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What I do best

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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The short:  I do writing best.  Of all the things I have ever done and ever tried, writing feels the best and the most natural.  It is the thing that has always felt that way, no matter how much I tried to ignore it.

The long:  Ben and I were strolling along the beach the other day, as we often do, and we were discussing process.  Ben’s process of video editing is not all that dissimilar from my process of writing, yet we are both confounded by one another’s abilities.  Sometimes, I confess, I am also confounded by my own abilities.

My process, in theory, is simple.  I learn about the essence of a thing.  The story I need to tell, the language I need to use to tell it, the feelings and messages I need to get across.  I absorb everything I can around the piece, be it novel or website, event or video, then it rattles around in my brain.  This is the part that is most bewildering, the rattling.  I’m not actually sure what it does up there.  It swims and swirls amongst the grey matter and electrical impulses and chemical cascades. It does all this then comes out the other end as words.  Orderly, appropriate, well-dressed (sometimes beautiful)  sentences and paragraphs marching right from my brain onto the page. Simple right?  I guess.  I mean I feel it, I go through it and it happens, but I’m not entirely sure why or how.

The process itself and the outcome are shocking to Ben, just as his process and outcome shocks me.  We look at each other across the office and think ‘how does s/he do that?” so that fact alone makes me think it is something I do well, best even.

But all that’s pretty broad, pretty ethereal even.  Maybe a little woo woo?  Who’s really here to hear me say ‘it’s just a feeling dude…I just like…feel the words…”?

So let’s get specific:

I thrive at imagery and brevity.  Vivid imagery conjured in short, sweet ways that leave you with just enough to set the scene, but not so much that your imagination doesn’t have to do a little work.

I love the challenge of pairing information with beauty.  This shines through in my corporate work more than anywhere else.

I excel at unstructured wordplay.  I used to be a free spirit, I guess I still am a bit.  I love a basic story idea that I can run with and see where it takes me.  I love to be surprised by my characters and the choices they make.

I adore the craft of writing.  Fitting words together in the right way is like a puzzle that is completely rewarding to solve.  It just feels good.

So that’s me…what about you?

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Growing as a writer

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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!