Friday, October 19, 2012

Observations, Praise and Prayer

It’s frightening to learn how much I don’t know about writing--correct punctuation, powerful sentence structure, the show vs. tell, and correct POV.  

Ab. So. Lute. Ly.  Frightening.
Where have I been all my writing life? Why haven't I learned these things? I guess I've been marching to my own beat. Maybe I'm too hard-headed or just down-right unteachable.
Identifying reoccurring writing problems in my manuscripts puts fear in my heart--and my head. Certainly it makes me more aware, but talk about slowing the writing/editing process! Unless we do it correctly the first time. (And again, I have to wonder how published authors can whip out books so fast! Some of them make the same mistakes I make.)

And I have to admit, there's the rub. And, truth be known, THAT'S where I've been all my writing life! We're all told to read the popular writers, those who are churning out the books. They're certainly doing something right. They have the know-how. Okay, I read those authors I want to emulate. Really, tell me what I'm supposed to learn from them because I'm confused. They head-hop. I can't. They use adverbs. I can't. Don't tell me I have to know the rules before I can break them. Jeeze loueeze, that's not fair. The only reason breaking the rules works for them is because they're making money.

Now, Just point out to me what I'm supposed to learn by reading those wonderful bestselling authors like Nora, Stephen, Patterson, Child and others. Maybe ... storytelling skills?

I guess what I need to do is have the rules so ingrained in my mind that I don’t use words like, felt, feeling, as, see, saw, look, that, was, were, is, be, to name a few. I don't say Rosie blushed when I'm in Rosie's POV, because how could she possibly know? She can't feel it because she can't feel. Yes, I know heat can ravage her face like an Oklahoma drought ravages a field of corn. (ha, now that was fun.)

This is not a rant. Believe me, this is exactly what my blog title calls it: Praise, Prayers and Observations. Observations came first. Now here's the praise:

I got the edits back on my short story. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t agree with so I made all the changes suggested by the editor. What a learning experience! It makes me realize my constant handwringing is for nothing. I need to pay closer attention to choosing the right words, staying in POV and not over-writing.
Here’s a great new resource for anyone who is concerned about grammar and mechanics, technique and style, and plotting and characterizationCheck out one of the best articles I’ve read on point of view, called Why POV Matters by author/editor Alicia Dean. 

I make the same mistakes over and over again. Time to take my writing to the next level. The very thought brings on the handwringing!

Now here's the prayer: Lord, let me be teachable!

Have you identified any weaknesses in your writing? What do you think we're supposed to learn from best selling authors?


Charles Gramlich said...

There are some popular writers whose popularity I just don't get. I've read them, can't get into them. I eventually have decided I'm not going to learn from those writers, even though they do very well moneywise. I guess we can't be all things to everyone.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Charles, good point. Some successful writers are fantastic at characterization while maintaining some annoying habits in their writing. I guess it's just like critiquing each other: we need to take what we need from them and ignore the rest. With all this studying... the joy of reading is gone. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey, after two books, I still don't know what I'm doing!
I think what we can learn from best sellers is that once we get to that point, we can discard a lot of rules.

LD Masterson said...

I finished a story, offered it up for critique, and found out the POV 3rd person omiscient is considered a big no-no.

"How can that be? I'm in the middle of a great series right now that's written in that POV."

"Sorry, the only writers who can get away with 3rd person omni are best sellers like Nora Roberts."


The series I was in the middle of was the In Death series by JD Robb. Who, we all know, is...

Gotta be careful who you learn from. :-)

Judy Alter said...

Oh, Jessy, you're so right: the joy of reading goes when we analyze the writing. I agree, Charles, I just don't get some writers, but I refuse to worry about it. I write what I can write and do the best I can at that. I think it's folly to pursue every new topic or trend. Alex, I'm a bit ahead of your two books and still wonder as I get into each book what I'm doing and how I'm going to pull it off.
LD, laughing. I was always told first person was the mark of a beginner, but somehow in 30 years, I've never progressed beyond it, never as comfortable with third person--though I may publish one attempt soon.
Thanks all, and good luck with your writing.