Little Writing Lessons

Last week I did what is a fairly serious (for me) breakdown of what I have learned about "writing" a book. The big picture discoveries and so forth. I am just minutes or so from having Firetok ready to hit the market and it has me thinking. Imagine that. I want to do a little less formal mop up on a couple smaller aspects. As usual, if you agree, disagree or just would like to talk about it, let me know. I am more than happy to converse and increase my  knowledge. I also am continuously looking for people more intelligent than myself who have something to share. I want to hear from you.

Some of the little things I learned.
Really writing. I say just write. Take the time to write. Don't think about it, don't make a plan or any of that crap. Just write. I have experimented with outlines and it may be a workable strategy, but for now its seems a gateway to non writing detail addiction. I keep thinking about the outline, the shape I want it to take instead of letting a story which is fully formed in my head out. This has to be my strategy.  I pretend to speak for noone else but myself. The outline feels more like a collar around my neck. I see scenes in depth and detail and they are not part of my outline. It's like a tug of war with myself and my hands are getting rope burn.

Dialogue. Something which came out during the edit process by Sheri McInnis was the strength of the dialogue. I found this very interesting particularly due to my self criticism and inability to see anything I have done as acceptable. I thought about her comments on dialogue. What did I learn here? After I roughed out the story I went back repeatedly and out loud did the dialogue. I know what the characters sound like and I had to fight to get their voices on paper. This was a bit of a challenge due to dialect and trying to avoid too much of it. But my technique was that, have the conversations out loud and feel for authenticity. The characters come from different parts of the spectrum. Did their voice match their circumstance? Did it match the current situation? Was it consistent with other parts of their personality already revealed in the narrative? This is the feeling I am trying to convey when I clean up dialogue, and it takes quite a bit of redoing to get even close to what I would consider acceptable...

Reading Out Loud. This is something I learned years ago and have shared with only a couple close friends but it's not like I invented it. Read it out loud. Blog posts or my books, even Facebook posts, anything. You don't have to trust me here, if you aren't doing it already. Try it. I guarantee anything I write will not sound the way I intended when read out loud. Unfortunately this may be unique to me since the few people who really know me will admit I might be one of the most misunderstood people. My bluntness seems to read better than it goes over live. People in general want honesty in low doses and on their own terms. What kind of honesty is that? Back to reading aloud. You want to enhance the experience? Have someone read it out loud to you. Proceed with caution here. I have been so disgusted and verbally outspoken while using this process I have come close to getting hard objects thrown at me to quiet my objections. When I hear the words "do you want me to read this or not?" over my bitching, it's time to duck. This method might be best used with someone who REALLY loves you or someone you care absolutely nothing about. Bottom line. Hearing my words is getting pretty close to the final edit, an in house second opinion. Honestly, more than half the time I will say out loud, "is that what it really says?" Nothing sounds the same outside my head as it does inside, there is typically about a 90 some percent drop in quality during the transfer.

I know this list can go on and it will. I am not sure these are the most important little things but they were on my mind, in the meantime I will get back to the battle of letting the next Firetok episode out of my head.

17 comments :

Colin Garrow said...

All good stuff, Gordon - I particularly like the 'don't make a plan or any of that crap...' Yup, that's me too, and it works just fine.

DeRicki Johnson said...

Thanks for sharing from your actual experience. I find it to be very valuable.

Janis said...

I love this! True, people want honesty in low doses. I'm in the process now of writing dialogue, so this is great timing. I tend to write so much more eloquently than I speak (I'm an English teacher!), and I think I'm writing the dialogue between my characters more proper than they would speak. So huge thank you for a simple solution: read aloud!

Jim M said...

I always have to read dialogue out loud. My greatest trouble is that I never write with contractions, yet when I read it out loud, the stilted sounding words leap out at me. It's an invaluable part of the creativity process. There is a connection in the brain that comes from sound. At my work place, when teaching people to use a complicated Time & Payment system, I teach them to make the entries after "telling the story" of the person's details, out loud. It always helps them master the software much faster.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Me writing dialogue is probably pretty entertaining but I say it over and over and put myself in the spot of the character. I write a lot of action and sometimes a well thought out sentence just sounds silly.

Mabb Shawn said...

Good read. Helps being among people who clearly are as crazy (by their standards) as me. Y/our work is something that needs moulding and is precious, I'm only finding that out being a new writer. Thanks for the post.

Phil Fragasso said...

Excellent throughout. I've long been an advocate of reading everything aloud - makes a huge difference. Thanks for sharing

Gordon A. Wilson said...

I am listening, thanks for joining the discussion

Kathy said...

I just clocked this post on Twitter as it went flying by -- glad I did, especially for your comments on dialogue/dialect. I've recently been thinking about how my main character might speak differently with different people eg her best friend, an elderly person, someone she's just met.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Im all about learning and exploring, welcome!

Vickie said...

When asking someone to read your work aloud, I think it needs to be someone who is a good reader. If they do not read well, stumble over simple words, and stop because they can't pronounce fairly recognizable words, then your dialogue or any part of your book will probably not sound like you think it should. This isn't a criticism of people who have trouble reading, but just an observation from my writer's group experiences.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

If you have more than one person willing to do this for you (?) count your blessings.

annette brown said...

Very good advice. I have tried a little bit of outlining and sometimes it gives me boundaries to my story. Other times I just let the characters express themselves to me. I like your advice. Editing is tough for me.

annette brown said...

Very good advice. I have tried a little bit of outlining and sometimes it gives me boundaries to my story. Other times I just let the characters express themselves to me. I like your advice. Editing is tough for me.

annette brown said...

Very good advice. I have tried a little bit of outlining and sometimes it gives me boundaries to my story. Other times I just let the characters express themselves to me. I like your advice. Editing is tough for me.

robertrun said...

I agree completely on reading aloud of dialogue with voices, or at least attitudes of the characters. Also on reading the whole thing aloud.

I can't imagine writing a book without doing it. I've never tried asking someone else to read it to me.

The Plan said...

You should rethink outlining. Outlines aren't meant to be followed. They're in place, mostly to keep you from writers block. It's only a place to get started and reference. It's the equivalent to saving a draft. I never stick to my outline, but revise on the regular, if not only in my head, so I know where I'm going. Like any tool, the issue won't be the tool but if you're using it right, and for the right reasons. Try this. After everything is done, outline your story again. If you still don't like the outline to your story then the outline isn't the issue.