View Full Version : What have you learned about your writing this year?

Mr Flibble
12-05-2008, 09:53 PM
It's just over a year since I decided to get serious about writing and stop pratting about. Almost a year since I joined this place. And it's that time of year when I naturally ponder what has happened in the prior twelve months.

So what have you learned about your writing this year?

I have learned:

That I can write passably well if I put my mind to it.

That some people like the way I write and some don't. Which is OK. As long as some people do.

I have learned how to write a query. A real one, not a bloody mess.

I have learned / refined how to show not tell, about pacing and not head hopping and...well you get the idea. I have learned that some of the noob stuff I did won't fly, and more importantly, why.

I have learned ( finally!) some grammar stuff. What passive writing actually is, gerund clauses etc.

I have learned that just because it's fantasy doesn't mean it has to be a doorstopper:D

I am on my way to overcoming my addiction to commas ( thanks Mumut)

I have learned that, short stories aside, I seem incapable of writing anything without at least some romantic elements.

I have learned not to gibber quite so much when posting in SYW.

And you?

12-05-2008, 09:56 PM
I have learned that my dialogue is better than I thought; snappier and funnier.

I have learned I'm so allergic to dialogue tags I don't use them enough, according to my beta reader...and she might be right. I need to make it clearer who's speaking, so the aforementioned snappy, funny banter can be better appreciated.

I'm better at writing smex than I thought.

Adverbs and commas are evil. Even more so than dialogue attribution.

I can write a lot in a year (over one quarter mill in '08) but need to concentrate on finishing individual projects instead of spreading my writing over too many WsIP.

I have come a long, long way since the days of my heinous trunk novel.

12-05-2008, 09:59 PM
I have learnt that I cant focus on one project at a time.

I have learnt that I can write well when I really want to

I have learnt that I like to write about contraversial subjects in fantasy.

I need to slow down and care about my project

12-05-2008, 10:04 PM
I've learned (realized) that studying all the techniques and theories in the world don't make a single whit of difference if you don't actually use them and WRITE something.

12-05-2008, 10:05 PM
I've also learned not to fall into the evil trap of adverbs, gerunds and telling instead of showing.

I've learned not to dump backstory onto the first page, and how critical it is to hook a reader from the beginning.

That I can actually write publishable short stories.

That I'm good at writing suspenseful, scary scenes.

That I'm a much better writer now than I was a year ago.

12-05-2008, 10:08 PM
That when I get caught up in the moment I forget to write about the feeeelings.

How to control my tendency to use passive voice.

Participle phrases are not my friend.

Writing dialogue takes bloody forever, but once it's out it's not half bad.

That I need to have an ending in mind before I start with the beginning; and just because I think the ending is cheesey and predictable doesn't mean other people will.

That no matter what I do, there will always be elements of fantasy, some kind of magic.

12-05-2008, 10:09 PM
I've learned that though I'm still struggling with some things, I've come a long long way. Now if I could just stop being so confusing with my pronouns...

12-05-2008, 10:11 PM
That writing is a whole lot more difficult for me in times of good mental health.

12-05-2008, 10:16 PM
Cool. Come round my house and we can have ourselves a little angst party! :D

12-05-2008, 10:23 PM
Hasn't been a year for me yet. My prose mechanics are good, but I'm still having issues with using too few commas and too many short sentences. I'm also unable to write query letters. Other than that, I'm doing well.

12-05-2008, 10:34 PM
I've learned that reckless, emotional drafting actually produces better results for me than calm, focused writing.

Sex in books isn't just for titillation--it's character revelation. Just like your personal sex life is.

No matter how hard you try to make a story that involves someone being sentenced to death non-political, you will fail. If you succeed at being apolitical, you'll fail to make your character sympathetic. If you succeed at making your character sympathetic, you'll end up writing a book that subtextually argues against the death penalty.

Also, breaking the rules is fun.

Wayne K
12-05-2008, 10:47 PM
I've learned that I stink at structure. But I found out that I tell a hell of a story, and I have a way with words. Not bad to know your weak points, and an ego boost for the good ones. I knew structure was going to be a problem, so I've been reading a lot. That forced me to write a second book this past summer. It's been a remarkable year for me.

12-05-2008, 10:54 PM
What have I learned this year?

- That I really enjoy writing. Somewhere along the line I forgot about that.
- That I'm a decent writer, and may some day be published.
- That I can follow through and write a novel 'till "the end", even in one month.
- That the reason I haven't become a published writer is that I'm a very lazy person, and that I can really change that.
- That there's no reason writing cannot be enjoyable and profound at the same time.

12-05-2008, 11:05 PM
In writing my YA I have learned how much I love writing MG. This is the biggest surprise to me really. I wanted to write YA to have more freedom, to be able to explore darker themes, and use the odd naughty word. But as I am nearing the end of my book, I realise how much I love the world of MG, how much I miss the energy and the colour. It has reinvigorated my love for the genre, and I can't wait to go back to it!

12-05-2008, 11:12 PM
I have learned that deadlines are incredibly difficult with two young kids at home.

12-05-2008, 11:22 PM
I've learned that I either need to stop writing longhand, or get into the habit of typing as I go...

12-05-2008, 11:49 PM
I started writing about a year ago (though I did creative/storytelling things before, so it wasn't totally out of the blue).

I've learnt that...

* I'm not as bad as I thought I was.
* Other people like my writing too.
* I have a tendency to include references to robots, even when the story isn't about them.
* I need to remember to describe unusual things. The monster on the chair is more important than the chair.
* More robots.

And currently I'm learning how to structure novels.

12-05-2008, 11:52 PM
What I have learned about my writing this year -

- After keeping my stories just in my head for years and years, I found that I can still acutally write them down.
- Other people enjoy what I write, even outside my potentially biased family.
- I can write a query letter.
- I have learned that being published isn't just a fantasy anymore, it's a goal.

12-06-2008, 12:00 AM
I've learned not to get frustrated at false starts. Usually when a story finally really sticks and I get into it a ways I realize that my recent, disappointing false starts are that new story; they just started wrong a couple of times.

I've learned that I cannot write a query letter that will induce any level-headed agent to ask to read the book. Even after I workshopped it here. 43 rejections.

I've learned that while I've received 43 rejections that I am not giving up. Who knew I could be so determined?

I've learned that co-authoring is a great deal of fun, but the pressure goes way up when you do it in front of an audience.

12-06-2008, 12:03 AM
My list:

- I learned that while non-fiction skills don't translate to fiction, it's not rocket science and I'm fully capable of doing it.

- I learned that having learned English in India and as a second language, there will always be differences (and sometimes mistakes) in the way I speak or write in the language, and that's a strength not a weakness.

- I learned that my best work comes when I let loose and not care about what people will make of it.

- I learned that it's not the million-dollar words, but the million-dollar thoughts that count.

- I learned that I use way too many commas, and killing one here and there won't hurt.

- I learned that asking myself to choose between fiction and non-fiction is like asking myself to choose between my parents. Can't do it.

- I learned that I'm not a writer who writes for the market, and I'm okay with that.

- I learned that despite what "successful writers" say, the market will always support writers who follow a voice and not a market guide.

- I learned that I feel successful not by how much I sell or how much I make, but how much I love the process of writing every time I sit down to do it.

12-06-2008, 12:11 AM
Simplicity brings depth.

12-06-2008, 12:47 AM
I've learned that I can write good articles but don't know how to pitch them, and that the research and querying involved in pitching one's writing is a right royal pain in the butt.

I've learned that rejection is very demoralising.

I've learned that my poetry sucks.

12-06-2008, 01:38 AM
I've learned that even one with the hide of a rhinocerous can be hurt by a nasty rejection. And how to deal with that one bad rejection that slips through the thick hide without trashing my own professionalism.

I've learned that when published authors give advice, there's generally a reason, and I ignore it at my own risk.

I've learned that even though someone may tell me that humor is the strongest point of my writing, I'm not confined to just writing the funny.

I've learned that critiques have layers. Sometimes you might see the point of what someone is saying but know that they have an underlying motivation for saying it. Learning to read people is sometimes the greatest skill in receiving in-person critiques.

Just because I'm used to getting critiques doesn't mean that I won't have a bad knee-jerk reaction to what someone might say. (I'm still in disbelief that I did that, and embarrassed. I know better than to respond with..."but it really happens!" DOH!)

My website sucks. Which is why I've torn it down for rebuilding in the new year.

That right now, it's okay to take some breaks from writing while life explodes. It would be different if I was under contract, or not writing at all, but I'm moving and changing jobs in two weeks. There's a limit to the brain power at the moment, especially since I just finished NaNo.

That my mother has finally read some of my stuff and understands my need to write. And is supportive. (Not that she wasn't before she read it, but I don't think she understood the need to try to build another career when I was already building an unrelated one)

That I can write an effective query and synopsis.

I can write a compelling opening chapter. And compelling doesn't require a fight scene, an action scene, blood, or a murder to suck in a reader.

I am definitely a writer who needs an outline for any story longer than 10K words. Shorter stuff might just take a few notes, but novel length works require more planning.

12-06-2008, 01:58 AM
I've learnt how important it is to research the markets you're sending your material to.

12-06-2008, 02:22 AM
That I can't write a commercially marketable anything even if my life depends on it.


12-06-2008, 02:31 AM
I've learned absolutely everything I know about myself as a writer in the past year.

12-06-2008, 02:34 AM
I write better than I thought I did. Even fiction.

12-06-2008, 03:22 AM
I've learned that I can write publishable fiction.

I've learned that I have a tendency to under-explain things to such a degree that the reader may be left confused (or not as well-informed as they ought to be).

I've learned how to listen to, accept, and incorporate very blunt criticism (because if you think SYW is scary, real life editors are scarier), without curling into a fetal ball.

I've learned there is some truth to the old adage: learn the rules so you can break them properly.

12-06-2008, 04:58 AM
I've learned that I can't write and I'm wasting my time. :tongue

12-06-2008, 05:46 AM
(disclaimer: I write scripts, so if you write fiction, relevancy may not be there for you. But I hope you get a nice laugh anyway.)

I've learned that it's harder than it looks.

I learned that a perfect masterpiece can always be improved. And may contain typos.

I learned finishing that first draft ain't finishing nothin'. (Pardon my colloquialism)

I learned 200 to 1 are not winning odds.

I learned that when the readers say they want solid structure, likable characters and an exciting intro, they aren't kidding. If they are a producer, it's "they aren't #%@&!*g kidding, you %@&!in %@&!."

Speaking of reading, I learned reviewing is harder than writing. Also, the other writer's deluded incompetence is not your entertaining quirk.

I've learned that while it's fun to fly around the country pitching your work, it's not worth flying coach. Unless you have a shot at actually making the sale.

I learned that when you really work hard, and market yourself, and polish your work to the absolute best it can be, the certainty of your crushing failure may actually become less absolute.

I learned you can come back to edit these. So I'll think of something else later.

12-06-2008, 06:16 AM
You know how all those writers told you to "let go"?

Let go.

12-06-2008, 08:12 AM
I've learned that I can finish a story. Making it publishable is another battle altogether.

I've learned that adjectives are my friends, and I need to use them more often.

12-06-2008, 11:45 AM
I've learned that publishing is a sloooooooow business. No, really. :D

That my love of commas is rather a problem.

How to flesh out a climax so it's actually climatic as opposed to a rushed finale.

That sometimes I'm too subtle for my own good.

That I write lean in the first draft, and I must work to overcome my white room syndrome and plot hole-itis in the later drafts.

David Erlewine
12-06-2008, 12:11 PM
That I shouldn't fight my instincts to shorten pieces, that I can write depressing as all hell stories without letting it impact my personal life, that I can get published in decent lit journals again.

12-06-2008, 03:45 PM
I learnt not to overuse description and how to begin scenes better. I think back to some of the scene openings in my novel Atlantis Reborn and shudder violently now. I opened almost every scene with a description of the weather or a supernatural event that would last from between a paragraph to seven pages long. The two worst ones I can remember have to be one that starts off with a cat running through a kitchen and another one that begins with a detailed description of an eagle flying through a city at night. I look back at it now and think to myself "WHAT THE HELL WAS I DOING?" I told myself at the time that I was "setting the scene" and that it was all relevant. I now know that it wasn't. It was all that description that caused my book to swell to over 1,000 pages long. I still do the odd bad opening. The beginning of a short story of mine called Tears of a Goddess got ripped to shreds by Queen of Swords if I remember correctly. lol. I try to use less description now and not begin everything with an epic image of gods controlling the weather. I've been experimenting with beginning stories with dialogue. I'm terrible at beginnings but I think I'm getting better. I've also learnt how important it is to create plot outlines and not let sub-plots get out of control.

12-06-2008, 07:50 PM
What I've learned about my writing this year:

* That if I take a break from writing or stop making it a regular thing, I'll struggle to get back into doing it regularly. :(

* That I should really, really learn to take notes as I go along, the better to keep track of things (and not have to take a break to take notes and then lose my routine).

* That I must put a note to readers on my first chapters to let them know that the prologue, if there is one, is part of the story and if they've skipped it, they've skipped my story's beginning. (That one was honestly something I never knew until visiting this forum.)

I'm refraining from adding to the list above that I've learned my writing is useless and boring and bla bla bla because I always seem to feel that at some point, it's not unique to any particular year.

12-06-2008, 08:23 PM
I've learned that I can do it in way under a decade. I can do it in more or less half a year.

12-06-2008, 10:53 PM
I share a lot of the "I learned"s others have posted. The most important was this one:

I learned that my writing has the potential to be commercial/competitive.

When I first sat down to write my novel, I'd expected to write a quiet "indie" story that wouldn't make very much money but would give me some satisfaction. One of the agents who rejected me said that my writing had the potential to be more mainstream, and that she'd look at anything else I wrote in the future.
I worked on a more commercial story, which was WAY out of my comfort zone, and upon completing it was offered a contract by that same agent. I really truly feel that I lucked out, because that encouragement was all I needed to step past my comfort zone and dream bigger.

12-06-2008, 11:22 PM
I've learned how to trim down my writing to cut out the excess fat. I was good at it when I was news writing nearly two decades ago, but I got into bad habits of wordiness by the time I started Freelance Writing Ver. 2.0.

I've learned that I can get a book contract if I just focus and submit, submit, submit.

I've learned that success can be dependent on (or at least hurried by) being in the right place at the right time.

I've learned that I'm doomed to non-fiction writing forever because I can't just can't sell a short story.

Linda Adams
12-07-2008, 12:25 AM
I learned that I like writing omniscient viewpoint far more than any other and have been probably trying to write in it for a long time.

I learned how to outline in a way that works for me.

I learned I can come up with a book with a great hook.

I learned how to deal with writing short.

12-07-2008, 01:07 AM
I've learned that I use way too many "She's" and "He's" in my writing.

I've learned that I can be productive if I try.

I've learned that publication feels way better than rejection, but that either one can be a huge motivator to keep going.

I've learned that I'm not so sure I've got the "show don't tell" thing down at all.

I've learned to not keep rereading what has been published and mentally trying to make it better.

I've learned that I am most comfortable writing short stories of approx 1,500 words. (and the stories seem to always finish themselves at just around that word count.)

I've learned that there may actually be a genre for my writing: Magical Realism.

I've learned that I like writing magical realism so much more than anything else.

12-08-2008, 06:38 AM
I've learned that if I stay off the Internet I get a helluva lot more work done. Which is why I haven't been here for the last year.

I've learned that taking a break after a first draft is a two-edged sword; too short and you can't see objectively, leave it too long and the project suffers.

I've learned that while my writing style is passable, I come up short in the storytelling department. Individual scenes are no problem, but a coherent novel is a stretch for me. Not insurmountable, but difficult.

I've learned that if you let the fear of failing take over, you'll fail.

I've learned that I'm never going to be as good as I wanted to be, but I'm not half as bad a writer as I'd feared I might be.

12-08-2008, 06:41 AM
Oh, it still sucks. Just a bit less.

12-08-2008, 02:21 PM
I learned that the majority of stuff I write isn't for mainly grown adults but rather for people the age I pretend (And will always) which is 16-20.

I also learned that even I sometimes get pretty good ideas.

And I learned that if all of these people can land agents, I can too =)

12-08-2008, 03:18 PM
That writing is a whole lot more difficult for me in times of good mental health.

I have never agreed more with a statement. DITTO.

12-08-2008, 03:19 PM
That other people like it way more than I do. I think this year was all about learning to be more disciplined.

Spiny Norman
12-10-2008, 02:22 AM
That I can't do plot books. Concept, character, and style books for me.

Mr Flibble
12-10-2008, 03:06 AM
That other people like it way more than I do. I think this year was all about learning to be more disciplined.

I think this year I will mostly be learning structure / crafting a solid plot at the start, rather than winging it.

Maybe :)

12-10-2008, 03:13 AM
Ive lernt more bout righting in da ten months i been hear then i lernt my hole life.


12-10-2008, 03:17 AM
That my writing can and should be improved.
That it didn't hurt to have some wind taken from my sail.
That I need, and appreciate criticism.

12-10-2008, 03:35 AM
I learned how, when, and where to trim the fat. It doesn't hurt as much if you sharpen your delete key.

12-10-2008, 06:16 PM
I've learned that this whole infatuation with fantasy and sci-fi isn't a passing phase, or a genre I might dabble in. This is it; I've found my passion, and too bad if some critics can't seem to equate genre writing with quality literature. Their loss :)

I've also learned that having at least a vague idea of where a story is heading is crucial. I will probably never be an outliner (at least not before completing the first draft), and I will probably always surprise myself as I go along, but I need something to work towards. It's too easy to lose focus or let the plot meander down the wrong path, otherwise.