My Writing Struggles and Strengths

Over the ten or so years I’ve been writing, I’ve learnt a lot about what comes naturally to me as a writer and what doesn’t. I tend to be able to create multi-dimensional characters, have hooky type plots and I’m also not completely useless at grammar. Writing, however, is very much a learnt art so there is a lot more than didn’t come naturally that I had to learn through critique partners, blog posts, freelance editors and my time as a literary intern. Hopefully some of what I learnt will be of benefit to you too!

hard-work

  1. My characters tend to be a little too emotional! I think a little of this comes from the fact that I’m a very, very emotional person. It takes a while to learn that the way you view a scene (or more specifically, the way you view your character viewing a scene) is not universal. If there isn’t enough context to why your character is reacting the way they are, then it will often come off as melodramatic. Also, your background will make you subjectively take in something much differently than someone else might. Often, the only way to realize that a scene just isn’t coming off as intended is through having someone else read over your work. There are too many scenes to count that I’ve had to tone down on character reactions. giphy
  2. I’m not good with setting! When I’m right in the thick of writing, I just don’t like slowing down for setting cues. Once I realized this, I made an effort to go back during revisions and see where additional sensory setting cues needed to be added. Again, this is where someone else reading over your work can really help you realize where your setting just isn’t strong enough. (You will see this suggestion a lot so, yes, go get some beta readers and CPs!)
  3. I leave the plot hanging! It took me a lot longer than it should have to realize that every plot line had to be an arc, and every plot arc had to be connected and resolved. Even though it ended up costing me A LOT the best thing I did to learn about my weaknesses in this area was using an amazing freelance editor for one of my novels. (I’ll write a post about this later). Now I make a pointed effort to keep track of all my different plot lines and how each one is progressing through the story. This sometimes means rewriting a lot during the editing stage, but it’s always worth it.

The great thing about writing is that the more hard work you put in the more you get out. So the bottom line: you can do this (that’s what I tell myself, anyway). You can learn and you can definitely improve. So go do that!

 

Advertisements

My Writing Process

It didn’t take me long to figure out that when it came to writing I was definitely more of a panster than a planner. What does that mean exactly? I don’t plan out my novels in advance. There are costs to writing a story that way, such as having a lot of rewriting to do. However, in the past, even when I’ve tried to plot in advance, I’ve usually had to end up ditching my planned sequence anyway as my novel took on a life of it’s own. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t do any preparation in advance. So what is my writing process? (You’re probably wondering about that, since that is the blog title). Well, let me tell you!

tenor

My stories always start with the characters. Usually they pop into my head quite well formed and then it’s time to take the characters and dig just a little bit deeper. Often I’ll do this by opening a blank word document, title it the name of the character, and just slap out as many details as I can, including their birthday, their family, their goals.

Once I’ve done this with all the main characters, I’ll write a very brief outline of the plot. This often means playing around with a query letter. Even though the final query will be months (or years) away, I do find writing a rough draft of a query allows me to really focus on the main plot of the novel.

I find the biggest thing I’ve learnt over the years—something I was too stubborn to acknowledge in the beginning—is how crucial editing is. It doesn’t matter if you plan or not, you need to edit. It’s natural after putting in hours and hours of work to want to write ‘the end’ and have a perfect novel. But that just doesn’t happen. I can’t remember who said this, but for me it’s definitely true: writing is in the rewriting. Editing isn’t just changing a word around and cutting a sentence, it’s tearing your novel and characters apart to make sure their motives make sense, the plot lines have arcs and the novel is cohesive and enjoyable to read. As a panster, this is the most important part of my writing process. Even though I often dread the rewrite, I always find I’m so much prouder of my work afterwards.

giphy.gif

My Writing Story

When I was young I didn’t know right away I wanted to be a writer, (I know, not what you usually hear!) but I loved being creative. I was a kid passionate about the arts: singing, dancing and drawing. When I was really young, my dream was to be an actress or singer. But my parents didn’t think it was a good idea…for them, the arts were an impractical kind of path. What I realized, though, was there was one kind of art they couldn’t limit, that I didn’t need their approval for: writing. And suddenly that moved to the forefront.

tumblr_m9010sXDqf1qdhag9o1_500

That was my start with writing, but one more thing changed the way I’d view writing forever. This, I’m sure, will sound quite familiar: I read Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone and fell in love. And then I read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and fell in love again and soon I was bordering on obsession with Harry Potter and his world. To say my viewpoint on writing transformed would be an understatement. I was so invested in J.K. Rowling’s characters, it was as if they were walking right beside me. I’d never realized someone could create something so intricate and wonderful with just their imagination and a sheet of paper. I wanted to do that. More than anything I wanted to create a world so vivid it wouldn’t leave; develop characters so real they’d walk beside my reader for life. And so at around fourteen year’s old, writing became more than a hobby. It became a goal—a dream. It not only allowed me to escape from the bullying I was experiencing at the time, but it was also my never-ending challenge: I would become a great writer. I’d learn and practise and write until I had something I’d be proud to share with the world.

tumblr_nsbcghsaSO1ur1bwio1_500.gif

Well that passion hasn’t faded. I’ve had ups and downs and too many moments of doubt to count, but that passion for words always keeps me coming back. My current WIP A Wolf Named Lucas got stuck in my head when I went down to the drive-in safari Omega Park with my little sister and mom. It was a sunny, cool day: perfect for all the animals to be out. Near the end of the trip we stopped to see the Arctic wolves, enclosed behind a long wire fence. And that’s when I saw him (or her, I’m not actually sure).

I’d never seen this wolf before or since although I’ve been to the park many times. Off to the side of the main Arctic wolf habitat was the most beautiful white wolf with opaque blue eyes. I didn’t realize at first why he’d been set apart. Then we threw a carrot in to feed him (if you’ve gone there you know you’re not supposed to do that, so I’m sorry!) and the wolf padded down the mountain, stumbled a bit and sniffed through the grass until he found the carrot before moving gracefully and carefully back up the hill.

He was blind.

I cried. My grandmother’s blind. She has been ever since my mom was young and in that wolf I saw the same strength, the same perseverance and gracefulness that I see in her. I forced my mom and sister to stay watching the wolf for at least half and hour and even when we went home the image wouldn’t leave me. And somewhere on the drive back a story formed in my head of a strong young lady working at Omega, forming a bond with that lone blind wolf as she dealt with her own struggles. Working alongside her was an impatient, hardworking boy who didn’t quite understand her at first, but fell in love with her anyway.

I won’t get into much more because I love that story so much and I hope one day people will get it in their hands and be able to read the story and be touched by the impact that wolf left on me. A wolf who will forever be remembered in my novel as Lucas. I’m glad I got to witness that strength. He was a beautiful creature. And he inspired a story that’s taken firm hold of my heart.

tumblr_maelnwzVVT1r2j1w6.gif