Tag Archives: my writing

Things I Want to Improve About My Writing

WritingThere are some things I need to learn or improve about my writing:

Finding the right amount of outlining

I tend to over-outline. Having a solid outline is the only way for me to write, but too much IS too much. It can prevent you from sitting and actually writing the story, because the outline feels incomplete. Or it can make you too fixated on only one possible solution you fail to see what’s best for the story. That’s why I need to find the minimal amount of outline I need and just start writing.

Knowing where to start

One of the most important things about writing a good story is to know where to start and where to end it. I know when to end a novel. My endings are good. I have a trouble figuring out how to open a novel. My problem is that I grew up with 19th and early 20th century literature. Things take ages to start rolling in those books. I’m used to preparatory chapters and I’m used to having a first hint of a plot circa page 50. However, you can’t go like that anymore. It’s important to start when your story actually starts: not with introduction of the characters or setting, but with the first conflict in the story. I know all of this, and I can identify when it’s a good point to start, and yet I don’t know how to do it without any character or setting introduction.

Being able to cut and change

This is probably one of the most difficult things, because I tend to get emotionally attached to plots, characters and scenes. It’s worst when it’s something I’ve planned for a long time, even since the first idea for a novel. When plots and situations are linked with the story from the beginning, it makes it seem like they’re essential, like they’re integral for the story. So even if it turns out that they don’t fit, I try to force my plot around them. Because hey, I’ve always seen my characters running away from point A to point B using a  boat during a stormy night, so how come I can completely disregard this scene? This scene is been here forever, it’s one of the first things outlined for the story, it’s one of the first things I saw in my mind when I got inspired to write this story! How can I change it, how can I cut it? And yet, that’s the only right thing to do. If it doesn’t fit into the written story (or even outline), it needs to be changed. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been part of the story.

Knowing how to say things with the least amount of words

Unlike this subtitle, I need to make my writing as concise as possible. This is one of my most serious weaknesses. I tend to over explain. I use many words when few would do much better. I repeat myself. I throw too much description. I repeat myself. I never know how to control my word count.

Finding Beta Readers

I know the importance of quality Beta readers, but I still feel hesitant to share my work. This is a huge mistake. You can’t  write a good story without Beta readers. There’s a point for any writer where you need to learn how to share your work with others and how to accept criticism. Interestingly enough, the mere sharing (having someone read it) feels more terrifying to me than people criticizing it. In any case, it’s juvenile and it needs to stop.

Practicing my English

I don’t write in English, and at the same time, I know writing in English is the best way to go if I ever want to be published. However, whatever I write in English seems like pure crap to me, and I’m not even talking about bad grammar – bad grammar is possible to fix. I just don’t seem to have my voice in English, which is a shame. I can do ok when it comes to articles and essays, but not fiction. As usual, practice makes it perfect, but I guess I’m just too much of a coward to try.

Finding the best revision method

When I was younger, I didn’t do any revisions for my novels. I wrote ferociously as a teen, but  mostly to entertain myself and to put my daydreams into words. I lived through these stories, and once they were written, I’d move to the next one. I didn’t have any wish to publish them, and only a few selected people were allowed to read them.

It’s one of the reasons why my revision skills are seriously lacking. I am still trying to figure out the best way to do it: the best way to let it sit on the side, and the best way to identify all the problems in the writing and to find solutions. The best way to cut, and then cut some more. The best way to know when I should stop revising and move to another story.

Photo credit: Olivander via photopin cc

NaNoWriMo is here again!

There’s a reason for not blogging so long. I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo, first outlining and doing a research, and then writing. To be honest, I’m still busy, but I felt like ignoring this blog wasn’t the best idea.

So, I present you my NaNo novel, The Demise of the Elm Trees (it’s a working title but I like it).

This novel is special for a couple of reasons. This is the first time I write in English (and yes, I’m shit scared of it, thanks for asking). My level of language self-esteem is quite low to non-existent. But if I ever think to grow as a writer I need to learn now to do this, so NaNo seemed like a good opportunity to try.

It’s also the first time I write a YA (Young Adult) novel. Consciously, at least. I believe many of my early novels (those beautiful and embarrassing and amazing and face-palm and nostalgic teen efforts) were also YA, but I was unfamiliar with the label back then. Why YA? In part, because I’m a sucker for coming of age stories, and in part because YA doesn’t require complicated style or advanced English.

I’ll share more about the story later (if there are people interested to read about it), but for now, I present you the writing rules (or you could say it’s more of a process?) I set for my NaNo novel:

1. Write now, worry about grammar later. Try to record your thoughts on the electronic paper without worrying about the grammar structure, appropriate words and idioms, and especially not about that fucking thing called “past tenses in English language”. (Or the most evil aspect of them, the Present Perfect vs Past Perfect issue). Oh no, don’t worry about it now.

2. When first draft is finished, write a second one. Fix the plot, characters and stuff.

3. Check your information Do your research again. Check every single thing, from school policies, drama classes and copyright to pop cultural references and important events. Make sure everything is plausible.

4. Speaking of which, make sure it seems like 1994. Do a double check on slang (especially regional, including, but not limited to Seattle). Do a double check on technology. Fashion. Pop culture all over again. And then, slang one more time.

5. Fix your grammar the best you can. (There’s no point in doing this before the step 5 if you need to change your sentences and write new ones).

6. Grow a pair and ask a few unsuspecting victims beta readers to read it. They will have a demanding task of checking your story/writing, your information and your grammar, but that’s what friends are for, right?

Things I don’t write about

Note: This post is about my writing, not this blog. This is also one of the most personal things I’ve ever posted online.

WritingI wrote my first novel when I was 11. It just happened and it felt so natural. More natural than having a chat with kids my age (which explains the need for novel writing: lonely kids who like to read often write their own stories).

Novel writing was what I did in elementary school and in middle school (called high school in America). I wrote more than 10 (I know the exact number but it’s not important here). I never wrote short stories or poems. I don’t know how to do that: it just never felt natural. My early novels were short, about 100-200 pages long, but later I realized I was unable to write anything under 400-500 pages. Genres were adventure, detective/crime novels (with my hero detective) and SF.

It was back in the 90s. Those were very, very bad times in my part of the world. But I don’t think I used writing to escape that, though it did help, I guess. I did it because I was lonely. But in any case, it was my way of having fun, and escaping the bad things that were happening. I wasn’t delusional: I knew it was just daydreaming, but it did help to have something of my own, something I could control, something to put my mind, and will and heart into it.

It’s been a long time since I wrote a novel. And it’s not like I don’t have a need for it. “Need” is a good way to describe it, maybe the only one. I never wanted to write to be rich, popular or successful. I never even tried to publish anything (though I do want to publish my new novel, and all of the future ones- I feel like I’m finally ready for that). But basically, I just need to write, and plan my novels.

But there are some things I don’t want to write about, even if I’m expected to.

Things I don’t write about

Writing Eastern Europe and its madness. I know this is what everybody expects a Balkan writer to write about (both domestic and international audience), but frankly, I don’t have any wish to do that. Being born and raised here certainly makes me the way I am, and I am not trying to hide or escape the fact I’m Eastern European, female, Serbian, straight, archaeologist, ex-Yugoslavian, white, Eastern Orthodox; that I am shy, have possible social phobia, that my father died when I was 10, that I am nerdy, that I panic and worry a lot, that I love animals and that I often use profanities.

I don’t want to hide or escape any of it. It’s not possible to do it anyway: you are who you are, and if you are a writer, it shows in your writing no matter what; even if you want to hide it.

But it doesn’t mean my subjects and interests should be what is expectable of an Eastern European woman. In short, I am not interested in writing about Balkans. At all. Nor am I interested in writing “girl power” books that trash men. Nor am I interested in writing about Orthodox Christianity, or even about kids who lost their fathers. Everything described above is a part of me and will show in my writing any way or the other – but it doesn’t mean my books need to be about any of it.

I also don’t write about family or childhood. Maybe I’m just not ready, or maybe I’m just not inspired. When you try to put your reality into words it often falls flat. It’s not even close to how it really was. So while I do think writing what you know best is a good advice, I also think writing about reality – especially your family – is one of the most difficult things.

Maybe I choose not to write about these subjects because I use writing to escape the madness around. (In fact, it’s the most likely cause). My husband, on the other hand, feels relieved when he writes about living here, about the problems in the country and politics, or family. It makes him feel better. It’s not like I don’t understand it, but it was always different for me. Constructing and planning a story, using everything to make it work, exploring new ideas, learning about new things (such as lands and people) was always the most exciting thing for me. And there is no need for writing if it doesn’t bring either excitement or a relief.