I’ve been rediscovering Nan, the writer, this week. Editing work has slowed some and I’ve been able to concentrate more on my own writing. Plus, last week, I had a wonderful critique/session with Lani Diane Rich from StoryWonk. She helped me see that I’d fallen into writing to a formula. I have really terrific stories to tell, but I’d been trying to write to the market rather than simply writing what’s in my heart.
Also, Lani showed me how important it is to start in the present with the action, to show, don’t tell, and to avoid overwhelming my reader with too much back story. Confession? I’m an info dumper. I don’t mean to be, but I worry that my readers won’t know enough, so I go on forever, instead of simply dribbling in the back story as the present story progresses. It is one of my worst offenses as a writer, and even though I know I’m doing it while I do it, I can’t seem to stop myself. I have what writer Barbara Michaels referred to in her book Witch as “Ancient Mariner” syndrome. (A great novel, by the way, read it!)
So, I started over on my widow’s story (book 3), took out the first five chapters, which were purely back story and already, I like it so much better. In just a few pages, I’ve given my reader all the introduction they need to my heroine and hero, and now I can move forward with the story. I am amazed at the difference it makes. My writing is tighter with more emotion and action in just those first pages than in all the old five chapters combined.
The best part is, I’m unstuck. I’m no longer spinning my wheels and feeling like I don’t know how to fix that story or where to go on the other one that I’ve been working on (book 4). To be honest, I sort of welcomed the big influx of editing work that arrived the first of April because I’d painted myself into a corner with book 4. If I had “too much work,” I didn’t have to sit and try to figure out out to get out of the web I’d woven for my characters. I’m the master of excuses and working on the editing gigs gave me the perfect reason to stop writing for a while.
But the session with Lani set my creative juices flowing. I highly recommend contacting her at StoryWonk if you’re having a tough time with your writing. She is amazing!
Last week, I spent an hour on the phone with Son, hashing out the issues with book 4, getting his input about where to take the plot line to make it work again. He’s a terrific brain-stormer—we’ve done this before on other knotty writing issues. The analyst in him listens to me tell him the situation and within minutes, he’s got several ideas for writing me out of whatever hole I’ve dug for my characters. Turns out (big surprise) that I needed to simplify the story. Now, I’m back into it, making the necessary revisions, and forging ahead.
It feels terrific to be writing and making progress. Why does that take me by surprise time and again? You’d think I would realize that what makes life work for me is writing, and that when I’m not writing, I’m not happy. How hard is that concept?
Fellow writer, Anne Stuart, once wrote on the Reinventing Fabulous blog, “Everything in my life is filtered through my writing. There is no me without it.” I have that posted above my worktable to remind me how to fix the restless, unhappy times ’cause you know what? I am a great writer!