Sometimes I like to read the Tag Surfer on writing and come across very interesting blogs. This week, I found 2 I really enjoyed.
The first is A Broken Laptop, by Mercedes. I clicked on Mercedes’s blog initially because it had a picture of a cute guy- pathetic, I know. But my last experience with Religious Guy did not turn out so great, so my interest in CUTE guys has expanded. Okay, moving back to the point. The post with the cute guy was about a contest Mercedes and said cute guy (whom I will now refer to as Scottish Simon- because Simon is his name and he is Scottish and I like alliteration- wait, did I use “whom” correctly there?) are engaging in. She has to finish a chapter a week and he has to write 5,000 words a week. If one of them completes their goal and the other doesn’t, Completer is declared the winner for the week and gets a reward. This week Mercedes won and her reward: posting a picture of Scottish Simon’s tattoo on her blog on Monday.
While I love cute guys and absolutely ADORE cute guys with tattoos, that is not the actual reason this post intrigued me. I really like the idea of competing with someone else to achieve goals. Because, let’s face it, I’m a fierce competitor (just ask Religious Guy about our game of Rummy or “Say the First Thing that Comes to Mind” or the other game we played that I can’t remember the name of right now) and an over-achiever (just ask anyone I went to high school with). I need some kind of stimulus to work on TDE. It’s coming along very slowly. I don’t think I can start any kind of competition until May, though, because I have 2 weddings in April. Soooooo… Anyone want to have a writing competition with me? I’m not sure what my goal will be yet, but I’ll think of something. Sadly, should I lose, I have no tattoo for the winner.
One other aspect of Mercedes’s blog that really intrigued me was her “Writers in Masks” series. She features a writer a week with a blurb/link to their blog/publishing credits along with a photo of the writer in a mask of their choosing. I found it really interesting that the masks all seemed to match the writer’s blurb in some way, either the tone or their preferred genre and style of writing. It made me think about what my own mask would be. I have one picture from my sister’s wedding that I like, I’m covering my face with both hands and I think that matches my writing pretty well. I tend to hide myself behind my writing, i.e. behind my hands (since those are the instruments I use to write). What kind of mask represents you and your writing? Check out Mercedes’s blog for more info on how to become one of her “Writers in Masks.”
The second blog I found was The Adams Zone. This post was all about learning from the mistakes we make as writers, but also learning from our successes. Linda listed five things she would do differently when working on her next project, based on her previous experience in writing a novel. She also listed five things she would do again because they worked the first time. I found this to be a wonderful exercise, at least, I found the idea of it wonderful. So I’m going to try it for myself. As mentioned above, progress on TDE is going really slowly. And TDE is not the first project I’ve attempted since finishing 25. I haven’t really sat down to examine what worked for me on 25 and what didn’t work on the projects I haven’t finished. I think if I do, I may be able to identify why it was so easy to “finish” 25 and so difficult to finish anything else. And I use finish in quotation marks, because a book is never finished until it makes it to the bookshelves, and even then changes can be made between printings. (Yes, I’m being optimistic here with the hope that my book is going to be so popular it will go through multiple printings during my lifetime. HA!) I’m going to change the exercise slightly and just list ten things I’ve learned work (or don’t work) for me.
Here there are, 10 Things
1.) Writing Chronologically– This doesn’t work for me. While writing 25, I always wrote whatever scene came to mind, never worrying about where it went in the book. This actually CREATED the chronology for me without having to outline right away because main events put smaller scenes into perspective. I learned what had to come BEFORE such-and-such happened and it was easy to imagine what would come after. I tried to write my NANO project, Anita’s Dream Diary, in chronological order. It sucked. The first chapter was great, but it all went downhill after that because I didn’t really know where the story was going.
2.) Outlining– This works for me, but only AFTER I’ve started writing. I wrote my first 25 outline after I wrote half the book. I wrote my first TDE outline after I wrote about 10K words. Again, neither of these works were written chronologically. I tried outlining The First Mermaid after only writing two chapters, but it just made me feel stuck. I didn’t want to continue working on the story.
3.) Critiquing– Getting reviews from other writers and readers is great. But I’ve discovered I need to wait until the work is in final first draft stage to start asking for help. I mean, it needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end that flow cohesively together before I start asking people to tear it apart. I’ve tried getting critiques as I write and they just make me want to cry and trash the whole work. I’m not encouraged to continue working on writing the rest of the book because so many flaws are found in Chapter 1. Flaws need to be fixed, yes. But not if that means you stop writing altogether. For me, editing is stage two. I’ll use reviews and critiques once the entire story has been written down. It feels like progress is being made when I can sit down and edit several chapters as once, rather than trying to make chapter 1 perfect before moving on to chapter 2.
4.) Critiquing– Yes, it gets a second point on the list. Critiquing is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Readers can find flaws in your work that you overlook. They recognize plot holes, typos, cliches, everything and anything that you don’t want to survive before an editor sees it. I planned on stopping 25 at a certain point. My reviewers made me realize that the end of the story I originally envisioned was NOT the end of the story. The book is SO much better now because of critiques.
5.) First Drafting by Hand– I’ve mentioned this several times. My first drafts suck. I mean really suck. But, by handwriting them first, I get a second shot at my first draft when I type it. My thoughts and ideas flow more easily when I have a pen in my hand than when I am typing. I even write a good portion of my blog posts by hand first. Not all of them, but at least half. After finishing 25, I started typing almost all of my other ideas first and found that I got stuck at around 10-16K words. 25 was at least 75% hand-written before I typed a single word. I had 60K words without even realizing it.
6.) Writing for Me– 25 is the love story I want for myself. I wrote it because I was sick and tired of having nothing good going for me. I wrote it for me. When I started other projects, they weren’t really for me. They weren’t really ideas I felt a strong personal connection to. From now on, I’m going to write stories that I will enjoy, forget the rest of the world. Because if I like them, then I’ll put more work and effort into them, more passion and heart. And hopefully the world will like that.
7.) Simple Plots– 25 is a simple plot with complex characters. It is based in reality. I think I did this very well. My attempts at complicated intricate plots really didn’t work. I think I have more talent for bringing out the emotions in characters than in putting them in a series of impossible situations.
8.) First Person POV– I think this is the most natural voice for me to use. When I’m intending to write in third person, I find myself slipping into first. It’s so much easier to express the characters feelings when I am in first person. 25 was written completely in Abby’s first person perspective, then on second draft revisions, I added in Ben’s first person perspective, which resulted in a much fuller, deeper story. I’m using both first and third for TDE, but every time I start writing a character’s scene who is supposed to be in third person, I start writing in first without thinking about it! I have to go back and change everything! But, I’m not giving up on third person completely. I think it is one of the things I should really work on mastering, even if I end up writing in first person for every other project I ever do.
9.) Character Description (Physical)– This is something I don’t do very well. I think it is because when I’m reading a book someone else has written, I often hate their descriptions of the way the characters look. I always picture the character differently in my own head. So, when I write, I want to leave character descriptions open so that the reader can picture the character however they want. I’ve found though, for the most part, that my readers haven’t liked this. They want at least a little physical description. That’s why I was doing the writing exercises over the past two weeks. In 25, I’m going to actually have to go back and add in more description for some of the minor characters. There’s several that I never describe at all! I need to go back into TDE and add in some for a good majority of the characters, as well. Whew, lots of work ahead of me!
10.) Unnecessary Words– There are certain words I use way too much: THAT, JUST, HAD, WELL, and “I MEAN” are my biggest offenders. I don’t even realize I’m using them until someone points it out. Every time I read through a draft (of anything I’ve written) I will find new examples of these unnecessary words. A good portion of my editing is taking them out and adjusting sentences to make them sound better without them. I really don’t know why I use the word “just” so often, but it’s like a big glaring red flag anytime I sit down to edit. I see it ALL over the MS.