Learning to write

If I were to look back at it, I think the first draft of this novel would seem pretty awful. Since I truly hadn’t written a work of this magnitude before, I simply let the momentum carry me forward. I wrote from beginning to end, inventing characters and actions as I went. All of the action occurred in what I later realized was a very unrealistic three months. My language choices were often stiff and silly and, honestly, three fourths of the novel was still in my head and not actually in the computer.

Of course, I didn’t show this draft to anyone. I rewrote it, but it was still pretty awful, although I did let two people read it: my brother and a friend who’d taught English. They were very encouraging, but, when I reread it, I realized it was pretty dull and half of what I meant to say still wasn’t on paper. I rewrote again. At times, I stopped writing for months at a time and picked it up again.

Then I took a writing class. I ignored the teacher’s advice to write some short stories and get them published before finishing my novel (am I crazy? Nothing else could hold my interest for very long). Instead, I took what I learned and rewrote. A couple of people read the first third of this draft and made comments. I took another class. I rewrote again. Each draft took me another year, or even two. Now I’m polishing, with the hope that this version will be it because I’m finally getting sick of it.

What I’ve done, though, is to learn to write as I’ve written and rewritten. I’ve learned to add descriptions. I’ve learned that dialog has to include the characters reactions and movements, or it loses context and becomes disassociated. It’s been a fascinating process and probably one I could have bypassed if I’d been a writing major in college. I have, however, really enjoyed the freedom of stumbling and finding my way.

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