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Realizations on Reality

I’m one of those people that is good or mediocre at a little of everything. I’ve tried a lot of different hobbies hoping to find something I’m immediately genius at. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s something I haven’t been able to shake. Maybe it’s the era of instant gratification I’ve grown up in, but I always give up on things before I’ve even had a chance to get really good at them – all because I want to be immediately fabulous at something and find my place (as it were) in the world.

Writing has been my one constant, which is why I hold on to it so tightly. I’ve been writing since I was rather little but it’s always been pretty directionless. Because of this, I don’t think I’ve come very far. The main improvements I see in my writing are things like grammar and sentence structure and, mainly, I have college to thank for that (and they still need improving.) It’s only been this past year that I’ve really set out to learn the art of creating and shaping a novel, but it’s certainly not easy. I feel like there is entirely too much to learn and it’s even harder learning how to spot and implement these gems into my writing.

I was pondering this little annoying tidbit about myself this morning and decided it probably explains my occasional, recurring desire to give up. In reality though, given how long I’ve been writing without really giving up on it, I think it’s essentially “my thing.” It’s just that I need to put the time and effort into learning the craft, to shape my love of writing into something other people find worth their time to read. So what if I’m not naturally genius at it? If it means enough to me, I can succeed despite this unrealistic standard I have for myself, right? I think so, and I think I really needed to come to this realization.

So, now a question for my writer readers: What method of learning caused the highest level of improvement in your writing? What would you suggest I do to improve? I already read and write a lot, so where is the next best place to focus my desire to learn?

5 comments:

  1. One thing that really helped my writing was taking a class on literary nonfiction. I have no interest in literary nonfiction; I specialize in fantasy. Yet, like an artist sketching from life, I found that looking at real events to string along meaning, symbolism, details and descriptions, it really showed me the difference between a real description and a fake one.

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  2. It seems like you're being a bit hard on yourself!

    Reading books on craft helps me. I have a hard time reading the same book twice (except for Fiction first Aid), so I end up with a variety which all say the same thing but differently.
    Writing - like you said. I hope with each book I improve.
    Critique group - are you a member? I learn more from critiquing others stuff than I get on my own.
    Workshops - these really really help.

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  3. elizaw: Literary nonfiction would certainly be interesting. Of course, I have no interest in nonfiction either but I see your point! I've taken almost every literature course my community college offers but nothing like that. I'll have to see if they have one! Thanks for the suggestion.

    Pj Hoover: I'm always hard on myself. I won't deny it. But, I do think my writing needs a lot of work before I can even dream of seeking representation and/or publication. It's far from polished.

    It's funny you have a hard time reading a book twice, I have the same problem. It's unfortunate because I can't keep it all in my head either.

    So far I own and have read the following:

    The First Five Pages
    How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
    Painless Grammar
    Plot & Structure
    Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

    So you'd think I'd have a wealth of knowledge but I just forget it all until I pick one of the books back up and flip through it. I think I need to do more of the exercises perhaps and learn to implement better.

    I'll check out Fiction First Aid!

    I'm terrified to join a critique group. I don't feel like I'm ready for one (will I ever?) but I do have a fellow writer friend who has critiqued some for me. She is awesome. As far as I have been able to find, the closest critique group to me is an hour away. I don't beleive my town even has one!

    As for workshops, I don't know how to find them. Any suggestions?

    I did find a writers conference that happens about an hour away from me every year. I'm hoping to be able to afford it next year. They seem to have some great workshops.

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  4. To me, two absolute musts... join SCBWI and join a writer's critique group.

    Your local chapter of SCBWI will have workshops and conferences where you can not only meet other writers, but editors and agents and you get to submit a number of pages for a one-on-one conference with editors/agents/or published writer. It's invaluable! (Oh SCBWI is for children's writers and illustrators. I am not sure if you write for adults or children...)

    Second I couldn't find a writer's group to join, so I started my own. I went to my local library and asked if they would be interested in supporting me. They said yes. A year later, we have 6 groups, about 40 or more members, and events with guest speakers (for free because the library sponsors us). Doris Ettlinger is coming to speak to us in September.

    These two things, plus reading books in my genre and books on crafting (oh and blogging) has helped me immensely.

    But I know how you feel. I hear the first novel is the hardest because not only are we trying to write a novel, but trying to figure out how to do it as we try to discover our characters and story. No small feat!

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  5. Writing creates improvement. You have to write. Constantly.

    But don't be hard on yourself. You're a good writer!

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