Growing as a writer


I started writing fiction again after a long hiatus about a year and a half ago.  The very first thing I wrote was a short story that morphed into a novel comprised of interconnected short stories.  The novel was called The Major Arcana.  It took me a year, but when I finished, it was 140,000 words and I breathed a huge, happy sigh.  I did it, I wrote a book.  It was a great feeling and completely liberating after years of repressing my writing.

Once I was done, I decided to put the book away for awhile and wrote some short stories to develop my skills.  I always intended to go back to The Major Arcana and edit so I could try to publish it.  As I was writing more short stories though, I came across another idea and ended up writing another novel called A Girl Out There.  This one only took a month and had about half the word count.

This brings me to yesterday.

We were in the midst of editing A Girl Out There, when I got a message requiring me to revisit The Major Arcana for a submission from long ago.  So I pulled it out of Chronos (my back up drive) and read one of the stories.

The story I chose was one of my favorites at the time, about a circus full of super heroes…awesome stuff right?  Wrong.  It was crazy.  Ben and I both read it, then sat there staring at each other with wide eyes, mouths agape.  What a piece of shit.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, some of the language and ideas were really nice, but overall it was crammed full of words and practically nothing happened through the whole damn thing.

The most nutty thing about it was the difference between that story and my current novel.  A Girl Out There is lean, quick and to the point.  Major Arcana is a lumbering beast, a dinosaur.  It’s quite shocking to see the difference and really fascinating.  It needed such a massive overhaul (maybe half the words cut and an entire story arc re-work) that I ultimately decided to leave it where it lay for awhile longer (possibly even forever).  The editing needed would take an eternity that I’m not ready to invest.  It was a first try at something I needed to do and a totally important step in my writerly development, but at the end of the day I’m not sure it’s much more than that.

The point is, I love being able to look back and see how much I’ve grown in such a short period of time.

I’ve stopped feeling the need to write so many words – how many do you really need anyway?

I’ve moved (mostly) from passive to active phrases.

I’ve learned (I hope) to get to the point and have a full and satisfying story arc, as opposed to just rambling about pretty things.

Overall, although I was shocked at the state of my previous work, I’m pretty happy to have come so far and I can only imagine how I’ll feel looking back on my current work in a couple of years.

Why not dig out some of your old writing and compare with the new?  It will give you a good idea of how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned along the way.

Tell me about your experiences with looking back!


Let your story stew


I had an idea for a story last month.  It’s been sitting as a single note on my computer for a month.  It’s been stewing in my brain.  I didn’t think I would do anything with it ever, like it would be one of those things that you get all crazy inspired about and then it just gets lost.

It had been three days since I wrote a story.   I was getting annoyed.  I wanted some inspiration and my prompts just weren’t cutting it.  So I thought of my stew.  It was simmering and I tasted it.  I just wanted to try it, see if it was ready.  I held the story for a day and it wasn’t feeling right.  I was just being really one dimensional about it.  You know when you have an idea in your mind and you keep going at it from the same perspective?  Over and over it was the same story, until all of  a sudden I changed the focus, changed the perspective, the voice and BAM!  Awesomeness.  After that the stew was edible.  I worked the rest out quickly, it just came pouring out.

So now that I’m done, waiting for Ben to look over the story and give his feedback, I’m reflecting.  What did I learn?  Stew tastes better when it has been left to simmer.  Sometimes ideas don’t come right away.  Hell sometimes they don’t even come at all, but that’s okay.  It’s in there somewhere, it just needs some time.  The veggies need to get soft, the juices need to mingle.

Now that I have driven this metaphor into the ground, I would love to hear your thoughts on story development.  How does it work for you?  Are you a stove-top cooker or do you just toss things in the microwave and super-charge them?  Personally, I’m a little bit of both, but I have to learn to be patient with myself during those times when the microwave just won’t cut it.