Writing Well

hulk thinkI’m starting to think that writing is easy and that it’s writing well that’s the hard part.

My new outlining method has worked wonderfully for me all year. I remain excited by it. It is not, however, the complete solution to all my writing problems.

It ensures that all the bones are in place and that everything makes sense plot wise so that I don’t write dead-end scenes that end up having to be cut. But, because I start with a very rough framework, it can take longer than I might like to whip the prose itself into shape. On the plus side, it means that my writing process HAS gotten much faster. But it’s still not as fast as I would like. I can complete a rough draft in three months, but it might take another month or two to punch it into proper shape. Now that’s not a bad thing, certainly, especially when some of my first books took more than a year to write. But in an industry that doesn’t pay particularly well 4-5 months isn’t a useful tempo. I’m not sure what to do about that except keep fingers crossed that the next books sell even better so that 4-5 months profits me more.

Process wise, though, I keep coming back to some essential truths.

1. I write better with an outline.

2. I write better when I remember to ask what every character wants before I write the scene.

3. I write better when I have the villain’s motives and powers figured out well in advance.

4. I benefit greatly when I get feedback from a small cadre of beta readers. They can point out things I missed. Most of mine have drifted away, and having recently benefited from some careful reading by the talented and generous Dave Gross I see clearly that I need to get back to trading critiques with my fellow writers.

I know ALL of these lessons. I’ve known all of these lessons for a long time. Perhaps one of these years I’ll remember all of them, constantly, so that I can stop repeating the same mistakes and get on to learning some new ones…

5 Comments on “Writing Well

  1. “I know ALL of these lessons. I’ve known all of these lessons for a long time. Perhaps one of these years I’ll remember all of them, constantly, so that I can stop repeating the same mistakes and get on to learning some new ones…”

    Yeah. The mind is a tricky place in which to live.

    : )

  2. Four good points! The fifth is practice! Write a million words, then tell me you’re a writer. A writer who thinks he/she doesn’t need an editor is either infallibly brilliant (not likely), or wrong. Beta readers are great if they will work for you in a timely fashion. If you get a cadre of readers, they must know that their input is important and that there are time issues here… Nothing worse than working in all the input of a few beta readers, only to have the late entry come up with something that is a plot changer…

    • I’m delighted to say that I did the math a few years back and I have indeed written over a million words. It took 11 books and they are not all different words but – hey…I guess I’m now officially a writer!

  3. *Raises hand*

    If you need a beta reader, I’ll put my current readings on hold!

    Also, love these posts about process, lessons learned, etc.

    I was never a strong athlete, but I remember as a kid, I’d try to throw a football, and a split second after it left my hand, I felt a rush of excitement as it went where I wanted it to go. Then I watched, in slow motion, as it veered further and further from my target, eventually landing a different direction/distance than my intended target.

    That’s what the first draft of my first novel felt like. I’m now re-writing it, from the ground up (well, 90%; I can steal some scenes from teh first draft) and it’s much, much closer to the target.

    Mick.

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