Wow. I must admit, I'm a bit overwhelmed right now in the best possible way. Something must be in the water, because virtually every post I read by my fellow writers today was stellar. Even more so than usual. Whether it offered a juicy editing tidbit or sparked a lively discussion between friends, all of them were spot-on when it comes to what I'm looking for in a blog post: a bit of humor, a bit of useful info, and most importantly, something to make me say, "Hmm..."
First up is Amy Sue Nathan with a useful list of words to cut during the editing process (inspired by Erica Orloff, but we'll get to her later). Sadly, I'm quite addicted to using just about every word on this list. I'm also addicted to procrastination, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm also on the road to recovery.
Next is Michelle Hickman at The Surly Writer with a fantabulous post about how to release your imaginative powers...and the wondrous stories that can take shape if you do. What makes it so interesting is that she walks you through the entire creative process of building a sample scene within a story, complete with all the important elements: character, dialogue, setting and point-of-view. It's a long post, but if you have the time to sit and partake of Hickman's knowledge, it's worth every minute.
Now we come to Erica Orloff, whose post about training the editing eye to see became the inspiration for Amy Nathan's post today. Well, Erica has done it again today with another great post about shortcuts in character development. Let me tell you, it knocked my socks off. In my mind, the best type of writing is the type that shows me something about myself I didn't already know, and that's exactly what this post did for me. After reading Erica's words, I thought of all the times in my writing I had taken the easy way out when developing my characters; the child who is bitter from her parents' nasty divorce, the mother who is overprotective of her child after having a miscarriage, the emotionally vacant father who works long hours. My mistakes stood out to me like signs with neon lights.
And last, but certainly not least, Spy Scribbler wrote some intriguing and challenging words about being different that started an interesting, yet always respectful, religious debate. I don't know about you, but it's rare indeed for me to find people who can discuss controversial topics like race, religion and politics without going for blood. It was truly refreshing to see.
The one thing I learned from all of these posts was that me and my writing have a lot more work to do than I thought. I've been doing this thing since I was a kid--almost twenty years now--and though I've never been published (aside from articles in magazines and newspapers), I always believed I understood the craft fairly well. I knew what not to do, at the very least. And I knew I was good. Better than average. Maybe even a lot better. Colleen Lindsay just wrapped up a contest over at The Swivet today (The Swivet: Contest! Query in 140 Characters or Less!) Yes, you read correctly, that's characters, not words. I entered it, and at the time, I thought I had a great shot of winning.
I know differently now. Oh, I'm still confident--I believe in my abilities one hundred percent--but now I see how much I still have to learn. I see how much talent is really out there, and it's a humbling experience. Last time I checked, there were over 300 entries in that little contest I entered, and many of them were as good, if not better, than mine. Whoa (deep breath).
Eh, I'm not discouraged; I'm inspired. British statesman and literary figure Benjamin Disareli once said, "To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge." So I guess that means I'm doing okay. I may be a rookie in the big leagues, but I've found a lot of veterans who are helping me find my way.
Now it's your turn. What have you learned lately about the writing craft? What surprised you about this new knowledge?