Writing Thin

Hey! Fellow white writers! Just a reminder! Diversity is good! Write characters that don’t look like you! It’s healthy! But! Don’t! Write! BIPOC’s! Stories! Just! Don’t!

Also, don’t try to prettify human suffering. Just a thought.

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Seriously tho, can we not?

Anyway, those of you who are still here, welcome to another week in the life of a struggling writer. This struggling writer, anyway. And, lord, has it been a struggle. As it turns out, deciding mid-draft that your WIP needs a major developmental revision is not something that can be taken care of in a week. My mental pendulum keeps swinging from “excited and energized” to “I’m a terrible writer, all my ideas are laughably banal, and I’m just going to give up on this whole writing thing in general, don’t at me.”

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A visul recap of my week.

I’m caught between the idea that my creative well is running dry and I need to take a break and refill it, and the little voice in my head that continually reminds me I took all of December off, I’ve barely done anything creative this month, I keep making excuses not to write. 

I’m gonna figure it out. Eventually. I’m gonna strike a balance, and this will get written. Maybe even in my lifetime.

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My list of revisions.

Anyway, one of the things I’m definitely going to have to figure out if I am going to get this book done is how to stop writing so damned thin.

I imagine many writers might say that writing thin is a good problem to have, and I believe that is true for a lot of people. For me, however, it’s a bane. As I’ve mentioned before, I started writing when I was 11, and though I started in original fiction by 13 I had been roped into the magical world of fanfiction. Now, my path is my path, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I learned more than you’d think about craft, but one thing I left behind in those years was the ability to describe literally anything.

I relied on the fact that any readers would already be familiar with the characters and setting, and almost everything I wrote was entirely based on interactions. Conversations, conflict, sex. It was easy.

Now I’m kicking myself, because I find myself falling into that pattern even now that I know I have to set the stage myself.

I just did a read through of my second draft. One of the things I realized is that a major character has only ever been described (once) as “tall.” That’s it. That’s all you know about her. Another character, equally important, hasn’t been physically described at all. Most of my cast are little more than floating, talking heads.

Don’t get me started on worldbuilding. Again. I hate it. I mean, I love it, but, actually, I hate it. I have a perfect image in my head of what my world is, but when it comes to the text of the novel I don’t feel compelled in any way to describe it. “What purpose would mentioning the scenery of the countryside serve?” I ask myself. “Does my made up historical context really have any bearing on this scene?” or “Why slow down the pace and ruin the tension just to remind the reader there is a fully fleshed out world beyond this conversation?”

Most of that is thanks to a piece of writing advice I took and surgically grafted onto my heart, and that is: good storytelling is often about good secret keeping. Don’t give away what you can hold onto until the moment is right. And that is the philosophy I have carried into my fantasy stories: don’t info dump when you can sprinkle in the details as needed.

And, honestly, I still think that is really sound advice, but, in rereading this second draft, I think I may have lost sight of what is too much to hold back. The draft reads like I’m being greedy with my world, or that I’ve forgotten that the readers don’t know what I know. I rush from plot point to plot point without adding critical context, because I already know the background of X and Y characters’ relationship with each other, or where A and B locations are on the map.

At DFWCon I had the chance to sit down with an agent and kind of talk shop (I wasn’t ready to pitch yet, obviously, but I still wanted to get some insight). We got into a discussion about word counts for debut authors, and after hearing that I had just finished a first draft, he asked my word count. 105k, I told him. That’s really good for a debut fantasy, he said. Right in the butter zone. I wish I could have been pleased about that, but I knew, deep in my bones, that the only reason I kept it that low was because the draft wasn’t really complete. I had left so many details on the floor, details that would be inexcusable to leave out of a polished manuscript.

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Or, writing, as the case may be.

Going into draft 3, I know this is something I’m going to have to be serious about fixing. I need to learn how to take my time and properly build a world that readers will want to crawl into. I need to figure out how the keep the flow going without leaving important information out in the cold. I’ve got to teach myself that it’s okay to do those things, even if it means a 300k word draft.

Because that’s what revision is for.


That’s all from me this week. I hope you enjoyed Captain Kirk coming along for the ride with us. Next week I hope to discuss The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang, which I’ve been reading this month. Which means I need to close up and get it finished. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few!

Kerry Share

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Telling Yourself the Story

Manuscript News

Honestly, I’ve had a great writing week. I hit 65,000 words — a milestone for me, because that was my very first, completely clueless, word count target for this novel. Looking back that’s an absurdly low count for a fantasy novel. I knew it was then, but I tried to rationalize it as this story is technically a low fantasy, the setting wouldn’t require that much description as the focus would be on the narrative.

Yeah, I don’t know what possessed me to think that a custom built fantasy world wouldn’t need a lot of description, but I was dead wrong.

Anyway, I hit a good stride this week. I slowed down a little yesterday thanks to my anxiety and a smash cold taking over my sinuses, but I’m hopeful to get back into it today. I’m just about to crest a hill and start hurdling down the other side toward the end, and I’m so NERVOUS. AND EXCITED. NERVICITED.

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The Weekly Struggle

It’s not all been sunshine and roses, though. The latest three or four scenes have flown out of my pen as if it had a mind of it’s own. However easy the words have come to me, they have also put me in a bit of a bind narratively. Not only have I committed the cardinal sin of telling, instead of showing, I have jumped the gun on a conflict I intended for the sequel.

When I realized what I had done, I admit, my enthusiasm deflated a little. The majority of the 5000 words I have done this week will have to be either be rewritten or cut completely. And that’s kind of a bummer. I was really proud of the work I had put in and really felt like I was propelling myself along nicely toward the climax. To realize it would all be for nothing… yeah. I took a little break after that.

And it’s a good thing I did, because I was laying in bed, gloomy, wondering if I should just tear ten pages out of my notebook and start fresh, when I remembered my second favorite writing tip.

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. – Terry Pratchett.

Oh my gosh, the relief I felt. The weight that lifted, the joy that returned. If I could, I would have tattooed those words on my eyelids so that I would never forget them again.

It’s okay that my character is literally telling her friends things that I really should be showing in the narrative, because these were things I was figuring out as I was writing them. It’s okay that I wrote myself into a corner that I’ll have to cut and paste somewhere else later, because getting the details figured out now can only help me foreshadow them for the future.

I am telling myself the story, discovering it’s nuance and it’s flavor as I go. None of this time is wasted, because I am learning so much from it. All of this is a perfectly normal part of the first draft phase and I really shouldn’t be beating myself up over it.

Maybe it’s because I’m an inherent plotter that made this truth such a struggle to accept. I have always tried to keep an open mind about my outline, allowing it to expand beyond the borders I originally drew for it. But, for better or for worse, I always thought I knew where I was going and how I was going to get there. This latest sequence of scenes was a curveball I hadn’t been prepared to deal with.

Writing a novel truly has been more of a learning experience than I ever expected, in more ways than can be counted. This latest lesson has returned a sense of joy I had lost as I got bogged down in the Great Soupy Middle. I had forgotten that this was meant to be a journey for me, too, not just my characters or the people that one day might read the story.

Cheers, Terry.


I’ve been remiss in my reading this week. I’ll try and get back on the horse next week! That’s all from me for now. Time to get back to writing.

Kerry Share

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NaNoWriMo Update – Week 3

Oh man, guys, the mid-month blues hit me hard this week.

I thought I was flying. I wasn’t pushing myself overmuch, I had realistic goals, I was riding the high of hitting 20k, and then….

SPLAT

The burnout got me.

I wasn’t stuck — that’s what my trusty outline was for. I wasn’t too busy. I wasn’t even sick, like I was last week. I was just tired. I still tried to write every day, and I guess technically I did, if you count that one day where I only did about 150 words. But I was at a point where opening my laptop and staring at my document just made me feel like…

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It wasn’t til late Monday night, as I lay in bed watching that helluva football game and guilting myself for not working, that I decided I was going to stop trying to force the words into Scrivener.

As I talked about in an earlier post, I’m a huge fan of writing longhand. I haven’t exclusively done it for NaNo simply because of the time factor, but I do have a notebook that I write in while I’m at my day job or at my daughter’s gymnastics practice. At home, however, I was taking advantage of technology to keep up the pace.

And maybe it’s that pace that wore me out so much.

So, I retrieved my pretty flower notebook and sparkly pink gel pen from my work bag, got back in bed, and started writing that way.

I only worked for about 30 minutes but I got more done than I thought I would.

So I decided that, while the burnout lasts, I’m going to stick with writing longhand. In my pretty flower notebook, I can write about 500 words per page. Over the course of a normal work day I can usually write about two pages. If I can double that with some evening writing, I’m ahead of the game.

Yesterday was my first attempt at this and I set a five page goal for myself. I clocked in at 4.5 and 2221 words. My sparkly pink gel pen is dead, may she rest in peace, my hand is sore as hell, but I already feel revitalized. Today, I was so caught up in my pages that I almost forgot to even write this post for you all.

It’s just so funny to me how the smallest changes, be it the scene you’re working on, or the medium you’re working with, or the environment of your workspace, can inspire you even when you thought you had nothing left to give.

Writers are such strange beasts and I’m really jazzed to be one of them.


This week I’m reading: I’ve been really bad about reading new things lately. I felt so guilty about it that I even started actively resisting it. Which was stupid. This week I decided that I need to stop making excuses and follow advice that I love but have yet to heed: writers have to read. So from now on I’m going to carve out more time for myself to read new things, not just my old favorites (I read Pride and Prejudice once every nine months or so). To that end, at the end of every regular post, I’m going to talk a little bit about what I’m reading that week. I’m still a slow reader so it might not be different every week, and I’m woefully behind on books so my list might be quaint, but… well it’s my blog and I’ll read what I want to.

So, after a creatively frustrating day this week, I wanted something new and fresh to input into my brain, and after browsing the Kindle store I settled on Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve never even watched the Starz series (though I had at least heard of it from under my rock), much less read the novels, but I’d heard great things. I know I’m years behind on this series, but I’ve been burned lately with some (forgive me Indies!) pretty bad Kindle Library books and wanted something tested. I’m not terribly far into it yet, not even enough to give an opinion, but it was a relief to be able to get through a chapter without cringing.

No spoilers, but what does everyone else think of Outlander?

Until next week!