Alrighty. This is going to be a self-indulged post. I sent out the short piece of fiction I’ve been writing to my regular “reading” group yesterday. This particular 7,500 story was a difficult birth. It was written within a couple months of getting back on the writing train six months ago, so I wouldn’t call the idea “mature.” No matter. I told myself that I’d disregard whatever excuse I’d come up with every day, and write at least 500 words until it was finished. I’m proud to say that I wrote every day during a depressed period when my dad was first undergoing some medical attention, and on most days forced myself to spit out 500 words. I’m not proud to say that, because I forced myself to write every day, the content of the first draft absolutely sucked. I made the mistake of reading it to my family when I finished. My daughter fell asleep (literally) and both Cheryl and my son, Nick, thought it was incredibly boring and pointless. Catherine, my writing partner, thought it was a total mess. She made severe comments on the work and over the last few months I’ve been putting humpty-dumpty together.
So….I hesitantly sent it out (finally) and was shocked that as the reviews trickled in, they were far better than expected. One reader said it may be my best work yet. Another said I’m a “great” writer. I’m ecstatic today to think that this baby, which was so difficult to birth, might actually be good. If it is, here is what I did to make to good:
1) I still write every day (for clients and myself). My results have become more steady as my brain gets used to the fact that “off days” aren’t allowed. I also think that because of my daily dedication, my “off days” are less “off” than in the past.
2) I’ve followed (as I mentioned before) Janet Evanovich’s advice and started watching a ton of movies. This has given me a much better sense of storyline, plot, and timing. My fiction was far too subtle because I was worried about constantly beating people over the head with my meaning. I was subtle over the top. Nothing happened in my stories. I’ve realized through these films that I, like everyone, am attracted to stories where things happen (not rocket science, huh?), and I’ve learned to begin trusting my instinct when it comes to overkill.
3) I’ve become a reader. Sure, I’ve read in the past (actually I’ve read tons), but it was all financial planning, business, and biography based. I read with a purpose. Now, I still read with a purpose, but a much more enjoyable one. I read fiction to become a better writer. I promise myself I’ll read a chapter daily. To date I’ve read three books of fiction and two “how to” manuals since the beginning of 2010.
4) I’ve begun a diary when I read books/watch movies to detail what I like/don’t like about each. I also list if I think I have it in me to write a similar story. Amazingly, some of the art I’ve decided I “don’t have in me” has influenced my work the most. I’m realizing that my brain begins working when I think to myself that something might be over my head. One book, Then We Came To The End, was hugely instrumental, and I found much of that voice appearing in this work. I don’t want that “voice creep” to continue forever, but for now, while I’m working on finding my own, I’m very comfortable experimenting with other’s art styles to see how it fits.
Anyway….I’m not sure I’m the perfect person to give advice yet, but so far this strategy seems to be working.