting the story together. The part I have the hardest time with is sitting still long enough to get it all down on paper. If I enjoy the plotting so much, it’s not too much to give myself permission to do a little bit of plotting before I start the next novel. Even if it's basic: This is the world, this is the problem, this is who is stuck in it, this is how they attempt to fix it. ok, go!

4: It’s ok to write a sucky first draft.

Really. It is. I got more done during November when I was participating in NaNoWriMo than I did any other time because I was focused on hitting a specific word count goal. For two books. And I did it, which says something about the way I write. When I don’t have specific goals in mind, I tend to over-analyze everything that comes out and down onto the page. But when I just write, I accomplish so much more. That sentence I spend a half hour agonizing over will probably get chopped or cut anyway. It’s ok, self. You have permission to have a sucky first draft. Honest. Overwriting and underwriting are acceptable.

5: Don’t give up.

This. Again and again, this. Being on a monthly hormonal roller-coaster from hell, there are the days when I feel so good, I can hardly sit still for want of *doing* things. I need to be a verb, not a noun. On the opposite days, I just want to curl in a ball, surround myself with brownies and chocolate ice cream, and watch testosterone flicks. On both ends of the spectrum writing is the last thing on my list. I have feedback from my writing groups that shows it’s a bad idea for me to write/edit on those days. However, what sometimes happens is that lack of writing turns into discouragement that I then have to spend a few days talking myself out of.

I have made a deal with myself. On the bad days, I do other things that make the creative brain happy. Draw. Paint. Write blog entries or bad poetry or a combination of both. But I do not give up on writing, because even though I might suck, it’s only by practice that I'll get better. So here’s mentally healthy (today) me telling depressed or discouraged me to suck it up and write something, anything, even if it doesn’t ever get shared with anyone. And even if it's only three lines, then I can pick up a book on those days and fill my head with good writing to emulate.

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