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And a Cup of Honeyed Tea–ROW 80 Check-in

I woke up too  early this morning unable to get back to sleep. My throat felt scratchy and my body achy. With all the time I’ve spent sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office in the last month, I wouldn’t be shocked if I’ve picked up something. (One of the nurses suggested that I should be on the payroll. :P) I am just not ready to accept such a fate. So, I’m going to drink some tea with honey and find my happy place.

In the meantime, I’ve finished reading Story Engineering this morning. It was well worth the effort. I found the sections on structure and character to be the most useful to me. I’m sure I’ll reread them both a few times. Brooks comes at the subject of writing with specifics that I’ve been hard-pressed to find in other craft books. This one came highly recommended by Kristen Lamb and so many other folks that I had to pick it up. Glad I did.

Now that I’m done with that, I’m on to the next book. I started June Casagrande’s It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences. I think a little change of pace on the craft front will do me good.

I haven’t chosen my next book to analyze yet. Now that I’m a few books into the plot drill, my initial list looks less appealing. I am deviating from it for sure. I just have to figure out what’s next. I have some free time this afternoon. I’ll likely make my pick and get started then.

The daily writing continues. Onward ho!

Until Sunday my friends!

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Last Week’s Lesson–Row 80 Check-in

Last week was kind of hectic for me. I’m a bit rebellious by nature. And while I love the structure that comes with setting goals, I have to be flexible in the way I pursue them. I read a lot of books on self-discipline and productivity last summer.  They were helpful in many ways, but they also drilled into me this rigid way of doing things. Being rigid, I’ve learned, leaves me railing against guidelines that were put in place to help me. The week’s theatrics have left me with this lesson–

This is my path; I get to make the decisions.

With all the writing advice out there, sometimes it’s hard not to wobble to and fro trying to keep up with it all. It is absolutely exhausting trying to read every blog or book that’s recommended. Or trying to match my way of doing things up with some successful author validated routine. I have been making myself crazy.

I found myself on Amazon the other day looking through books that were recommended to me and discovered that I was completely unmotivated to read them let alone buy them. They’d just become more shoulds on a list that I’m already working to shorten. I’m choosing to spend more time doing the activities that I want to do and the ones that I feel will benefit my writing the most. I am officially in charge.

On to goals:

The writing is still going well. I haven’t missed a day. I’m thinking that 250 will probably become my permanent test mile number. It seems that I can bang out that number no matter what. I’ve tried 500 words before and found that I tend to miss a few days. I used to write 250 word articles for a website. I think that I’m so used to that word count that it is second nature at this point.

I haven’t done any novel analyzing work since Wednesday, and I’m okay with that. Of all the goals I’ve set for myself, it is the one that gives me the most grief. And to cut down on that angst, I’m letting go of the time frame I set for myself. I’m not adjusting it. I’m scrapping it altogether. The funny thing is I’ll probably get it done faster because I’ve stopped pressuring myself.

Story Engineering is getting it’s due. I’m not a fast reader in general, but craft books, especially the good ones, tend to be slower reading for me. Still loving it though.

And I’ve picked up Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind which is another hulking fantasy book. I’d been putting off reading it trying not to take too much time from (you guessed it) novel analyzing. I start to get weird when I’m not reading fiction, weirder when it’s because of some self-inflicted torture. Sooo…

I hope all is well with you guys. Happy ROWing! Until Wednesday.

Best Writing Advice Ever

I had a discussion with a writer friend of mine. We tend to be polar opposites in many ways and the pursuit of writing is no different. We both have the big dream, publishing regularly and successfully enough to kick the dreaded day job to the curb. But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.

Our main point of contention is whether or not reading books on craft is really worth the effort. My answer is an enthusiastic yes. Hers is a skeptical not so much. She gave me the side eye when I told her that I read craft books so that I know what I’m doing. She argued that those same books hinder creativity.

 I can see her point. There are so many writing rules that one can become overwhelmed. And then there is that tendency to accept all those rules as absolutes (which they aren’t). Or the desire to adopt some expert’s writing process because it worked for them. They made x amount of dollars doing it that way. It should work for me too. Right? Right?

Pitfalls, yes, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. How much creativity does one need to suck at writing? Or to be mediocre? Creativity cannot be short-circuited by studying actual technique.  It can only be enhanced by it. All the imagination and creativity in the world is useless without the skill to effectively tell a story.

When I was pursuing an MFA, one of my professors told me to “stop resting on talent, and study your craft.” I hated her for it at the time. I felt picked on, but now I know better. It was the most sincere and most useful writing advice I’ve gotten to date. It’s not enough to be talented. It’s not enough to be creative.  It’s a publishing jungle out there!

Talent+ Creativity-Skill= A Short-lived writing career (if it ever gets off the ground)

Sure, there are other ways to learn craft. However, there are few that are so readily available , fewer as cheap (break out your library card), and none so adaptable to your own pace. I’m lazy. I don’t want to spend hours toiling away, trying to figure out on my own what I could have learned easily from picking up a book or two. I’m grateful for the kick in pants that  professor gave me. Otherwise, I’d still be clinging to my delusions of grandeur.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?