I realized two things recently about my fiction writing. One of them should have been evident from the beginning: that I have trouble finishing what I start (that’s the thing that kills most writers’ dreams. You can’t work on the same novel for ten years and expect anything to happen, and you can’t do a thing with twenty half-finished stories).
The other is a little more humbling and required a good big of introspection and distance: I don’t yet have the writing skill I need. I’m not yet good enough.
(That “YET” is a key part of this. It goes back to the Growth Mindset, which I discuss in my Willpower Wednesdays posts).
What it took for me to realize this was writing something that was actually good. I mean, really, really good in the sense of being everything I wanted it to be:
- An engaging and relatable main character (Polly)
- with a real reason to be out doing what she’s doing
- and with real agency within the plot (she drives the whole thing, really)
- A fast pace, with lots of kinetic action
- Protagonists who do not solve their problems with violence
- Specifically, a narrative that refutes the myth of redemptive violence at every turn
- Without actually heavy-handedly mentioning that it’s doing so
- Breezy reading style (meaning it reads quickly)
- Vivid descriptions, with lots of nice set pieces (it would make a good movie)
- A positive, joyful vibe that made it a pleasure to write
… and then trying and failing for two and a half years to make lightning strike twice.
I know what I want to write. I wrote what I want to write. But I don’t have the skill to write it again … yet.
This means I’m not really ready to be writing fiction right now. This means that I need to do what I should have done twenty+ years ago … sit down and spend a few months (or more) actively practicing my fiction skills every day.
I’m still researching the best ways to do this, but I’ve got a tentative plan. Since my biggest issue is not being able to recreate a protagonist who is relatable enough and relatably driven enough to drive the whole plot of a novel, I’m going to start by writing short stories (using a short story-writing textbook I’ve found), aiming to create characters relatable enough and relatably driven enough to drive short works. With enough practice driving 2000-3000 word stories, I’ll hopefully get the fundamentals and be able to drive novellas and novels.
Along the way, I’ll try to improve my technical skills (more on that in a later post), but that driving force protagonist is the main missing piece. So that’s what I’ll work on first.
Things are all coming together in a way. If I hadn’t been studying Grit and its associated factors (including the Growth Mindset and deliberate practice), I doubt I would have ever thought to do this.