Re-learning to Write

I am impatient. I’ve had to learn patience through the forced repetitive exercise of it. Like the practice of anything that isn’t easy, repetition is key to the formation of habit. If anything will force you to practice patience, writing a book is it.

On the first day I started this book–actually began typing it–oh what a wakeup call that was. I hadn’t written a story of any kind since…high school? And here I was embarking on a tale I’d already decided would be a three novel series. If you don’t write much, take a shot at putting together some dialogue. Do you remember the comma rules? Where do they go? What do I capitalize? This is where I found myself when I began. I had to google the rules I’d allegedly learned as a fifth-grader. And then I had to google the answers I found on google because *newsflash* the internet contains a lot of misinformation.

Dealing with all of this grammar nonsense was hard because I had a great idea. Shouldn’t the idea trump the technical stuff? No. No no no no no. No. And the longer I write, the more apparent this is. I had to learn to be patient and then to be even patienter. And yes, that is a word, it just sounds horrible.

But this is where I began: checking the internet for basic rules on grammar and littering my early manuscript with piles of wordvomit gleaned from the on-line thesaurus because I presumed that real writers would never use the same word twice to describe something. Some of my early paragraphs were the literary version of chiclets: lots of individual pieces that alone were shiny and beautiful, but a glob of grey tasteless crap when chewed together. The fact that I see this now, and can fix it, tells me I’m improving.

Before anyone read any of my story, I’d probably read each sentence a dozen times. And many of them were still terrible. But I knew they were terrible. Progress.

Impatience can also wield it’s nasty head when you’re waiting for others to proof and edit your work!

But you can’t push them (your wife) to move faster than they are comfortable. So yes, my wife–who is an avid fantasy reader–is my first “beta” reader. Every day I manage to casually ask her “what’s happening in the book?” This is a bad approach.

So I’m working on Part II of the trilogy now, already knee deep in the plot. Enjoying the process. My story is pretty expansive, but not too complicated for what is a young adult (YA) trilogy. More complex than Harry Potter perhaps, but it’s no Song of Ice and Fire (which has become so complicated that George RR Martin is likely to spin off the planet and into the Sun as the only true resolution to his epic). I’ve got perhaps 15-20 active characters but no bloodlines or sigils to remember. For the most part.

I’m taking a small amount of pride in the fact that my story has now outgrown my mind (while making sure it doesn’t get out of control). I just can’t keep it all in there. So now it resides on a wall in my house in a series of color-coded post-it notes (the ones with sticky stuff over the entire back, not those chintzy ones that only stick at the top). I’ve found that this is the ideal way for me to quickly revise and reorder plot points without having to scroll through hundreds of them at the end of the in-progress work (which is how I did Part I).

I hate running. Or I should say, I hated running. I’ve always been a sort of reluctant runner. I want to stay in shape, but running is boring and hard. But for me it has now become my solution-zone for problems presented by my stories. Whenever I have to get from A to C but I don’t know what B is, a run almost invariably solves the problem for me. Until next time!

Cliff’s Notes: Post-its; running is hard.

 

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