Another Update on Building My Writing Muscles: Deconstructing Rubbish

When practicing anything to try to get better, ¬†it’s inevitable that some sessions, some output, some exercises, won’t go so well.

Sometimes you’ll know it immediately. ¬†Sometimes it may take a while. But either way, you’re faced with the question of what to do about it.

That’s what happened in yesterday’s session. I used the first half of my lunch break to write, before I even ate. It was good to put first things first, so to speak. But the output wasn’t so great, and it wasn’t because I was hungry.

The initial writing came to 500 words, which was longer than some of the other exercises. I did it in under 15 minutes. But it was far and away the worst so far. Why?

Well, that’s what I spent the next 15-20 minutes figuring out. I analyzed what went wrong, and what I might do differently in the future, and it came to almost 600 words. Yep, it was longer than the passage.

Without intending to, I’d written a dialogue exposition info-dump. The dialogue had no internal conflict, and there was no reason to give that much setting information in one scene.

There wasn’t any conflict in the scene, and that meant it was almost destined to be boring.

There was no setting information given, nothing for the senses. It could have taken place in a white room or on a rocky beach for all the information I gave.

The characters didn’t even react strongly or do much. Dialogue, I think, should take place during other actions. Yes, in the real world, a lot of times we stand around or sit around just talking. And those conversations can be very interesting to be a part of. But unless they are really earth-shaking conversations, they’re not that interesting to read.

But hey, I call the exercise a success, because I thoroughly deconstructed a failed effort and came up with solid steps to do better next time.

 

 

 

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Rebuilding My Fiction Muscles by Starting Small

I often have trouble getting started on projects. I think it’s because I know just how long writing a novel takes,  just how much can go wrong in the process.

I know from experience just how easy it is to either not finish, or have to drag myself across the finish line by sheer force of will, spite-writing something I’ve grown to abhor. 

I’m not really art a place, personally our emotionally, where I can spend that kind off time writing something I don’t enjoy. 

And I can’t really face the thought of putting hours and hours into something without finishing it, ending up with nothing to show for it. 

I remember feeling like this year’s ago, and I’m going to do what I did then: I’m going to write shorter things, things I can finish in a day or two, even at my current limited time and energy budget. 

These may be short stories, even flash fiction. They may just be scenes. They may never be a part of any larger work. 

But they will be short-term, achievable objectives, things I can pan ahead of time and then do. 

I know I said I was going to do something like that at the beginning of the summer,  but the difference was that those had to be complete sorry stories,  Asics I got jammed up trying to think of plots and premises for them all. 

Now, it just has to be short,  achievable. 

I hope to rebuild my fiction writing muscles to the point that I can duo NaNoWriMo in November,  and carve out enough time early in the morning that I won’t inconvenience my family while I’m doing so. 

Nothing helps you sided like confidence and practice.  Nothing builds you’re confidence and motivates you to practice like success. So let’s build some small successes. 

Freestyle Friday: Becoming a Writer

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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.