You Should Tolerate Bad Writing

I’m not a perfectionist. As a writer, this can be a disadvantage. I’m confident there have been times when I could have improved a piece with one more revision or one more re-write. But I must admit, I become bored and just want it to be over so I can get on to my next creative idea.

On the other hand, not being a perfectionist as a writer has its distinct advantages. One of those has to do with the writing process and that enigmatic term we like to call writer’s block. I’m not completely convinced that writer’s block actually exists. Sure, there may be times of uncertainty where one needs to put in the requisite amount of thinking before it becomes clear where a plot should go or how a character should act. However, I do think that, perhaps, sometimes writer’s block is just not be willing to tolerate bad writing.

We have good days. We have bad days. Sometimes the words are clicking with clarity and ease, the phrasings are coherent and the descriptions vivid. Other times every single sentence is a chore and when you look back over your last paragraph, you realize that a second grader could have sounded so clever. When that happens, it’s precisely the moment that you need to be tolerant of bad writing.

In 2002, I started my first novel. The writing was so bad that I stopped on the second page. It took me 10 more years until I finally finished my first novel.

I couldn’t tolerate bad writing. Therefore, I paid for it, languishing away in non-writing pursuits.

Recently, I was working on a section of my new novel and that self-criticism reared its ugly head: this isn’t particularly good. But I made a decision to move on. I didn’t care if it wasn’t good, I told myself, it will eventually BE good.

That’s the key. Bad writing doesn’t necessarily need to remain bad writing. I’ve come across parts of my manuscripts in the past which are terrific and then I’ll reach a section which is quite less than great. I’ve learned to appreciate these sections. For one, I’m happy I can recognize bad writing when I see it. Two, I appreciate the fact that I motored through a bad writing session because it does help further the story. It’s much easier to rewrite and improve a poorly worded section than it is to come up with a completely new section.

Bad writing should be embraced. It’s one of the backbones for good writing. Don’t get discouraged when the words aren’t flowing. Keep moving forward, even if you have to use your 2nd grade vocabulary. On revision day, I’m sure you’ll be glad you have something to work with.

Writing a Trilogy, or is it a Three Part Story

I’ve mentioned before how I am working on my first trilogy. My first five novels were standalones and I’ve always felt that standalones are more interesting reads because, well, they have a tight arc and a thrilling finish. I’ve never been one for built-in cliffhangers (let alone the ridiculous extra scenes that Marvel Studios has become famous for. Please, no!). I’ve never wanted to tease the reader or string a reader along. I just wanted to write quality stories, encompassing one person’s whole worldview in one story. Sequels, series, trilogies were just not for me.

Well, hey. What do they say? People change? So do writers, and that has led me to some unfamiliar territory. When I wrote my latest novel – still unreleased – the story, though quite tidy, didn’t feel over. There were unanswered questions and many new avenues to explore. I decided to thing about a sequel. It let me to a cool idea and then the story took off.

Well, no those two stories are becoming three. My first trilogy.

As I continue to punch away at the keys and discover all the crazy ways this story is taking on new life, I’ve realized that there is a difference between a sequel and a just a longer story. My goal now isn’t to write three related novels. My goal is to write one story, broken into manageable and gripping parts. A large arc over all three with individual arcs built into each section. It’s a challenging yet fascinating process, and it’s forcing me to approach writing in different ways from the past. This can only be good in a writer’s development. I’m excited about that aspect.

To make this work, I’ve dramatically slowed down the release of book 1 so I can finish book 2 and be well on my way in book 3 before the opening chapter ever sees the light of day. As my English colleague says, trilogies planned at one time are better than those with an added sequel. I agree. It’s all about coherence and allowing new ideas be applied to previous ideas. Lots of back editing is needed. Retroactive writing is tough to do once the first story is in print.

The plot of this novel is a challenge. It’s complex, with many characters. It has two main overarching stories which are connected. These stories have spawned subplots and minor characters and it’s a lot to keep straight. It’s a puzzle really. A puzzle I’m driving myself. A puzzle I get to create. I love that aspect of it.

So writers, push yourself. Try something new. Let your trilogies be standalones and your standalones be trilogies. It will be worth it in the long run.

Justify the … Idea. It’s How I Write

In my theatre arts class, we play a game called Justify the Pose. I say ‘go,’ and everyone tears off around the room doing whatever they like. When I call ‘stop,’ they  must freeze in whatever awkward position they find themselves in, whether they are mid-step or standing on a desk. Then I call out a couple people’s names and they have to justify the pose, on the spot they have to think up a situation in which they might find themselves in this position and then act it out. It’s a great game to get the actors thinking creatively about how to understand certain situations.

Recently, I began to realize that this is exactly how I write. I try to justify the idea.

This is a great way to generate ideas and force a writer to think creatively about a certain idea. Here’s how it works. A random image pops in my head and I immediately think what could justify this situation. What would be the back story? Why would this person be in this situation at this time?

My entire second novel was started on a premise like this. One day I had a random thought of a woman from a second story window seeing a man below wearing a red hat. That’s all I needed to write an entire novel. I began thinking why this woman would be interested in a man wearing a red hat. What was his relationship to her?  Was he a bad man? Was he trying to hide something?

I’m currently working on a trilogy which is based on the same time of premise: a strange image which makes no sense, but I forced myself to give it meaning and make it make sense. In doing so, it forced me to think creatively and I ended up with a novel (and soon to be novels) which are beyond what I thought I could ever think of. But I now know that’s not the case. I can make anything work if I give it enough time and brain power.

So give it a try. Take an idea, a random idea, a bizarre idea and try to justify it. It’s fun and you never know what you’ll end up with.

 

Was I Sleeping 4 Times Through This Chapter?

Revision work never seems to surprise and frustrate me. I have been doing some fairly significant re-writes on my next novel up, and each revised chapter had its moments in the grinding machine of my mind, polishing and burnishing each one a little closer to the end result. And then yesterday, I came across a certain chapter that was so poorly written that I had to ask  myself a question: Was I sleeping when I wrote this chapter? And when I revised it three previous times?

It’s bizarre, actually. Were the writing Gremlins having their best inside my Scrivener, choosing just to sabotage one chapter so as to not make it so obvious?

I really don’t have an explanation of such inconsistent writing, especially after this is the fourth revision of this chapter.

It only reinforces what I’ve been doubling down on lately: take your time. That’s the beauty of being an independent author. I don’t have deadlines to meet. Sure, I want to consistently put out work, at least once a year. But don’t stress over fake deadlines and fake writing goals.

There is only one writing goal: write the very best story possible. Period.

To do this, it needs time. A manuscript needs time to simmer, time to aerate, time to reveal its cracks. Obviously, certain cracks can be hidden in plain sight, but they are there, plain as day, they only need to be looked at once more and they will reveal their fatal flaws.

Which is good, because then you can correct them.

So once again I say slow down, Mr. Revisionist. Slow down, Mr. You Are Typing Too Quickly. Slow down and read those words out loud. Here the flaws, listen to the cracks, and boldly insert the solution.

This is going to be a great novel. How do I know? Because I see its flaws and I haven’t turned away yet.

 

“Not So Fast,”Book 1 says to Book 2.

In a previous post, I talked about how I’m writing my first sequel, possibly series, and I keep discovering things which I am sure series writers knew in their kindergarten years of writing: slow down!

The reason for the slow down is that I now realize that book 2 affects book 1, or at least can affect book one. Silly for me to thing it was the other way around. Yes, of course, book 1 is the driver of book 2, but by the time I started writing in book 2, it became obvious as the sand on the beach which I’m currently staring at that I could make book 2 better by changing some aspects of book 1.

This is where outlining comes in, which by the way, I don’t do. I can’t stand outlines. Even if I took the time to write out where I wanted my stories to go, or the overarching aim I’m shooting for, it would be a waste of time. My brain is too scattered. It’s too inconsistent. It’s driven by new ideas in new directions every single day. I would most likely deviate from my outline on day 1. So  what’s the point and what’s the solution?

The solution is simple. Slow down.

My book 1 has been finished for a long time. I could have already published it, but I’m glad I didn’t. Once it’s published, it’s locked in. So as I write book 2, I’m able to dip back into my book 1 plot and make changes which won’t be fully realized until book 2. Yes, I’ve already done this, and it’s a big deal and will make the overall series of books, whether 2 or more, much better because of it.

Bless your  keyboard if you are one of those lucky ones who has an organized brain driven by an outline. Good for you! However, if you are a writer like me, and tend to have a tangled mess up there, the best way to protect yourselves is to slow down. As new ideas come to you, you’ll be able to adjust your previous unpublished work.

The longer wait will be worth it in the end.

I Don’t Particularly Like Sequels, But I’m Writing One

I have written five standalone novels.

Novel six, which is complete, could have been another standalone, but I’ve decided to write a sequel for it.

Here’s why. But first, why haven’t I written any sequels up to this point?

First, Hemingway never wrote sequels, and I like Hemingway. Okay, that’s not a very  good reason for not writing sequels. I like complete stories. I like to bring closure, to show an entire world inside one story. Sequels seem cheap in some respects. Milking characters for more than what they really are.

There are so many bad sequels out there. The only  way I would ever write a sequel is if I believe book two can be just as good if not better than book one. That’s actually a tall order.

I’ve ready many blog posts from authors and writers who encourage sequels and trilogies and series to be a great way to build a loyal readership. Readers love to know about the continuing adventures of their favorite characters. I get that.

However, it was still never enough for me to want to write a sequel. Honestly, I’ve never written for readers. I write the story that I have. The story I want to tell. That’s it. And when that story is told, I’m ready to move on to the next story. There’s unlimited creative potential in standalones. Sequels have parameters. I don’t like writing parameters. I like to allow my creative freedoms to take me wherever they want to go.

So I really don’t like sequels, but I’m currently writing one. Why?

Honestly, I don’t rightly know. I think one of the main reasons is that I’ve never done it. I like to challenge myself in my writing and try new things. There are definitely different dynamics which go into writing a series, and I wanted to experience that as a writer to see how it feels. I’m hoping it will be a stretching experience for me.

In addition, it helps a lot that I really love the story and characters I created with my sixth novel, and after 80,000 words, it felt as if the story wasn’t quite complete. Oh, there is plenty of closure at the end, but there were many loose ends and avenues of creativity left to be explored. So it tempted me, and I took the challenge.

I sincerely hope that this will attract new readers who are willing to give this writer a chance. Perhaps this book series will help. Perhaps it won’t. But after six years of serious writing, it’s time to try. Much more about this to come. Stay tuned.

Is this satire? – Santa Sent for Counseling

I can’t tell. I don’t think it is, but this article is so funny that I think it must be satire. And if it isn’t, it should be.

Santa Sent for Counseling

If you don’t want to click on the list, here’s the short version.

A small girl asked a mall Santa who was on the naughty list this year. The witty Santa replied “Hillary Clinton” and laughed.

Santa was replaced because of, I guess, his insensitivity, and was sent to human resources so he could get counseling.

This is too good to be true. First, I think this Santa is brilliant and deserves a raise, unless it’s satire, then the writer of the article needs a raise.

Second, it just confirms to this writer that I will not, anytime soon, run out of things to write about. Our society is full of remarkable silly stories which are the equivalent of the Holy Spirit bringing down writing inspiration from God, aka John Milton.

This is tremendous. Sad, yes. But tremendous without a doubt. I can’t wait to use this in one of my plays or stories. Santa sent to counseling. It’s too good to be true.

Thank you, society, for your never-ending inspiration. Where there is idiocy, there is a great story.