The Top Three things I’ve learned about writing in 2015
I’ve written three 60,000 word books this year. From them all, this is what I’ve learned.
While writing the first Chewy Noh last year, I realized that flying by the seat of my pants with just one scene holding everything together is not the best way for me to write. That’s not to say the opposite is true, either. Having written a highly script and organized book before, I can say that both extremes aren’t useful—at least, for me.
When it came to the second book, I had an outline with two distinct plotlines I wanted to address and have overlap. I could see it in my head, if not on paper. Then I took to writing, and overall, it worked well. Readers seemed to agree, too.
Then I hit Chewy’s third book, and…it stalled. I had my outline. I knew many of the scenes, but nothing worked. I couldn’t figure it out until I jumped into the story. I got to know all the characters again—I mean really well. I got into their heads and their feelings. I felt what they felt. Both sides were supported.
Which leads me to number two…
2) Never give up
Having found my way through Chewy’s second book so easily, I thought I had my method of writing. But with book three, nothing turned out the same. It took longer and was more stress. Every so often, I felt I had lost it. And that’s when I realized, no book is ever the same.
With book three, I expanded Chewy’s world and was trying something new. Of course, it was going to be difficult. In the end, the most important thing was not giving up. Every morning, I woke early, wrote for an hour or two, and then re-read and edited it at night using the Send to Kindle program. Reading on an i-pad screen made it feel more like a real book. And…I got through it. Many of my beta readers have said it’s the best one yet—well paced with fast action. But in the beginning, it wasn’t that way.
And now that I’m working on the fifth and final book of the series, I’m hitting a wall again. When it comes to writing, it just seems to be that way, but the finished product never shows it. I’ve heard from many authors before that looking at their book once it’s done surprises them. They can’t believe they did that.
3) It’s better to cut than to save
This one I feel is something every writer, artist, creator deals with for the rest of their lives. It’s a constant struggle between what you wanted to create and what works well.
I tell many of my students to re-read and edit their writing before giving it to me. None of them listen, and they hand in crap with blatant errors all over. Eventually, my constant nagging gets through and one or two of them listen, giving their essays a quick once over, and they’re always amazed at how many grammar, spelling and other such mistakes slip by.
When it comes to writing a story, none of this should be of concern. Far too many self-published books I’ve read this year were actually well edited and had few errors. What they did have were poorly constructed plot lines and weak dialogue. Why?
It seemed most often the author chose not to cut the crap out because of a sense of “Oh! but I like that part,” or “my readers said they wanted more of that.” The worst offense of all was one author keeping three pages of uselessness because they wanted a higher word count.
Seeing all of this made my scissors sharp. I yanked, pulled, and destroyed any and every part of my writing that seemed to drag or feel useless. I still feel that for writers—or artists of any kind—we have an eternal barometer, showing us the weak points in our creations. And I know, like others, many times I ignore it, letting small atrocities get through into my writing. But seeing this fault in so many has slowly brought me around to change that in myself.
Overall, it was a good year. But if this is what I’ve encountered thus far, I can already tell that next year will be equally as daunting and….yet somehow I know, inside, it will still be worth it.