Hey Writer—the Bad…

April 22 2019_jjhHey, Writer—the last post in the series focused on the best parts of your writing. If you haven’t read it and taken the 3-minute challenge, go here.

Today we’re peeking at something challenging—the things we know need to be shored up or polished in our writing process. There are so many “moving parts” in the process when we take a closer look: showing and telling, the writer’s and characters’ voices, plot and subplots, writing style and conventions. It’s overwhelming if we get stuck in all of it.

Truth is, we don’t do all of writing skillfully; there’s room for growth in this craft. We will be more successful when we accept that truth and ourselves as we are in the writing process. Admitting we have room for improvement in the first and final drafts can be encouraging.

As an editor, I’ll list some of the common struggles I see.

  • Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, chameleon
  • Conjunction junctions
  • Content spell-bound by uncommon terms
  • Flooding the work with adjectives and adverbs
  • Footnotes! Everybody footnote! (Citation styles can be tricky.)
  • Inconsistencies in plot, character traits, or minor details
  • Plodding storyline or subplots that distract
  • Regular use of lackluster words: being verbs and “that,” for example
  • Telling, rather than showing

You might see your nemesis in the list above, or you may already know the first thing you should address in your writing based on feedback. I always think it’s great to know where to start in my crafting and drafting growth.

The imperfections can be addressed in baby steps, but the first step is knowing where the attention is needed. Do you know? How would you find out? Try some of these:

  • Create or join a writer’s group or circle for the community and feedback
  • Consider a guild or larger learning community for writing resources
  • Find truthful and encouraging critical readers who know your genre
  • Study the areas mentioned repeatedly in the feedback
  • Study the craft to become your own best and fierce friend for self-editing
  • Find a skilled editor to help you with your words

Remember, this isn’t really the “bad” in our work but a growth opportunity. Writers write. Good writers are teachable, learn the craft, and master bits at a time.

Writer, own your place and space in the writing world. Your words and stories matter. Readers need what you have to say. Don’t shirk the work for the wrong reasons. Step into and grow into the role of writer. After all, you are one!

Here’s your quick 3-minute assignment for sharing below: think about a single growth area in your writing process. What is it? Brainstorm one or two steps you can take to strengthen your weakness. When will you step into this growth opportunity?

~Jennifer

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Hey Writer—the Good…

Hey Writer 04_2019Hey, writer—I know you’ve been working hard. You’re a little weary of the friends and family who give you quizzical looks while telling you writing isn’t really a job. The more direct word weapons sound like, “You can’t make any money being a writer unless your name is (fill in the blank).”

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
—Ernest Hemingway

The truth is, if you’re hardwired to write, it is a lot like bleeding. That’s the only reason anyone sticks with it. The wiring between the mind, heart, and page is made of long-running, soulish strands in a network buzzing with half-formed thoughts and phrases. Shiny ideas peek out of the rough, waiting to be threaded into a larger work.

Nothing is polished and perfect in the beginning. The draft never has perfection as a goal, and that’s exactly as it should be. The perfectionist will be stuck more often than not. (Ask me, the editor, how I know.) Every writer’s goal is to begin crafting the work, and it all begins with the first draft. They might be the most abstract or loosely constructed art form—or maybe the ugliest duckling ever hatched. It’s all about getting the words down, messy as they may be.

You’ve got one job in the draft: write all the words. Later you can evaluate the merit of the words, but not when you’re in the drafting mode.

When you’re ready, begin to self-edit. Think critically in this step but—heads up!—this stage may not be what you think. Streamline with a backspace or cut and paste good words that don’t work in a separate, safe space where they can germinate. Make changes in the manuscript that shape ideas, shore up the weak ones, and polish the content.

You may be tempted to focus on the negative. Don’t. You may easily find what’s wrong, but do you see what’s right? Do you know what you can build upon? This is the skill seasoned writers develop. They see the beginnings of greatness even in the rough.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. —Michelangelo

Writer, find the good! Turn the words over and over in your mind until you find rough diamonds waiting to be perfectly cut to fit their form. Like Michelangelo, your job is to free written words to fly from the page and make a difference in the world.

Are you doing it?

Here’s your assignment for today. Take three (3) minutes to share in the comments below. What are your working on? What is one strength of your work or a happy accident you’ve found in your manuscript? What is it you execute well in writing?

Writers need community. What if we started to encourage one another in our strengths…

Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to the sharing and encouragement that will come.

~Jennifer