Learning to Write

As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on. "Reading Rita," my mother called me. You couldn't find me anywhere without a book in my hands.

I remember getting ready for school one morning, and when it came time to leave, I balanced ten school books in one hand--just about to slip all over the floor--while my other hand held a book that I'd been reading, my thumb holding the place. And I headed out toward the car with my bunny slippers still on my feet. Oh, my mother was upset!

I think that was what spurred my interest in writing in junior high and high school, my love for reading. But I put it all aside to pursue a career in computers. Why didn't I at least dabble in writing on the side? I don't know. I call it madness to let a dream die.

With the coming layoffs and the questions about what I wanted to do with my life, I figured I would explore my dreams again. I thought about a story concept, wrote a few notes, and started typing. I didn't start with a short story or two. I decided on a full-fledged novel with two sequels.

* shaking head *

What was I thinking? Oh, I was thinking that I was good at writing. I excelled at it in all my classes, right? I aced my freshman writing class in college. I took all the advanced writing courses in high school. Yeah, I was talented. I could do this.

If I knew how hard it was going to be, I might not have started. Or maybe I would have started smaller. It was a year and a half of constant effort. I carved out time before and after work. Lost out on sleep. Stopped exercising. Slowed down on my home schooling schedule. Gained weight as though I was pregnant. And I was pregnant, only not with a child. Maybe when I finally birth this thing I can shed the baby weight. 

My husband TJ was the first editor, and he told me it was good. But that was because he could see the diamond in the ruff. He knew where it would go. He's a visionary. He could see what the end product would look like even though it was nowhere close to that yet.

My second editor Jacob was kind in his feedback but gave me some advice on content and wording. He too could see where I was going.

My third editor Joe tore me apart and left me bleeding on the floor. I had flat characters and boring dialog and boring description, he told me. I thought I had achieved great character development and all that, and I wasn't sure if I could do any better than I already had. It wasn't the criticism that hurt. It was the feeling of being lost. I didn't know how to improve what I had.

I thought about giving up, but even if I had determined to put it aside, I don't think I could have at that point. I was too addicted to writing. I couldn't stop even if I wanted to. So I went back to my notes and started thinking about my characters. This time my edits focused on the voice of each character. What were their motivations--other than what I wanted them to do?

My fourth editor was Jonathon. He saw holes in the plot. Mostly old stuff not meshing with new stuff. But that's when I started to take this whole thing seriously. It was time that I learned what it was I should be doing. I started looking for books to study on characters, on writing, on dialog, on editing.

My editors were no longer there to tell what to do. There were just there to tell me what I had missed. It all fell into place. I knew what to do. I knew how to weave a story. I understood what needed to be done to make a character pop from the page.

So I started with talent and obtained skill. Now I just need to practice. 

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