RP: What I Wish I Knew About Writing When I Started

The following is a repost and edit of an earlier blog. Original can be found here.

These youth are off to a writing critique group. Pish, if they only knew…

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 the lesson rather late: about 2 and half years 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.  This seems so obvious, but when I was younger, I didn’t write as many scenes as I did detailed summaries. 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. I’ve become much more proficient at writing scenes the first time through. Now it’s a matter of writing what needs to be scene and what needs to be summary!
  3. Narrative distance. As several people can attest to, I tend to write distant narratives on first draft. I used to remain distant to my characters on first, second, or even third tries. It takes a lot of work and effort to bring myself 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). Though this is not necessarily a “bad thing,” it is something that I’ve worked hard on to improve. Now I’m close (just need to inch closer for emotions!).
  4. Action. In the past, when I looked over my own work, my characters did not seem to make their decisions consciously—sometimes it felt arbitrary, or worse, paper cut-outs moving to do what I said. Action should be clear. Revision often helps me with this problem. Listening to characters alleviates this issue. Let them make the mistakes you don’t want them to make.
  5. Plot. And that leads me to plot, which, until recently, was still my number one nemesis. I am not a plot-based writer. While this okay, it is a tool I have learned to use. Reading and knowing various structures is infinitely helpful. I always had a structure, but there would always be holes or missing parts that derailed the entire story. It’s basically knowing which structure or story-type to apply, and then filling in the gaps. I wrote about that here.
It’s always a good thing to know where your writing needs improvement. It’s also a good thing to know where your strengths are as well. Maybe that’s a blog post of the future! Anyway, I hope this blog post helped you or maybe you agree! I’ve done a bit of editing on it, but it still holds true. Post in the comments below what you think!
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One thought on “RP: What I Wish I Knew About Writing When I Started

  1. Good, helpful post. Because I basically write women’s fiction, my stories are more character driven than plot driven. My characters tend to drive the plot. Then I have to go back and fix whatever needs to be fixed. This seems to work for me.

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