Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The ever-adjusting eyes of a writer

This post was going to be solely about writing and my progress with my writing, but first I'm going to lament about a situation I experienced yesterday. If you wish to abort...I guess now's the time.

First let me describe for you an item...a cylinder, a decently hefty one...big enough for me and two friends to crouch inside, but otherwise nothing special. It's made of metal, isn't necessarily anything pretty to look at and is used to store the flammable, liquid remains of long dead and highly pressurized organisms: an oil tank.

From that description, it doesn't sound like the freakin' sealed sludge bowl should require some vast sum of money to obtain, but let me tell you I may have to shove fiddles in my kids' hands and drive them to the subway to earn me a few bucks. Neither my 7 year old nor my 4 year old can play the fiddle, they can both play that 'cute' card all day long. So we're good.

Yep, my oil tank, which must be nearly as old as the creatures that make up the fuel, decided to get gut rot. It's not leaking par say, but it has rusted enough for the oil company to deny me any more deliveries until I get a replacement. At least I have their names, and I will enjoy casting them as victims in my next story, since that's the going rate for raping my wallet.

...teeth unclenching...deep breath...pressure gauges resetting to green...well...maybe yellow...

So here we go. Back to the original purpose of this post: my writing.

I've always heard that your first writing projects suck. They're supposed to suck. It's just a fact of life, and I'm supposed to deal with it. Funny...my first WIP was absolutely boss! For the entire first draft, I was a story-spinning maniac at the helm of something spectacular.

Deep down, I really knew better. I knew I was suffering from 'ugly baby syndrome' (it's my baby, and it's freakin' adorable...to hell with what you think!). It worried me. After all, I have been pouring endless galaxies of time in my novel for more than a year. I don't want it to be time wasted. I don't want to finish the thing only to be told how horrible it is. But how am I supposed to get better if I fail to see the flaws? That was my concern.

I do the homework that should help me to get better. I'm an avid reader, I follow blog posts and community postings on how to improve my writing style. I know about beta readers, but my story isn't ready for that yet. So how am I truly supposed to get better when I am the one and only (and biased) critic?

In poker, it's easy to improve; I see the mistakes. If I go all-in with 2 7, I deserve to walk home shirtless...but at least I learn. By the way, big slick is a shit hand but that story's for another day. Writing seems to be a whole other animal, so how does one not only improve but realize that they're improving?

Interesting...the question was answered the moment I dove head first into my second draft. I originally thought that draft numero dos was defined by touch ups, grammatical corrections, story flow adjustments, yadda, yadda, yadda. Instead it began with the mass murder of entire chapters because they no longer fit or because they were comparable to dog diarrhea. It was heart-wrenching to be sure, but it was enlightening as well. And it got better as I moved forward.

I initially went in guns blazing, but by the time I got to chapter 10, where I basically am right now, there's less of that. More of the original draft is surviving. More chapters are getting polished instead of rewritten.
I am actually watching the transformation of a sucky writer to a less sucky writer, and it makes me really look forward to what the 3rd draft will show me.

So if you're in a similar situation, where you're worried about how bad you are, maybe go back to something you've written in the past. Compare it to what you're doing now and see how far you've come. I bet you'll see a difference.

And if your oil tank beings leaking, well...good luck! I feel your pain.

Thanks for reading!


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