Thursday, August 4, 2011

I'm Improving As A Writer

You know how all those books on writing tell you that the way to get better as a writer is to, well, write?

Yes, I believed them. I mean, it made sense. The more you practice any skill, the better you are likely to be at it. But now I'm seeing the difference that regular writing makes. This year, I've written over 110,000 words of fiction. That doesn't include blog posts or anything else. That's just fiction. And it's only August.

I've never written that much fiction in such a short period of time, and I can see the difference its making in my writing.

I just re-read The Case of the Lost Werewolf Puppy, and it's better than Haunted Vampire, even taking into account that Werewolf Puppy is a first draft. The writing is cleaner. Characterization is better. Description is better. Everything is just better. Once I edit it, the differences will be even clearer. That doesn't make Haunted Vampire bad. It just means I'm improving. Haunted Vampire is definitely good enough to publish.

There were five scenes in Werewolf Puppy that had me worried. Three were fight scenes. One was a ritual casting, and the other was the first introduction to Lounge 201, the vampire bar. Fight scenes used to give me trouble. I'd write and rewrite them and still think they sounded lame. None of the scenes were lame. They need work, but only cosmetic stuff. The final fight scene actually had me tense up, and I wrote the darned thing, so I knew what happened!

The scene at Lounge 201 surprised me. I did some things with description and character actions that I'd forgotten. I think I did a good job setting the mood, which was important. That entire scene was about mood and posturing. I'd never written a scene like it, and I'm pleased with the result.

As for the ritual casting? It took me four days to write that scene, and I hated every  minute. I was sure it sucked. I mean really sucked. When I re-read it, I thought it wasn't too bad. I'll get better at writing them in the future, but it was decent.

So what I'm learning is that writing new kinds of scenes isn't hard. Dialogue has always come easy for me. Action scenes are getting easier. Mood pieces are possible to get right the first time. It feels good to be learning my craft.

Oh, one more result of regular writing. I'm getting faster. Earlier this year, it took me about an hour and half to write 1,500 words. I thought that was pretty good. Now I've got it down to about an hour for 1,500 words. To put that in perspective, I just finished reading a book on writing. The author, who writes full time, sets a daily goal of 1,500-3,000 words. It takes him about 5-6 hours to produce that. I can hit his low-end goal in about an hour. Not bad. I do it by being ruthless about not stopping. I don't edit as I go. Ever. I just keep moving forward. The only time I'll let myself look back in the manuscript it to check a fact. And I don't let myself edit (except for maybe adding a missing piece of punctuation or correcting an obvious typo).

If you're a writer, I'd love to have you share what you've learned from regular writing.