Writing Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way

I’m stubborn.

Like, on a level that borders on stupid at times.

For example, I hated coloring books as a kid because *I* didn’t draw the pictures. I couldn’t take full credit for the artwork, so I wanted nothing to do with it. I also hated “how to draw” books for the same reason. I hadn’t figured it out myself, so where was the accomplishment?

Thankfully this didn’t extend to art classes, because I’m willing to believe there are other humans out there who might know a thing or two about art that I don’t and therefore maybe I should listen to them occasionally. (If you’re reading this Mr. Plackey, I’m so incredibly sorry for my teenage attitude!)

If I’m that way about art, I’m fifty times worse about writing. You couldn’t tell me a single thing as a teen or early twenty-something. I knew what I wanted for my stories and that was it. This was a big reason why I ended up making art into my day job instead of writing. I wanted to write what I wanted to write and no one was going to tell me otherwise.

But the one thing I’ve always been tenacious about is actually writing. I’m fairly certain I’ve hit the thousand word mark on drafted novels a while back.

And then I started sharing them.

Reading with critique partners has taught me SO much about my process. It’s taught me about mistakes I’m making that I didn’t even understand were issues at first. It’s let me find my strengths and taught me what it looks like when those skills aren’t utilized. It’s taught me that I have so incredibly much to learn that I could take several lifetimes to assimilate it all.

Critique partners also started making comments I didn’t completely understand. So I started my own internet research of editing terms like “show don’t tell” and “active vs. passive voice.” Oh my, did my writing look pathetic after that! Back to the editing mines, for me.

Recently, after an intense critique partner discussion, I felt moved to boil down some of the lessons I’ve learned while on my writing journey— those little phrases that pop into my head and that I hold onto carefully as I sculpt the written journey of my characters.

Things like “every line must earn its keep” and “weaving the tension threads” — advice I give myself and my critique partners over and over again.

So if you’re like me and would rather do a little internet research on ways to level up your writing than sit through an MFA program, here’s all the wisdom I’ve been able to distill. I hope to continue updating it as I continue on this journey, so I hope you’ll check back from time to time to see what else I’ve sifted out of this great writing experiment!

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