I’m not going to use a writing prompt tonight, I’m just going to write down my thoughts as they have been floating in my head for the past couple of days.
I have recently decided to start writing a book. Something that I’ve only attempted once before. If you could even call it an attempt. I was in high school and I wanted to make my writing serious. I had written short stories and poems, but I got a hair up my bum and decided to try my hand at writing a book. Of course if you have read through my old writing you can only take a guess as to how horrible that ‘book’ was beginning to turn out. I think I had written about 10-15 pages before I stopped for some reason or another. Who knows. I was 15. I probably stopped to give myself more time to flirt with a boy.
My reasoning for trying again is thus: Usually when I read through my old writing I cringe, laugh at myself, and toss it into the “yet another childish mistake” list. However, this time I read through the 4 paragraphs, and I was surprisingly hooked. I wanted to read more! I thought to myself, “If I were at a bookstore and was reading this to decide if I wanted to buy it, I would actually end up buying it.” I wanted to read more. I was actually a little upset with myself for not continuing this story! So I put this particular piece in a special folder and decided to come back to it again later.
It was probably a couple of months before I pulled it back out and took another look at it. Much to my surprise I still liked it!
So I took a couple of weeks and let the story unfold in my mind. I would carry around my tablet and jot down random ideas as they came to me and eventually I had the foundation of (what I thought was) an interesting story. Once I felt I had the main plot down, I started bouncing ideas back and forth with my husband and together we hammered out some of the minor details. I even took the time to break down the story by chapter and made sure to leave a small cliffhanger at the end of each one to keep the reader interested (I read somewhere that you should do that…..)
Anyway, I say all that to tell you this: I can’t believe how hard it is for me to write this book! I started with my old writing, tweaked it a bit, and decided to use it as my hook. Continuing from there, I wrote until I had felt I had told the part of the story planned for the first chapter. I sat back and looked at what I had written and realized that I had short changed it. I had written about 1,500 words that barely stretched over 3 pages. WHAT!?
I carefully read through it again and I realized that I hadn’t added any descriptive text! Well, I had a bit…..but not nearly enough. When I write, I feel like I have to show and not tell (something I’m told is a good thing – sometimes), so I rely on dialog and character reactions, but the flipside to that is I made it completely up to the reader to come up with the rest. That may be ok for me, because I can picture everything perfectly in my own mind, but I knew that just wouldn’t cut it if I expected my readers to be able to follow along as well as I wanted them to.
I think I did this because I don’t particularly like reading long descriptive paragraphs about trees and buildings when a few short sentences (and sometimes just a word or two) will accomplish the same goal. Generally when I’m reading, I find myself skimming through (what I feel is) unimportant descriptive paragraphs and paying more attention to what is shown to me.
So over the past couple days I’ve struggled to find a way to describe what I can see perfectly in my own mind and eventually I was able to add another 3,000 words and almost 5 more pages. I found that once I started writing down the details, I wound up giving my characters a history. It made them stronger and more complex and after reading through it again tonight, I feel I had already given my reader a character to care about and really root for. I have a long way to go before I’ll feel that it’s a good as it can be, but for now, I’m happy that I have stuck to my writing, and have learned a big lesson along the way.
I’m only on the first chapter. Just think of the many lessons I’ll learn as I continue to write. Not just my novel, but my practice writing as well.
I think I may even start paying more attention to those ‘unimportant’ descriptive paragraphs when I read. 😉