Monday, February 10, 2014

MY 7 DEADLY WRITER SINS

I have seven bad habits when I write. Luckily, I'm aware of them and have put in place some saving graces to combat. So here they are: My Seven Deadly Writer Sins.

My First Sin: I’m in love with my writing.
               When I was a teenager I used to sit on my dresser and just think about my writing. Well, I don’t sit on my dresser anymore, but when I write something really good, I savor every word.

My Saving Grace: My writing is never perfect.
               One time I was collaborating on a script, and I wrote some lines that I thought were really good. I sent it off to my friend, and she emailed me back, “How married are you to this idea?”
               I laughed and emailed back, “I’m never married to my ideas.”
               I could almost see the sigh of relief in her response. She told me what she liked about the lines and what she didn’t and the resulting script was better than anything I could have written. And, yes, I’m still savoring every word.

My Second Sin: I could edit my own work out of print.
               My favorite part of writing is the editing phase. There’s always a better way to put something, always a way to give a word new meaning. I could edit my work forever and still find another way to improve.
                             
My Saving Grace: I know when to abandon.
               I’ve heard several variations of this, but I think I like John Lassiter’s best: “A work is never finished only submitted.” I’ve also heard, “A project is never done, only due.” But I think Leonardo Di Vinci said it first: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
               Lucky for me, I know when to abandon my work. It’s that moment when I’m changing two or three words back and forth, that my work is ready to submit. Until then, it’s not ready.
 
My Third Sin: Writing is a side-passion to my day-job.
               Actually, being a mom to five kids and wife to an awesome husband is more like a day-and-night job, but I love every minute of it. Almost.
               When one kid sheds his shoes then zooms down the aisle one way, and another kid decides to go shopping down the opposite aisle, while the third is screaming at the top of her lungs because the fourth is hanging onto the bottom bar of the cart so he can body-slide along the floor. And one associate is scolding me because my kid’s not wearing shoes, another one tells me not to let my kids drag behind the cart, while over the loudspeaker I hear, “Please keep your children with you at all times” and other customers are looking at the screaming kid and giving me horrified looks. On those days, I’m not loving it so much.
               My oldest is looking over my shoulder and he says, “Mom, that’s never happened.”
               OK, I might have done a smashup of a few trips.
 
My Saving Grace: It’s great fodder for my writing.
               (Please see above paragraph.) Need I say more?

My Fourth Sin: I read with the author in mind.
               When most people read they want to forget the author is there. They want to get to know the characters and be engaged in the plot. If they are reading a really good book, the one typo in it was so 41 pages ago.
               But I can’t read like that. Whenever I see a great bit of dialogue, well-crafted turn of phrase, or just some good writing, I say, “Good Job Author!”
               Unfortunately, when I write, I sometimes forget that others don’t want to know I’m here. So I do things in my stories that you are never supposed to do, like to talk to the reader directly. You know how they always say, “Don’t look at the camera, forget it’s there?” That’s what I should do more in my books. And I don’t.
 
My Saving Grace: I read on multiple levels.
               When I read a book, I’m reading as an audience, editor, and fellow author all at the same time. It means I read slower than most, but it also means that my editor side has caught every typo and continuity problem, my author side has had a silent conversation with the book (kind of like yelling at the radio), and audience side has simply enjoyed the story. All without getting in the way of each other. Most of the time.
 
My Fifth Sin: My stories are thin in description.
               My writing always feels ‘fatter’ than it really is. I get so focused on the story that I forget to put the reader in my world, help them love the characters before sending them on the adventure. The result is floating characters with no setting, characters talking with no bodies, and readers who have put my book down 20 pages ago.
 
My Saving Grace: I have an awesome network of critiquers.
               If I didn’t have fellow authors willing to look at my work and tell me where they were lost, I’d never have a chance. I cannot emphasize enough the need to have readers in your target audience (who are not related) as well as readers writing in your genre. They help you polish in ways you never imagined.
 
My Sixth Sin: I’m afraid the reader might get to know me through my writing.
               Bad authors tell a bunch of lies they know nothing about. Good authors write about what they know. Great (fiction) authors write about what they know woven in a bunch of lies they’ve done a boatload of research about. I love great authors.
               Being a great or even good author means being vulnerable to your readers. How will my precious world, that I’ve been crafting for as long as I can remember, be received? It’s hard to let that go into the hands of a stranger.

My Saving Grace: My stories want to be shared.
               Every time one of my kids does something really cute. Every time a news article gets my gander up. Every time I learn something new. I just HAVE to share. I try to find an audience that will care, but in the end I have to share it with somebody. And my stories are the same way. They are all waiting impatiently in line for me to write them down and share them with a reader.
 
My Seventh Sin: I don’t always give myself permission to just write.
               When I was in middle school, stream of consciousness writing was really big. You were supposed to write whatever popped into your head  - as it popped in your head. I couldn’t do it. Every time I’d write a thought, my next thought would be an edited version of the last one. I’m hard-wired to edit.
               During the “just get it down” stage of writing, I’m still editing. I can’t even carry on a conversation without editing at least one of my thoughts. Of course that can be really annoying to the person listening because it sounds like I’m just repeating what I already said. They’re right… I am. I’m trying to make it better.
 
My Saving Grace: I always give myself permission to think.
               When I find I’m wearing out the backspace button, I know what I need to do. I walk away. Because the truth is, I’m not ready for the “just get it down” stage. I’m still in the “think about it” stage. So I go do dishes. Or laundry. But my mind is still working. And when my thoughts are ready, I run back to the keyboard and my fingers fly. That’s the fun of writing.