Blogumentary: Learning As I Go

I’ve previously shared about my lifelong love affair with writing.  However, I’ve also shared that English classes were never my strong suit.  I began writing simply because I love to read and thought I wanted to take a crack at writing my own stories.  I’ve never taken a single creative writing class.  I didn’t major in English, journalism, or communications in college.  My whole writing career has been a hands-on, learn-as-you-go type of experience up to this point.

I dipped my toe into the creative writing pool with my first short story.  The first draft of this story had an exact total of zero words of dialogue.  Absolutely none.  It was a fine first attempt, but I quickly learned the importance of incorporating speech into my writing.  Without it, a story quickly turns into an essay or report.  I also learned the importance of utilizing editors and proofreaders.  Lastly, I realized how crucial it is to be open to constructive criticism.  I poured a lot of time and effort into writing that story, only to have holes punched in it by the first person that read it.  Yeah, I learned a lot with that first short story, that’s for sure!  Looking back on it, I couldn’t be more grateful for the feedback I received.  Not only did it make the story a much more enjoyable read, it got me prepared for what it means to be a writer.

I honed my skills a little further with several more short stories, and the time finally came to write my first novel.  I’ve shared about how I ended up writing about bikers, and how I did very little planning and development for that first Kings of Chaos book.  I totally pantsed the whole thing, or wrote it all by the seat of my pants. (That’s actually a writing style, believe it or not.)  Minimal planning was involved because I simply didn’t know any better – and my over-eagerness made me bypass the little bit that I did know.

I actually learned a lot about writing through the process of publishing Crossroads.  They were all basic, elementary writing concepts, but they were all new to me and I soaked it up.  Crossroads is basically a tale of two stories.  The first half I fumbled my way through with no direction, hitting delay after delay as I dealt with distractions, writer’s block, insecurity, etc.  That list could go on forever, and at times, it felt like it did.  The second half is where I hit my stride.  The action naturally picked up and the story began to tell itself.

That’s when I learned about character development, plot structure, and pacing – all key concepts for any story.  I was able to more fully realize and implement those things into the planning phase of Crossfire.  I also utilized a very loose outline for my second novel.  I was much more deliberate in my pre-writing stage, and developed a more thorough, well-rounded story line.  Again, all of these are really basic ideas, but when you don’t know, then you don’t know.  Know what I mean?

Through crafting my third novel, I’ve learned more about character development, and the importance of writing natural dialogue.  This is a fine distinction, but an important one.  Having dialogue helps break up the monologue/exposition of relaying information, helps readers become more invested in the scene, and gives your characters their own sense of identity.  Each character should have their own distinct voice.  Writing good dialogue is where your characters become real.  This is where they really separate themselves from other characters beyond simply having a different name.

I also learned about showing instead of telling.  This is where you describe things through the five senses of your characters.  Instead of something like “The roasting hog had burned,” it would be better delivered by saying, “I looked across the grass and could see the roasting hog slowly spinning over the fire pit.  The stench of burning meat signaled that the hog was overdue for being removed from the flame.”  That’s a really over-simplified example, but you get the point.

Most recently, while editing book three, I’ve learned the importance of writing more succinctly.  You all may not have noticed, but sometimes I tend to get a little superfluous and redundant from time to time (I know!), so making sure the story doesn’t get lost in my wordiness is kind of important.  (I don’t think I could have crammed any more irony into that sentence if I tried.)

With the impending release of Crossover, I’m hopeful this pattern of learning that I’ve experienced so far in my writing career continues, because I love developing my style and learning more about the craft as I go along!

Thank you, that is all.

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