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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Writing Advice? From Me?

It’s Moonlight Wednesday. I call it this because this is the day I normally post something about my writing, and, just as the moon reflects the sun, I hope my writing reflects the SUN. On Wednesdays I’ve been discussing, on and off, one of the novels I have written.
I generally do not discuss the craft of writing. I am unpublished. And, although I’m fifty-seven, I do not have a large body of even unpublished writing to my credit.
So who am I to give writing tips?
I do have some credentials. I almost have a minor in English. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I have been a voracious reader for most of my fifty-seven years. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I took one creative writing class. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I have read Writer’s Digest for fifteen years or so. Doesn’t that make me an expert? I have read many books on the craft of writing. Doesn’t that make me an expert?
Nope. None of that makes me an expert.
However, I’m not afraid to critique others. It’s something I do now every time I read a book. It’s something I do now every time I see a movie. It’s something I do now every time I read anything. (And I annoy my husband as I analyze every story. I usually try to keep quiet, but when I see something that is just so wrong, it’s hard not to speak up.)
Perhaps that makes me an expert. The craft of writing has become so engrained I automatically see “problems.” Just as an architect automatically judges buildings he sees. Or an interior designer automatically addresses the “problems” he sees in a home. Or an artist automatically sees “problems” within a painting. Or singers or musicians hear “problems” when someone sings.
No, no. I’m just an amateur, a newbie still learning the craft and still making mistakes.
But, I’m still going to throw in my two cents here. Expert or not. (I often wonder if there are any true experts in creative writing.) Anyway, I’ve noticed a problem with many books I have read lately and I would like to address it.
The problem is lack of focus. I wonder if these writers outlined their books. The books are so unfocused—so cloudy. I’m not saying outlining is strictly necessary—at least, I’m not saying it’s necessary when you begin writing.
I have seen so many writers who are proud to be pantsers, that is, seat-of-the-pantsers. They love to sit down and just write and let the characters lead them where they may, discovering the story as their characters reveal it.
And there’s nothing wrong with that approach. I know it’s fun. However, after the fun, it’s time to get serious. Focus your story. Focus
What’s its meaning? Why are you writing this particular book? What’s the theme? Once you know the answers to those questions, go back and outline your book.
Outline when you’ve finished writing the first draft? Yes.
And think about each chapter. No. Think about each scene. Perhaps a character in your book led you down a rabbit trail. Delete that scene if it’s leading nowhere. File it away somewhere. Perhaps it will fit in another book.
But keep this book focused. Perhaps eliminate too many subplots. Perhaps rearrange chapters. Don’t get hung up on a beautiful piece of writing. If it doesn’t follow your theme, junk it. Make your meaning clear.
Think, fellow writers, think. And when you’ve thought your book through, think some more.
And stay focused.
Clear those skies. Let the SUN shine!


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