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A Life Less Ordinary

IWSG Writing Update – January 2017

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing.  Since August 2016, the IWSG offers a particular question as a writing prompt for their members. Answering it is optional. This month that question is “What writing rule do you wish you never heard?”

December has been an interesting month, what with the “holidays” (do writers – or their heads – ever take holidays?) and our time in Rocklin, California dwindling down. During this recent three-month house sit, Mark and I lived in the suburbs of Sacramento. Due to the “boring” surroundings and less than ideal weather, I happily sat behind my computer every day, all day. I worked a lot on my memoir and think about it constantly when away from my temporary desk.

I continued my approach from the previous month and wrote, enhanced, edited and reviewed a chapter a week. The result: I am halfway through the first provisional draft, following my initial outline of November 2015. The problem: I am not happy with my voice and the way I am compiling this work of non-fiction. I know in my heart what I want for this book and even think I understand how to do it, but some “rational” part of me wants to put everything down first. Mind you, this “everything” is already a selection of the most interesting episodes and anecdotes of the ten-year period I hope to cover. Bottom line is, I am probably wasting a lot of time and it would be smarter to try a different approach and, once and for all, come up with an attractive theme and thread for this book… And, stick with it.

My goal for January: try this different approach and stop choosing the easy way out. Face my fear of not being able to succeed in creating attractive copy that draws the reader in. I also want to continue my memoir writing exercises to find the story I really want to tell and am passionate about. The book “Your Life as Story” by Tristine Rainer is helping me with that. And, I want to involve you, the reader. Next month, I have an important question for you. Stay tuned!

As for this month’s IWSG question, my answer is “Read.” If writers want to become good, they need to read a lot. To be honest, most of the writing rules I have heard are pretty helpful, and so is the suggestion to read heaps. This habit truly teaches you some of the craft, consciously or unconsciously. The reason I wish I never heard it is because I am not reading enough and don’t seem to find the time to do so. Another good New Year’s resolution?

What are writing rules you have heard of? Any favorites? Any you wish you never heard?

27 Comments

  1. Read. Read. Read…I like it. Also, I can’t wait for next month’s question. Seems like the right thing to do would be to end the suspense.

    • I did have to think abut you, Ryan, when I ended this post about wanting to read more as a resolution! You are doing so well with “determination”, keeping all these Wednesday posts up. I think now it is time to add “patience” to your list of qualities! 🙂

  2. I absolutely agree: read! And I understand your dilemma. I suppose there are a lot of us who have an idea for a book lurking inside our heads, but trying to turn the vision or idea into a reality is very, very difficult. I applaud (and envy) your dedication and look forward to reading your memoir one day soon.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • Yes. We all have stories to tell, I am now convinced of that. I just had no idea that turning those stories or experiences into an exciting and attractive book would be so hard. I thought I was a writer, but that trait takes more than just creating blogs, articles, diary entries and travel reports… I do hope it happens, but it probably won’t be soon.

  3. Oh, I feel your pain. I’ve tried so many approaches to my novel and haven’t found the magic one that makes everything flow out on the paper just as I imagine it in my head. Good luck with the new approach. Look forward to hearing how that works for you. Can’t wait to see what the update and question is for us next month 🙂

    • I guess you have that as well? That everything looks and sounds perfect in your head, but the practicality of it on paper is a different story altogether. Pun intended. 🙂 If only our thoughts could be transformed into text telepathically…

  4. The one I wish I’d never heard is “write what you know.” Because it’s a load of crap.

    Good luck with your memoir! It sounds very complicated and difficult, but as long as you stick with it, you’ll figure it out.

    Happy New Year! *hugs*

    • I think writing is more a style and a craft than it is about the content itself. Good writers play with words, not with what they know. Thanks for the encouragement, jmh and Happy New Year to you as well!

  5. Reading is a good one! I have been struggling to make time for reading. Happy New Year to you!

  6. I find that picking up the “pen” and just writing something down in a very rough form begins to warm up the creative process. Then I can go back and edit edit edit. In other words, I don’t wait until I have everything plotted and planned first. But what works for one person may not work for another. Best of luck. Courage!

    • I do – or used to – think the same way as you, Denzil. And, I do like the editing process. But sometimes I wonder whether it is better to focus on a certain topic or aspect and then write, write, write, followed by editing. Instead of writing down “everything” I think might come in handy. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • I’ve heard this, too. Just pick up your pen or laptop and write. You can go through it later and edit. But it’s so hard for me to do that. I keep thinking it sounds stupid or doesn’t fit. So i stop writing to fix it. It’s so hard not to.

      • I think you have to get over the idea that it sounds “stupid”, Lara. I think there is a lot of benefit to just writing and not thinking too much. You can read over it later and change things. And, nobody else needs to see it. 🙂 What I find hardest with this approach is that I hate to write typos and mistakes and I want to correct those (especially when they are underlined in red in Word) as I go along. This costs a lot of time and stops my train of thought. The best thing is to just write and leave all the mistakes, just focus on what your head tells you to write. Good luck!

  7. Sounds like you have really been dedicated to the cause Liesbet. I shall look forward to the question. One of my goals this year is to read more as well. I don’t know why it often seems to get pushed to get pushed aside.

    • The memoir will be my main goal in 2017, Sue. I say now that I am prioritizing it, but I am still spending too much time on other projects (like blogging and Facebook). I think we (or I anyway) put reading aside, because it is enjoyment, while I think I should be productive. Then, I try to justify that reading is also helpful to write (an to take a break from writing) and then, I succeed in making more time for it. 🙂

  8. So great you had time to write. I’m in procrastination mode right now, although I have blogged a little more this week than usual. Reading IS the key to writing and I need to do more. I do bring my Kindle along while I workout at the gym 🙂

    • You are a multi-tasker, huh? 🙂 There are quite a few writing projects I am procrastinating about as well. I did notice you have been busy on your blog. Good start of the New Year!

  9. One of my favorite pieces of advice (from Stephen King’s On Writing) is to stick with the first word that comes to the paper. I used to love to look up words to find a more complicated, prettier word that meant the same thing – but the first word is the one you should use.

  10. Congrats on reaching the halfway mark of your first provisional draft. Sounds like you got lots done over the festive period.
    I’m also busy with a non-fiction project. I’m in a similar situation to you, in that I’m not happy with my voice either. But I think the main thing is to write down the “bones” of the book first. The voice can be shaped after…I think.
    On second thoughts, I could be going about it in the wrong way…

    Read. Read. Read. I agree!
    I’m fortunate because I don’t have a problem in this department. I read very fast…and a variety of stuff. 🙂

    Happy New Year, Liesbet!
    Writer In Transit

    • Thank you, Michelle! Happy – productive – New Year to you as well. I like what you are saying about the “putting it all down” approach, which is what I have been doing. And, part of me still thinks that’s the way to go. But, if I find my voice earlier, I might be able to cut the amount of work a bit. I’ll give it a try this month, but I might decide to go back to what I was – and what you are – doing. I think that is definitely the easier way to start. I’m curious to learn about your non-fiction project!

      I love reading, too, but always push that activity way down the list of priorities and then there is this: for the last couple of years, every time I read something, I try to see the book and the writing style in regards to my own writing. I compare, I try to learn, I pick up typos… This means there is no more reading for enjoyment anymore! This is probably the same way musicians feel when they listen to other people’s music, or painters when they see others’ art…

  11. You know, I’ve changed my approach so many times now. It’s an ongoing learning experience. Problem being, there is no one right way, so we have to feel it out until we get OUR right way.

    • I think you are right, Shannon. Only in the end, after a lot of trial and error, everything will make sense and all the pieces will fall together. Hopefully! In the meantime, I will keep trying, polishing and playing. Writing a book is so much more than just writing. who would have guessed? 🙂

  12. I agree. Reading is so important. I find when I read as I am writing, I tend to be more creative. I also agree how most writing rules are helpful. I wish you much luck with your voice on your current draft. Maybe it sounds better than you think 🙂

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Erika. And congrats with all your (recent) accomplishments! I think we are our own toughest critics, so maybe you are right, and it does sound better than I think. For now, though, I need to get off my butt and make some drastic changes so that I am sure it sounds better. 🙂

  13. Loni Townsend

    January 9, 2017 at 10:53

    That’s cool that you’re plugging away at your memoir, though, I never really thought of putting down all the events first was taking the easy way out. Heh, I guess I’m all about the easy way (though mine is high fantasy and not non-fiction). 🙂 Best of luck nailing down your voice!

    Oh, and I’m horrible at getting books read too. I like audiobooks, but even then I rarely get through them quickly.

    • Thanks for swinging by Loni and for the encouraging words. I’ve never listened to audio books. Is that the easy way out for reading? 🙂 Enjoy the writing process. Creating fantasy novels sounds hard to me!

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