Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Five writing points

I don't subscribe to Writer's Digestanymore, because I found it to be a little too general for me (I really need to subscribe to Locus)--but I got this poignant list from a copy a few years ago:
  1. Writing is hard. Though if it were easy, we wouldn't love it so much.
  2. Writers only need three things: an idea, a writing utensil and a deadline.
  3. Editors are your friends, not your enemies. Your enemies are dangling modifiers.
  4. Stephen King says he writes every day except for his birthday and Christmas. He's lying. He writes on both those days too.
  5. Read, read, read. The more you do, the better your writing will be.
I agree very much with point #1. And it's also interesting how the hard parts are not necessarily what people would expect. For me, the hardest things to write are the transition scenes. It's relatively easy to write scenes in which action takes places, since the action (and conflict!) drives you forward. But when I need to write a transition, I often get stuck. This is one of the main reasons why I stall (my desk needs to be organized!) or even stop writing for a while. Getting a character from point A to point B (in any sense) can be an extremely hard balance. You don't want to suddenly change gears and jar your reader, but you also want to avoid the tedium of "he walked down the street, paused to look in a window, turned right, walked around a garbage pail, picked up a penny off the street, said 'hi' to someone he passed..." And orchestrating things so that your character will believably arrive at just the right moment can be difficult as well.

The deadline issue (point #2), otherwise known as being motivated to write, has been something I've been working hard on lately. My latest strategy (in addition to this blog, which is requiring me to stay in the game) has been to mark a "W" on my calendar on each day that I've spent time on a story. I'm also writing down things like "started new story," and "finished rewrite of story," as well as submission information. It gives me a visual marker of my progress. The first few days of February were spent getting this blog live, but I'm hoping to have Ws on most days from here on out. Just like in point #4.

Isn't it funny how sometimes critiques of your work (point #3) can feel like personal attacks? They're not, but they can feel that way. That's one of the hard parts about writing--realizing that people might have important things to say about your work, even if you don't like what they have to say. Actually, I did get a personal attack in the form of a critique once, in a writing class, and I never found out who it was from--someone who thought I was too hard on his (it looked like male handwriting) story, from the context. But I digress. Since I am primarily my own editor these days, and have no pressing deadlines, I leave a story alone for about a month (now writing reminder notes on my handy calendar mentioned in #2) before going back to edit. This helps me get some distance so I can look at it with fresh eyes and see what doesn't work.

For #4, see #2. I'd like to write everyday. My son and my house don't seem to want to let me, though.

Finding time to read (point #5) as a parent can be just as hard as finding time to write. Some days, you just can't do both. I actually have a lot to say on this topic, but I was already planning on making another blog post on this in the near future, so I will postpone until then. Especially since my son has awakened and I shouldn't leave him alone in his room for any longer. Hopefully I can prevent Banshee Baby from making another appearance!

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