As in a Glass, Darkly

Part of being a writer, especially one who writes, rather than one who spends most of his time rewriting and revising, is taking time after each finished piece to reflect on what you’re doing, what you’re doing right, and what you could be doing better.

I’m at a good place to do that right now, since I have just finished beating Red Lands Book Two (tentatively titled City of the Dead) into submission.  It’s been incredibly troublesome, and I’ve had to break my own rule about not revising.  Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, but I can’t build the rest of the series if Book Two is all wrong.

It’s not that I’ve never had this much trouble writing a story.  It’s more like I’ve never actually finished anything I’ve had that much trouble with.  I honestly don’t know whether to feel frustrated or triumphant.  Back when I still revised, I got caught in the event horizon of a couple of “black hole novels,” endlessly revising, finding I had more revisions to make after each revision pass than I had before I started. It killed the joy of writing, and it pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t have a career.  Spending a year revising a novel, only to find you’re no closer to “done” than you were before?  I shudder just remembering it.

So I’m trying to take Dean Wesley Smith’s advice: learn from my mistakes, make the next story better, and keep moving forward.  The only way to get better at writing is to write, and write with purpose.  Or, as he said it, “You have to write new material to learn.  No one ever learned to be a creative writer by rewriting.  Only by writing.”

Which leads me back to my between-stories reflection.  I have a tendency to sometimes write very long sentences, with multiple clauses, separated by commas, semicolons, colons, and even parentheses:  this may be a problem (You see what I did there?).  Books that flow more quickly tend to use shorter sentences.  They’ll usually mix it up and use some longer sentences as well, but most of the sentences will be shorter.  It’s not so much the length of the sentences as their complexity.  Adding too many clauses to a sentence can make it unwieldy.  I think I should spend a little time reading my stories aloud, possibly recording them and listening to them later.  I don’t think this is a fatal flaw, or that it makes my writing bad.

Honestly, I still think my writing is good.  I just think that I can and must improve my writing.  If I’m the same writer in five years that I am today, I’ve failed.  Stagnation is death, especially creatively.


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