What I Suck at and #ROW80

Sometimes a writer will refreshingly admit that a part of the writing life is especially challenging, difficult, seizure-inducing. It could be those first words on a blank page, the unintentional overuse of a particular word, writing a decent query, or any number of to-do’s along the way.

Having written fiction for about four years now, I am not only getting better at writing, but also getting better at recognizing where I suck at writing.

  • Telling, not showing. Hey, let me explain to you how my character feels. Because all of the body language, visceral reactions, and dialogue might not have indicated to the reader that the main character is frustrated. Just in case you missed it, I will make sure to include the word frustrated somewhere in this scene.
  • My favorite word, just. My characters are just going over here, just talking about that, just thinking of new ways to use the word just. Because it’s obviously my favorite word.
  • Chapters. Where should this chapter start? Where should that one end? What’s the natural break? Can I write the whole thing in one run-on chapter? Can I assign a new chapter each page?
  • Directional cues. Did you know that characters must sit down? Stand up? Turn around? Lay down? Because if I simply say “lay,” how will you know they aren’t laying up–like basketball?
  • Dialogue tags. He said, she said isn’t sufficient. My characters like to “chime in,” “murmur,” and even “chirp.” Moreover, how will you know who’s speaking unless I tag almost every line of dialogue with the character’s name or pronoun?
“That is so wrong.”

Yet it really is progress to know where your weaknesses are. Now that I have acknowledged what I suck at, I can correct it. I can change “sit down” to the more appropriate “sit” and eliminate a good third-to-half of justs in my manuscript. I can ask a beta reader where chapter endings make sense and remove adjectives that describe what all of my showing has already demonstrated.

I can get better.

Isn’t that true of anything you do in life? If you know what personality weaknesses you have, you can introduce tools and others to compensate for those. If you figure out where your relationship weaknesses lie, you can address them and improve your relationship. If you know that you always gain weight in your belly, you can use exercises that address your jellylike midsection instead of your perfectly-fine thighs.

Knowing what you suck at doesn’t make you sucky. It makes you smart–at least if you do something about it. Admitting that you have a problem really is the first step toward recovery.

So I will start today by saying, “My name is Julie Glover, and I am a justaholic.” Then, and only then, I can do something about it.

ROW Update

Editing

  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER. Still with fabulous Beta reader.
  • Work with editors on short story for Orange Karen Anthology. Traded emails with content editor this week. Now my story goes to the copy editor.
  • Revisit GRACE & FIRE (1st novel) and run through one more round of edits. Made it through 4 1/2  more chapters (up to 18.5). Not as good as last week’s 10 chapters, but moving forward nonetheless.

Writing

  • Write one full short story.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays. Done. Posted Words that Begin with F and #ROW80 on Sunday, Professor Punctuation Takes on Quotation Marks on Wednesday, and Changes and Challenges with the New Year on Friday.
  • Start plotting sequel to GRACE & FIRE (working title: HOPE & ASHES). Researching fire, arson, and forensics. If you are squeamish, do NOT read this next part. Skip down. In addition to learning fascinating facts about how fire burns bodies and what remains for scene investigators, I watched a video of cremation this past week; it was interesting, and the techs seemed very respectful of the bodies. (Since I plan to be cremated after my death, I was glad to see what exactly that entails.)

Reading

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Zumba on Monday. LOTS of walking this weekend.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week. I did okay with this last week. I took about a half-Sabbath, which was better than I had done before. It is hard to turn off the laptop and the brain.

And that’s it for this week!

So how has your week gone? What do you suck at? How have you worked or plan to work to get better?

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22 thoughts on “What I Suck at and #ROW80

  1. I’m SO proud of you, Julie. For me, the more I know about where I suck, the harder it is because it’s *more work* on an already overloaded schedule.

    Oh, I know I can fix the errors…but those moments where you believe you just wrote solid gold words are amazing and it’s a rough moment when you realize they were only gold-plated and you need to take the 19th pass at it.

    Still, you are getting Margie under your belt and I’ve got it from a good source that once you internalize her tools you simply CAN’T make those mistakes anymore. Your muse won’t allow it. So, you can look forward to having those mistakes just melt away. Cool, huh?

    I’m in her Feb class and I can’t wait. 🙂

  2. What a great post, Julie. It always pleases me to see other writers make my mistakes. They feel so personal at the their time of discovery – so stitched to myself. A badge of discontent. But when I know they’re simply something we all suffer, we all need to work on, I smile. Have a great week. X

    shahwharton.com

    1. Thanks, Shah! Yes, those weaknesses do feel so personal, don’t they? But I think all authors have something or other, even when they work out many of the kinks. Have a marvelous week!

  3. Good post. I’m a thataholic and I can definitely improve the directional cues and show not tell segments of my stories. Goodt o see I’m not alone. : )

  4. I giggled all the way through your post. I’ve been there and I have to say, it’s way easier to read about then to live it. You know you’re not alone, thanks for reminding me I’m not either.
    Giggles and chirps aside, you had a great week, Julie. Yeah *shakes pom pons* 🙂

  5. Great post, Julie. My overused word is only, which is doubly worse than just because it ends in -ly. LOL Anyway, it’s great you know where your weaknesses are. You can begin to strengthen them. I returned to my first ms this past weekend with the goal of updating the style (to match my more mature writing style as opposed to two years ago). It’s interesting how much I’ve changed, from the flowery language to my love of gerunds and telling instead of showing. I rarely use dialogue tags now, choosing action tags instead whenever possible. I’m on page 40 and my goal is to finish the revamp by next weekend. Then, off to a beta reader. *gasps* It’s hard to let my firstborn loose into the big, bad world for judgement.

    Good luck with the goals! Go, go, go!

    1. Ah, the firstborn. We love that book so! I kept my very first draft of a novel, and one of these days I’ll brace myself and read it. I’m sure it will be interesting. Its current version is about draft #26.

      Have a fabulous week!

  6. LOL! I am a justaholic, too, AND and only-holic! Description is my weak point – I prefer to leave it out, but the reader needs enough to visualize a setting. I also love em-dashes way too much. 😀 But you’re right, knowing what we need to work on is the first step in fixing it!

  7. What a great post! Knowing your weaknesses is the best way to get rid of them, so well done for making that list! You did well with your goals as well, hope this week is just as productive!

  8. I write in scenes, not chapters, because I can NEVER figure the best place for the breaks. Does that make me a chapter-avoidance-aholic? LOL. Great post Julie!

    You are swimming right along on your goals. Way to go!

  9. “My weakness is setting,” I exclaimed, suddenly. “Oh, and suddenly. I suddenly realize that I use this word a LOT!

    My characters spend incredible amounts of time talking things through, even the male ones. Sometimes, I suddenly realize that it’s gone on for pages with no action…yikes!

    To this point, it’s always taken three drafts to start weeding suddenly out, and adding relevant details and actions in. I have great hope, though. I have discovered Pinterest, and am saving images that spark ideas for settings, and, suddenly, the idea that I can have them sooner seems almost plausible…

    I also became a pantser with an action plan for NaNo 2012, so, suddenly, I have a bead on that, too.

  10. My Kindle didn’ t want me to finish…I wanted to add that , now that you’ve pointed the way, I will no doubt find many more things I suck at. Thanks!

    You obviously do not suck at attaining goals, or being inspirational, or picking images…I want to give Jean-Luc a big hug!

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