Tuesday, March 25

How I write

A few duplicat posts from another blog to start with, okay?

This post was inspired by rionaleonhart's post about writing strengths/weaknesses. It's quite fun to analyse your own stuff, trying to avoid the Dunning-Kruger effect.

I am, overall, quite happy with my writing, though I feel I lack any kind of concrete style. Thus, this is a fairly self-deprecating list (I'm arrogant enough to start out assuming I'm perfect, and so this is me picking holes in that).

- I like to think I'm fairly good at both dialogue and description, but I can't do both at once. People have conversations in voids, or hang out in scenery with nothing but indirect speech to tide them over. Mushing together tends to end up with something along the lines of:

"Dialogue," he verbed, actioning.

"Dialogue dialogue," she verbed adverbly, actioning in scenery. "Dialogue."

He improbably-verbed, "Dialogue." He actioned.

Characters either hang in space for the entire conversation, or accompany every sentence with some form of fidget. I also can't handle a conversation between more than three people; characters go completely mute. Council scenes in Greenhelm are a pain, because there are just too many characters, all of whom ought to be saying something relevant (often the same thing, or over the top of each other). This is why some of them tend to fall asleep, or sulk.

Also, it's the same actions over and over. All the show-don't-tell has left me with a group of actions that I use as shorthands for emotions, but they don't always show the same emotion (which is realistic, but when the one character uses the same action twice in one conversation for two different things, and another uses it in response for something else entirely, it's kinda meaningless). Characters are constantly tilting and cocking their heads, chewing on their lips, and tugging on their own hair. I have to watch myself to make sure I don't use any of them more than once in a section, and not by multiple different people in a chapter. All my characters are bald with terrible neck strain and ragged lips.

Also, improbable verbs and adjectives. Which, later, I can't remember why I used. Sometimes it's cool, but a lot of them time they just feel like typos. I just get sick of words like "said" and "asked".

- I lack patience for writing exercises. I just... write. If I'm suffering from writer's block, I do a description of random things. If I'm suffering from laziness, I do dialogue only. If I'm facing a hard bit, I do something else. I'm lucky, because I almost never get writer's block, but I am an immensely lazy writer. If I challenged myself to write 500 words a day, I could, easily, though not always on the same project. But I'd rather watch TV.

- I don't like finishing things or declaring finished things done. I never submit anything anywhere because I'm waiting for some magical day when I'm done learning to write, and I can go back and edit things in the knowledge that at no point will I look at them and wish they were different.

- My writing is derivative and easily influenced (like me!), but I view this as a kind of tool in itself now. I know where every influence came from, what effect it had, and how I changed it to make it mine (I'll do a breakdown of Greenhelm one day, and you'll be able to see what novels I was reading when). I'm the same with dreams, actually, and seeing how they've been influenced by recent thoughts and events. I'm not a deeply original person, and I know it.

- I love plotting, but suck at plots. I don't like endings, specifically, and I can't handle climaxes, so I take something deeply generic and shove it in instead as a placeholder until I actually get there.

When I get there, I'll tell you how it works out!

- Though I'm fairly proficient at writing angst, it does bore me, and I do get carried away once I start. I don't like reading/watching it, particularly. Apparently I write depression well enough that people think I suffer from it, so, um. I enjoy writing about pragmatists, and about decisions they face. I like writing about anger, and fights, but I think I tend to do them too fast (people go from civil to exploding very quickly, especially if they're not the viewpoint character). Boredom is a good excuse for skipping over things and plugging some description in instead.

- I use a lack of contractions to indicate a non-english speaker. I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing (it's got to trump writing out accents, though, especially when you don't bother for the default dialect), but I do do it for all non-english speakers, which probably isn't terribly helpful.

- I write short pieces and vignettes, and forget that the information in them doesn't appear in the main novel. I enjoy writing them because I don't even have to pretend there's a plot. I like Significant Moments. I just don't like working them into the main text. It's why I like writing on my blog and doing challenges.

- I don't edit short stuff (I often type things straight into my blog these days), and I get so wrapped up in editting long stuff that I don't write anything new. See: Greenhelm, Children's story. I almost never use beta-readers (dun dun daaaaah). Too impatient. Thus, I suffer from typos.

- Odd sentence structure. I love it. Speech tends to be fragmentary, but I also have a tendency to play with syntax and clauses (and I split infinitives with abandon). I, I must admit, love clauses in odd places within a sentence, but I suspect, with reasonable evidence, that I do it too often. It's certainly not great for flow. A paragraph where every sentence is broken at least once, either by a clause or a semi-colon, is both typical and Not Good. I also love throwing italics about for emphasis, but I don't always get it right. I like to start sentences with words like "also" and "thus"; I think that's probably got something to do with my own speech patterns. I mumble a bit at the beginning of sentences, so it's good to have a non-essential verbal run up, even if it doesn't always make sense. And, mmm, imperatives.

- I love it when I can visualise the way a paragaph ought to look, especially how speech ought to be laid out, and I have an innate sense of punctuation thanks to an old English teacher. I can't always visualise layout, but when I can it just fits. It's why I love doing the magazine; I use what I've been taught most of the time, but when it comes naturally I don't want to deny it. This month's interior cover is a bit like that: I know there needs to be a small photo, with rich colours, in a certain place, even though I don't actually have a photo I can use there.

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