Saturday, June 11, 2011

Writers--appreciate your growth

I recently added my sons' school pictures to wall frames. Older pictures were stacked behind the new ones, and as mommies do from time to time, I waded through those older photos.

My sons had transformed little by little. From gapped-toothed to braces. From chubby cheeks to lean faces. From slender arms to muscles. I didn't notice the small changes taking place each day until, BAM, my 14 year old was taller than me.

It reminded me how we writers sometimes ignore our own transformations. Maybe we don't notice our improvement because we're focused on all we need to learn/fix/change. Sometimes it's nice to not only focus on where we're going, but to appreciate where we've been.

I'd love to know the ways in which you've grown as a writer. Here's a small sampling of my lessons learned:
  • Adverbs--replace or delete
  • Avoid info dumps
  • Don't begin each sentence or paragraph with the same word
  • Restructure clunky sentences
  • Avoid beginning the story or scene too soon
  • Each scene must have a purpose
  • Find and replace addictive words
  • When reading other books, pay attention to story structure
Each writer is a work in progress, and we should appreciate our growth. If you were to read an early manuscript, what changes would you notice most? How have you grown as a writer?

27 comments:

  1. I'd have to say "All of the above." There was so much I didn't know when I set out to write a book, and when I look back at those early attempts, I want to pull a hood over my head.

    But, honestly, without those first drafts and those rotten stories I never would have written Sliding on the Edge or Princess of Las Pulgas, so I treasure those pages of terrible writing.

    Wonderful picture. btw He's adorable.

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  2. What an awesome thing to point out, Julie!!! It's so true. We do spend so much time beating ourselves up for the negatives, we sometimes forget to stop and celebrate all we've learned. Your list is great, and I'm sure it's only a partial one. :D

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  4. Sorry typo above...

    I would say that in the last 10 years that I've been writing, (I wrote before that but not seriously) I've grown by leaps and bounds in the last 3. I'm talking a real growth spurt. I'm finally starting to get it...like your list above and structure.

    Today, I celebrate writing growth with you.

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  5. Addictive words, yes! "Just" and "But" are two that I still haven't managed to cull effectively (grrr). got rid of "really" though! The biggest thing for me has been acknowledging my more substantive issues with character development (making the MC's flaws real and substantive, not placeholders). This is an important one, and I can feel that leap of faith coming, and almost taste the joy that follows . . . (it only took me YEARS to get to the jumping-off place, sigh) I'll celebrate that.

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  6. I'm learning to world-build better, and my critique partners say I've learned to write an even better story. Still a long way to go, but I'm trying!

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  7. I still feel like a beginner in certain ways, but you're right~ looking at small steps lets me know that I'm making some progress. Thanks for the boost :)

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  8. Oh, Julie, I've learned ALL those things over the last few months. My first (and second and third...) draft was an amateurish mess. But as I've connected with other writers and had a few as crit partners, I've gotten a lot better. A LOT! I'm actually getting a great deal of positive feedback now. Most of this has been achieved through reading other blogs, mostly by other writers, but also many agents. Every time I see a post that hits on an issue I recognize in my own work, I rush through my manuscript, locate every instance that can be fixed and do just that. It has been a very enlightening process.

    On a side note, I am enjoying your blog and have become your newest follower so you might be seeing me pop my head in from time to time.

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  9. Great list. I feel each time I get rid of an unfortunate writing habit I grow a new "filter" that allows me to grow as a writer. Of course my fantastic critique partners are major factors in my writing journey.

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  10. I've worked on those bad habits, but in addition, i think my growth is in getting the story down the way I want it and in the ability to congratulate myself when I do something great. I never used to want to admit that, and picked around looking for something to trash. Sometimes a "yay me" pat on the back is good!

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  11. Wonderful post. I like how you compared a child's growth and change to the growth and change a writer goes through.

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  12. I've learned so much through my writing journey. I didn't realize the amount of time that is required to make a book shine. I am usi g the five senses better, and showing more versus telling.

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  13. Save some of those baby pictures for right in front of the glass, as in memorizing poetry for the pleasure of improving your prose.

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  14. It is very hard to remeber this... but i try.

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  15. Yes, it is a good thing to stop and examine our own progress from time to time. In fact, I just wrote a post on that subject entitled "Making a Little Progress."

    In my case, it would be a "little" - that is for sure. Good question.

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  16. I can say one for sure and that's revision. How to truly change that first draft into a story. And over everything else that has been the hardest thing to learn b/c in order to do it you need to know what to fix and how to fix it.

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  17. I definitely learned each scene must have a purpose. Also each scene should have a beginning, middle, and end. Helped me so much!

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  18. I used to head hop an awful lot and be terrible at descriptions. I think everyone gets better at descriptions through reading a good book, but head hopping, you juse need someone to whack you over the head about it often enough lol.

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  19. Man, my list would be HUGE if I listed it all. I think lately the biggest things I've learned is understanding the structure behind great novels and understanding exactly how to create a sympathetic feeling in a reader right away through character technique. Those are both biggies for me. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  20. Yes, it's so important to focus on growth as a writer, because the "pay off" can be so long in coming. We have to celebrate the little steps we take in the right direction.

    Great post, Julie! :)

    Amy

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  21. My son is almost 13, and is taller than me! There's nothing like a yearly picture to show how much they've changed.

    I can fix so much on my own now without critiquers pointing out the mistakes. But I still make too many mistakes. Still... growth.

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  22. Yay! I can say all of the above! Although, while I've learned all of these things (and grown as a writer because of these lessons), I'm not sure I'm consistently following these guidelines yet. But I'm a lot better off than where I was when I began! Great post and sooo true! Christy

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  23. Great list, Julie! May I also suggest:
    Avoid overuse of "to be" in all its forms.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  24. That's a terrific list! I echo many of those. I'd also add that I now like to start just at the point of change for the MC - something I thought you had to build to before :)

    I love going through the photos when I change them - it always makes me smile!!

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  25. What a great comparison! We do grow as a writer. About three years ago, I finally felt I wrote something worth fixing. So I've been in edit mode since then. I had to learn everything, but most importantly, I learnt how to let my work go when it's all grown up.

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  26. This is a nice reminder to remember how I've grown as a writer. I bet if I read the stuff I wrote back in college creative writing classes and earlier, I'd feel like I've improved so much! :)

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