As far as I know, all authors – published or no – have some aspect of the writing process that is just absolutely foreign to them. Something that, though they have learned over the years how to put together a coherent story, continues to elude them. (I’m not talking about beginnings, or middles, or ends. They are all evil and everyone already knows that.)
For some people, they can’t figure out how to have their dialogue flow more naturally. Some cannot figure out how to vary their sentence length and structure for the most impact. Yet others get so tied up in their subplots that they never find their way out.
This is really my own fault. As a reader, my eyes glaze over when I get to descriptive passages. A few words or maybe a sentence slipped into a paragraph, fine, but anything more than that and I’m off in search of the next line of dialogue. So as a writer, my description is understandably a bit sparse (though, hopefully, it is fully integrated and doesn’t read like “Oops, Kit realized she should put some description in here”). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – Hemingway, after all, is not known for his brilliant, picturesque sunsets – except that I write, for the most part, fantasy and science fiction. So there needs to be a certain level of description to help my readers picture new species and worlds and so forth, and I am just not sure I’m getting there, though I am trying.
Anyone have any recommendations for improving my descriptive skills (that doesn’t include “sit down and describe everything in the room in great detail” because that really just makes me want to gnaw off my own leg and escape. I’ve never understood how that is at all helpful for integrating description into a story)? What’s your stumbling block?
I am aware it is Teaser Tuesday, but I am not yet hip to the whole twitter writing scene and so, for now, I abstain. Well, that, and the fact that I just finished a (second? rewritten first? who knows?) draft and am not currently writing much of anything aside from a serial story and a joint project with a friend. Also, I am never home and have no drafts at my fingertips to share.
Someday, internet, someday.
So, instead, I thought I would wax poetic about my earliest work. At least, the earliest I can remember. When I was eight, my mother got WordPerfect for the computer (an ancient relic that I’m not even sure what it was exactly). I don’t remember what she was doing with it, whether it was for work or whether this was a time period where she was actively writing herself. I grew up adoring (and still do) my mother, and of course I wanted to do whatever she did, so she patiently taught me the keyboard shortcuts (Goddess, keyboard shortcuts. Thank goodness most word processing programs have moved past that madness) and let me have at it.
The first thing I wrote was a story called The Seven Princesses, but then I discovered a book at the library with the same title, so I renamed it to The Seven Special Princesses. Brilliant, I know. Each princess had a special talent that my eight-year-old self thought was important. One was really good at painting. One was really good at braiding hair. (I suspect even my younger self thought that last one was a lame talent but couldn’t think of anything better.) Each one had their own tale of a couple pages, mostly about them getting kidnapped and their sisters coming to their rescue with their inane special powers.
I wish I could say I still had this wonder of literature, but unfortunately when I was fourteen I decided that everything I had ever written previously was crap and destroyed the entire lot, hard and soft copies alike. Someday I will build a time machine and go back and slap teenage!Kit upside the head. For many reasons, really, but this is a major one.
My mother was telling me the other day how – of the two stories her students wrote for NaNoWriMo last year that she actually read in their entirety – both were more or less rip-offs of other media. Apparently she expected her 13-year-olds to be writing more original fiction.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I started writing – and for several years afterwards – I ripped all of my favorite things off. Lemmings (the old computer games, especially Lemmings 2: The Tribes), Mighty Ducks (the animated ducks from space version), Sonic the Hedgehog, Rainbow Brite, any books I liked, Star Trek – I took and incorporated these into whatever I happened to be working on at the time, whether it was designing computer games based more or less on every SuperSolvers game ever or creating a fashion book for Dorothy and Ozma that, in the end, spanned well over five hundred pages.
And even when I graduated to original plots and characters, there was still the old Mary Sue issue to deal with. I thought I was being smart. I never had my self-insert be the main character, but the main character’s best friend, so said main character could talk about how lovely and pretty and smart and funny, etc., etc., et al. her best friend was. It wasn’t until I had been writing for years that I figured out that this was not something attractive in a story.
So I told Mom to give those kids a break. They’re kids. It’s probably their first story. And if they stick with it, they’ll learn, and if they don’t learn, well, hopefully I’ll never have to read their writing.
Speaking of which, can I interest you in this alternate universe Victorian Era Star Trek story?
I kid. No, really.