Passively White Walls and Bad Acting

So…while I’m planning for my NaNo novel, I’ve been writing some short stories.  Well, only two so far.  One I posted here, in my last post, and the other one actually turned out a little bit too long to really be considered a short story.  However, in that novelette, or whatever you want to call it, I learned a lot.

First and foremost, how your writing style can affect the feel of the story.  This should make sense.  The way you word things, the words you use, all of that, really affects everything.

For example, it’s. Really. Annoying. To. Read. Things. Like. This. Right?  It’s stunted and you pause automatically, even if you know you don’t have to, and it gets almost hard to read that.  Can you imagine reading an entire scene like that?   I think it’d give me nightmares.  Or at least a headache.  On the same hand, if your sentences are more like this: This is a short sentence.  And so is this one.  Each has only five words.  Doesn’t this sound really boring?  They’re actual sentences, unlike the way I begun this paragraph, but it’s pretty equally annoying and monotonous, isn’t it?

That’s why you want to vary the lengths of your sentences, and even vary the way you word it.  And, of course, you generally want to word things in the active voice, rather than the passive voice.  (And if you don’t know what that means, “She sat in the chair” is active, while, “she was sitting in the chair” is passive.  At least, as far as I understand it.)

In writing this short story/novelette, I discovered two things.  Both of them, I technically knew already, but never really did anything with them.  The first was that my writing style never sounded right.  I could never pinpoint the problem, until someone told me I was using the passive voice too often (and, indeed, I use the word “was” way more often than I should).  There are a few other things in my writing style that need tweaking, as well, I know, but that was probably the biggest issue.

The second thing was that I never describe things enough.  Not just what something looks like, but what everyone is doing.  I’d use as few words as possible to say something, and while that can sometimes be a good thing, it wasn’t in this case.  While rereading some of my older work, I’ve realized that everything seems to happen in a white room, with nothing.  And worse, when people are talking, they never do anything except maybe change their expression.  It was like a bad movie with really, really horrible acting, where they just stand around doing nothing when their mouths are open.

So.  I haven’t fixed it perfectly in this story.  I’m still missing a lot of description, and I wasn’t very actively trying to avoid writing in the passive voice, but I kept both in mind, and I think I did a lot better.  I feel that this story is one of my best pieces of writing, and it was a lot of fun to write.  Plus, besides all of this, it helped me get the voice for two of my characters that will be in my upcoming novel.

Now I just have to figure out how to edit this thing…

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Dialogue, Word-count Goals, and Unimaginative Blog Post Titles

So. Like my last post said, I’m doing quite nicely with my writing/editing. My cousins have been over for the past week, and you’d think that’d mean I wouldn’t have time for writing, but to be frank, I used it as an excuse to write more. Those particular cousins are very noisy and I have a tendency to get stressed out when there’s a lot of noise indoors. In other words, I spent most of the week cuddled up in a corner with my headphones and just wrote.

It was quite productive and an excellent escape of noise and stress.

The best part is, I finally figured out what my issue is with my dialogue. If you were to read any of my writing—at least, the recent stuff—you’d probably notice that there’s a lot of dialogue and not as much else as there could be. I always thought it was that I had too much dialogue. Something was wrong, something didn’t flow quite right, and I thought it was the dialogue. My mother told me that it was fine, but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was.

The problem is that I’m not having things with the dialogue. As soon as a character starts talking, I forget to mention what they’re doing. As far as my dialogue goes, a character could be strolling along the sidewalk, about to go shopping, but as soon as he opens his mouth, he’s not walking or doing anything. He might be frowning a bit or smiling or something, but otherwise he’s rather impassive.

Now that I’ve noticed this problem, it’s so obvious, and I’m wondering how I ever managed to make the mistake. At least I can fix it though, right? I’m sure there are other little quirks and things that I need to correct still, but I think this was major issue and was really bringing my confidence in writing down.

Meanwhile, I’m really starting to get anxious for NaNoWriMo this up and coming month. I can’t remember if I mentioned it before, but I’ll be writing a sequel for November, which is a completely new thing for me. I’ve never written sequels before.

I went through the Word-Count Goal Calculator and it set me a goal of ~73k. That…seems a like a lot, but it’s possible I can make it. I wrote roughly 60k in a month before, so if I try a little harder, I think I might be able to make it to at least 70. I know at the beginning of the year, I was hoping to try for 75, then wasn’t so sure when the school year started.

I’ve noticed, after timing myself and going through several different Word Wars, that I write, on average, about 100-150 words every five minutes. If I could figure out how much time per day, approximately, I have to write, then I could figure out a goal myself (though, that’s probably how that calculator works), but the problem is that I honestly have no clue how much free time I’ll have in November. I estimated about an hour and a half from the amount of time I had in September, but who knows if that’ll stay up until the end of next month.

So the moral of this post is: don’t forget to pay attention while you’re talking.

Or something like that.

Critique and Feedback

I realized I am missing one of the important things with my writing: critique and feedback.  In my last post, I mentioned that I’m starting to look into publishing.  It turns out, though, that I’m not quite ready for that stage.

As of yet, I haven’t had anyone read my novels (at least, all the way through) for the point of criticizing.  A few people have read it for fun and told me they liked it, but…whereas that makes me feel better, it’s not constructive.

I’ve known that I need some outside feedback for a while, but I only recently realized how much I needed it.  I’m at the point, right now, in my writing, where I’m trying to improve my skill by looking at the problems I make, and attempting to fix them.  The problem is, I’m finding problems everywhere.  Dialogue, structure, description, sentence-structure, everything.  Yet, I have no clue if these issues I’m finding are real, or if they’re all in my head.  I know most of them are probably imaginary, but I don’t know which ones and how much.

So, yesterday, I had a big three-hour-or-longer-discussion with my mother.  (You know how writers often say, don’t go to your mom for criticism because she’s going to love everything you write, even if it’s terrible?  Well, my mom’s cooler than that.  She loves it and helps me out.)  It turned out that I had some loopholes, plot holes, and other holes that I wasn’t even aware of.  It all made perfect sense in my head, but it didn’t actually make much sense at all.

Hmm.  I now have a decently sized list of things I have to think about and then fix in this draft.  It’s going to be more eventful than I realized.

I guess publishing might still be a ways off…