Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I am not gone; I am writing.

I think this is the longest I've been away from the blog, and I forever feel guilt for not writing here, and coming to see you.

When I rewrote my blog profile after getting into school, I wrote half-jokingly, "If you don't see me for a while, I'm probably buried under books."  How true that turned out to be! I've read 17 books in three months. My stack of still-to-read is unwieldy.

While I don't feel like I've been in school that long, I've forgotten what it feels like to not live under constant stress. Something is always looming, always hanging over me. Sure, I get to read great books, but the having to read them sucks out just a bit of the joy of them.  Over spring break, with my kids home and my son begging me to take him to see the Hunger Games movie, I snuck in two days of reading the book. Just fun, pure, not-on-my-reading-list reading. Oh the bliss! Oh the delicious joy of reading just to read, just for a good story that sucks you in and will not let you go!

I'm both looking forward to the day when I don't have a list to follow and can read willy-nilly whatever catches my fancy, whether it is just plain fun or good literature, and also dreading the day when I'm left to my own devices with books, and probably miss out on some really great stuff because it looks too literary or not fun enough. Without school, I would never have read Let the Great World Spin or The Book Thief or In the Lake of the Woods or City of Thieves, all of which are amazing books that will stay with me forever. Seriously great books, recommended to me by people who may or may not be in my life in a year to point out good books I might like.

And when I'm not reading, I'm writing. If there is a spare minute somewhere, one that makes me stop to think, "I should blog right now... " by the time I get the computer open, my mind is already in the story I am writing.

All I think of when I come to the blog is apologies. For not blogging enough. For not visiting you enough. For not having enough time to do it all.

What I'm learning this semester: cut. cut. and cut some more. The reader does not need to know as much as you think they do. (Look at The Hunger Games. Almost no background is given in that book. Almost no explanation of what "the reaping" is or what "the Capitol" means, or who people are. Collins just writes as though you know, and in enough pages, you do know.) 

Keep the story in the present. Whenever you feel tempted to lapse into backstory or flashbacks, figure out a way to bring that information into the present instead.

Every page needs to engage tension, raise the stakes of your story. Something needs to always be at stake. The possibility of losing something great. Consequences.

Every scene needs to have a purpose, move the plot forward. Do not indulge in fluff.

Choose good words. Choose uncommon words where possible.

The first sentence of your story should be the whole story in microcosm.

The "find" tool in Word is a revisionist's best friend.

Read great books. Notice what the author did well. What is it you love about a book? How did the author accomplish that? It's easy to find fault with writing, but any book probably has something good in it to. Identify it. Incorporate it.

Cut some more. Whole scenes. Whole paragraphs if needed. Words here and there. As your fingers hover over the delete key, it feels like you are cutting off part of your body. But when you do it, suddenly the manuscript feels cleaner. More focused. It feels good.

Listen to yourself. First and foremost, listen to yourself. Beta readers are good, but in the end, you are the author of your story.

And if you need to stop blogging for a while to just write, that's okay too. Forgive yourself. Unless your dream is to become a world-famous blogger.


  1. Not blogging because you're writing is a perfectly acceptable excuse in my book. :-)

    You've got some great kernels of wisdom there - I especially like the "use an uncommon word." YES. I need to do this more.

    I'm reading a terrific book called DESCRIPTION by Monica Wood and I'd have to say I've learned a ton from her simple, no-nonsense style. It's opened my eyes to new ways to write description through dialogue, narrative, and point of view.

  2. The first sentence of your story should be the whole story in microcosm.

    That's a lot of pressure.

    I totally agree with you about deleting things. It's almost a good rule to say when in doubt about a word, sentence or scene push delete and see how it looks.

    Glad to hear from you even if it's just for a moment.

  3. I am struggling with my writing, and so I needed to read this ... thank you.

  4. I'm writing with the fab talentedchrista desir and have learned so much about just writing the basics. I'veread two of her wip's and they were both UNFORGETTABLE books that come in at near 50k words...

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  6. Man are you ever speaking to me. I've been so wrapped up in what I'm writing (yay!!!!) and the blog is neglected and I keep reminding myself that I never set out to be a world famous blogger. I toyed around with the idea about 5 years ago, back when I'd get 30 comments on one post. (ah people liked me back then eh?) But that's not the goal. I've wanted to write books since I was a kid and I'm doing it.

    And you are doing it! I keep thinking you were so darn good before this program and now...!l This post is full of wisdom that needs to be printed out and hung on the wall ! So, thank you for that. That's a blog post worth waiting for.

  7. I was feeling guilty for not coming around in awhile. Good thing we connect on Facebook!
    Thanks for the writing tips!