Learning how to write… again.

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I was seven years old when I wrote my first book.  The main character wandered along the street, asking others “Would you be my friend?”  It had a happy ending, although I can’t remember much more about it.

Over the course of my life I’ve gone through cycles of writing fiction intensively for several years, then completely dropping it for a few more years.  My most recent writing cycle was 2005 through 2011, when I was a regular participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and got to the 50,000-word finish line six times in six successive Novembers.  On my last outing in November 2011 I only got about 5,000 words into the story before stopping.  Life had staged an intervention:  I had slipped on some stairs and fractured a leg bone; my car had been rear-ended at an intersection and I was hobbling around town trying to locate a replacement; and Wednesday nights were off limits for writing because by then I was a dedicated participant in the local community band scene.

Well, I’m back.  And this time I’m actually going to publish something.

Due to a serendipitous encounter at the supermarket with an old acquaintance — a lot of that going on nowadays! — I’ve hooked up with a writing group again.  The last such group had dissolved, with one of the principals moving out of town and another passing away, and because writing had taken a back seat to music I hadn’t been in a massive hurry to locate a new one.  It still annoyed me to have half a dozen first-draft manuscripts just sitting around the house, and I intended to do something with those stories eventually.

Last Thursday evening was an eye-opener, enlightening and humbling.  Because my old novels are currently on a USB key in a safety deposit box downtown, and in a jumbled pile of print-outs in a box on my office floor, and possibly on an external hard drive that needs to be hooked up sometime so that I can see what’s on it, I decided instead to read out this post from this blog.  The feedback was an “Aha!” moment of epic proportions.  Although I had described a chaotic jumble of goings-on, and my efforts to get from hither to yon to get everything done, one key element was missing.

Emotion.

For someone who aspires to be a serious writer, this is a rather grave omission.  I’ve known for some time, over multiple writing/not-writing cycles, that my style changes markedly every time I return for another attempt.  It never even occurred to me that something had been left behind in the transition to the latest style.

Well, now I know what I have to do.  As I rework characters that had been lightly sketched out in the race for 50,000 NaNoWriMo words, it’s necessary to put a few gouges and scratches in their personalities.  I have one female lead in particular who’s much too Mary Sue for my tastes, and I am determined to make her into less of a Good Girl and more of a jerk.  I had a second “Aha!” at the writer’s group that showed me a way to do that:  With each story, her experiences wear her down a little bit more and she acquires a few more flaws in response to what she’s going through.

And somewhere along the way, she is going to learn how to feel something, whether she wants to or not.

 

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