What I Wish I Knew About Writing When I Started

These youth are off to a writing critique group.

Though I’m very thankful that I know what I know now (and next week will discuss that there is always more to learn), there are a few things I would have loved to know years ago when I first started writing. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather the few things that would have made a huge impact on my writing.

  1. Adjectives and Adverbs. I would have loved to know this rule about not using adverbs and adjectives. I learned it rather late, about six months ago. I’m still working on getting rid of them in my writing, and I know it has improved. If I had been more aware when I first started writing, I’d have a larger vocabulary of noun and verbs to chose from now, and I’m sure first drafts would be cleaner.
  2. How to write a scene. Gosh this seems so obvious, but when I was younger, I didn’t write as many scenes as I did detailed summaries. Hell, it’s still an issue I deal with, though I buckle down and “scenify” on subsequent drafts. My first attempts at novels were almost all summary (and boring summary at that) and even through college I was writing more summary.
  3. Narrative distance. As several people can attest to, I tend to write distant narratives. I do not get close to my characters on first, second, or even third tries. It takes a lot of work and effort to reel myself closer. Oftentimes, I am too distant when I need to be up close. Through teaching and reading, I’ve become much better at identifying when I need to be closer (almost always, it is yes, I need to be closer)
  4. Action. My characters act, but often when I’m looking over my own work, they do not seem to make their decisions consciously, and that is something that needs work. Action should be clear, though not always immediately obvious. Revision often helps me with this problem, but I would like to focus on other elements during revision!
  5. Plot. And that leads me to plot, still my number one nemesis. I am not a plot-based writer, and while this okay, it is a tool I need to be able to use. I need to answer the “why” of action in such a way that it is clear, but not explained. Often these last two interplay where the actions are not specifically clear, and thus the plot is obfuscated.
Now, it is good to know where my weaknesses lie, so that I can work on and improve my writing. You best believe I’ve been working pretty hard on the first three. The last two still seem to evade my grasp, though over the course of the next few months, I will be tackling action and plot fiercely. If I disappear, you know I lost!

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