Symptoms of the Learning Process

Mornings.

Generally, I’m not a fan. But, some are better than others. Those mornings I open my eyes, and they see. Blurry, because I don’t sleep in my corrective eyewear, but the images the magic of my eyeballs capture is filtered and understood by my brain. Those mornings my brain functions, and well. I’m filled with purpose, and ambition, and goals.

And on those mornings, I tend to achieve them.

And then there are the other mornings. Mornings like today. Where I open my eyes, and everything’s blurry, and it means nothing to me. I don’t see the ceiling of my bedroom. I don’t register the smell of the spring breeze.

I just know that I’m awake, and I am not amused.

These mornings are slow. They start sluggish, with me lying in bed for much longer than necessary, blinking away the remnants of interrupted dreams. I flick through techno-news, but don’t really understand, or form thoughts about the things I read.

Because my brain isn’t there yet.

I’ll get up. Dress. Brush my teeth. Drive to work. It’s the drive where I seem to come to. I think it’s the music. Today’s wake up song was Johnny Cash’s rendition of ‘Hurt’. A depressing song to start my day to, but sitting in the warmth of spring sunshine, it wasn’t so bad.

So, two and a half hours after opening my eyes, I’m sitting, freezing in the Starbucks lobby. Seriously. It’s 55 degrees outside, why in the dickens is the AC on? And everyone else is wearing shorts, trying to get as much UV as their pasty skin can handle.

Anyway, I’m up. I’m here. And it’s time to get to work.

In my last post I made some lofty goals. I planned to finish chapter 10 of ‘Cards’, as well as edit both chapters 3 and 4 of ‘Vessels’.

I’m here to say that I killed it!

Chapter 10 is done, and awesome, building characters and the world. And it was FUN. A new-ish character has asserted himself, and it turns out, he has a good sense of humor. And he’s good natured. He helps temper all the darkness in my other two leading men.

And, I edited both chapters, as planned. It’s been an awesome week.

Yesterday I took a day off from writing and editing, and focused on my ‘Alloy of Law’ experiment. I’m just over halfway through the book, and I’ve learned a lot. Mainly, I am way, way, way too critical on my writing. And it’s keeping my word counts low.

A typical Sanderson chapter

A typical Sanderson chapter

I could write a six page short story and not have a single adverb, ‘was’ nor ‘as’. And I could make it work. But, trying to do that with a 50,000 word novel is just brutal.

Sanderson averages four ‘-ly’ adverbs per page. Now, I haven’t actually done the math to say that, but, it’s the number I seem to write the most. I’ve been a circling fiend, and I figured out something.

There’s a difference between using passive voice and bad writing.

Passive voice isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes you have to say how it WAS. There is no other way to say it, unless you take all the voice out of your work, and create these clunky sentences that just don’t quite work.

But, if your entire story is in passive voice, then that’s bad writing. There is a balance to be struck. A line to be walked.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to delete ‘bad writing’, that I didn’t see that the sentences I crafted instead, though technically stronger, weren’t actually helping the story.

I’d forgotten that I chose to leave the literary short fiction world behind. I’m reading and writing ‘popular fiction’, aka slumming it. And I love it!

Sure, my prose isn’t the most poetic. But, my writing is clear. You can read it and see the world, know the characters and be transported. That’s what I want.

I’m a little bummed that this realization has come after editing 4 chapters of my manuscript, because I fear I’ve done more harm than good, but I refuse to go back. All the chapters need to be in Draft 2 before I go back to chapter 1.

Ready for Retype!

Ready for Retype!

That’s the deal I made, to keep from getting caught in the editing loop. And, despite what I’ve learned from my critical approach to ‘Alloy’, I’m still going to circle and count these potentially offensive words. Because, while they aren’t synonymous with bad writing, they could be symptoms of it. I still need to be aware of their presence, and just how many I have. But, my perspective on how to use them, and how many can be in one chapter have changed dramatically.

I’m looking forward to editing future chapters.

Also, while I like ‘Vessels’, and think it’s good, I don’t think it’s good enough to publish. My mother will despair at the idea that Val and Ethan won’t someday be in print, but I see ‘Vessels’ for what it is.

It’s my first novel. It’s the start. Where I made all the rookie mistakes that I can’t quite see right now. It’s where I learned to write a piece of any sort of length. And where I learned and developed a writing process that works for me.

And that’s why I’m going to continue to edit it. I’m going to get it as close to ‘done’ as any other piece I’ve worked on, and treat it as if I want it published. Because, let’s be honest, you never know what you’re sitting on.

Ready for Retype!

This chapter took some work!

And because, if ‘Vessels’ taught me my writing process, it can teach me my editing process. It’s a learning experience.

And I won’t throw that away.

Anyway, my brain has finally caught up with my day, and it’s time to get some fiction in!

 

BZ

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One thought on “Symptoms of the Learning Process

  1. Sounds fantastic. 🙂 The editing process and what can be learned from it opens my eyes wider and wider with every page I work on. And I love the idea that the learning is never over. I’m glad things are going so well for you and looking forward to reading more updates.

    Oh, and I think today is one of those mornings for me. I’ve been up for three hours and just realised that the washing machine is half way through a wash cycle. It must have been me that filled it, stuck in the powder and turned it on, but I totally don’t remember. Talk about auto pilot. o.O

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