When I hear people talk about good writing, I often hear the words plot and pacing, three-dimensional characters, and growth arcs. These are all terms I heard about in English class but didn’t really feel much connection to as a fledgling writer.
Plotting out stories was tedious and once I knew exactly where I was heading, the mystery was gone, leaving me without the burning desire to explore that brought me to the page in the first place. Characters needed a backstory, sure, but what made them compelling and interesting? What was the difference between a character I was actually rooting for and falling in love with and the D&D spreadsheet my buddy wanted to drone on about endlessly while my eyes glazed over?
The best way to learn is to do. So I waded into the messy river of words and storytelling at a young age, attempting novel-length work in middle school (unsuccessfully) before finishing my first novel length projects in high school. Don’t worry, they’re too dreadful to look at and will never torment anyone with their tragic cliches. By the time I was in college and writing yet another (shelved) novel, I found myself developing concepts that I kept in the back of my head as I worked. Simple principles that seemed to come up over and over again that applied to so many situations that I just couldn’t help returning to them.
As a young adult, I began sharing my work in earnest. On my first novel that I eventually queried to agents (also shelved), I found quite a number of readers. Some of them were so brutal I actually quit writing for a time after their feedback. I learned to write for myself when I didn’t have a reader and I learned to be skeptical of feedback, especially if I wasn’t hearing it from more than one reader.
Finally, when Google Docs became a beautiful technological breakthrough and I could access my writing almost anywhere, I began doing chapter swaps with other writers. Instead of trying to force myself through entire first or second draft novels by unpublished authors, I could break that task up into small chunks that I could knock out in a lunch break. Between that and the advent of Twitter and the wonderful LineByLineTime chat, my writing circle expanded dramatically.
By this time, I’d already written what has become The Redeeming Grace trilogy and was moving on to its sequels. I found myself repeating my little true-isms to my writing friends, whose work sometimes illustrated a need I’d subconsciously identified long ago but forgotten about. In communicating with other writers about writing, I developed a language and a toolkit that I’m hoping others will find helpful. I’m sure much of it has been said in the wonderful books on writing out in the world, but here is my abbreviated attempt to explain what goes on in my brain as I’m trying to craft a compelling narrative.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting blogs on each truism and post links to them below. I hope you’ll follow along!