I can’t say that I look back at my old writing very often, but I do have a distinct memory of doing so once. I was about fifteen, getting re-initiated into the world of writing and dying to write the next modern day masterpiece, when I stumbled upon an old story I had written. Curiosity got a hold of me, and I sat down and read through the whole thing. It was bad, very bad, and I laughed and cringed at my twelve year-old self who somehow made every grammar mistake and missed every typo in her sentences, while thinking that she was the best writer out there. More importantly than that, however, I realized that I had quite the story on my hands.
If you asked me two years ago if I was a writer, I would have said no. I had ideas for stories back then and even tried writing one, but none of them were fully committed to. But halfway through 2020, the seed of an idea bloomed, and today, I wouldn’t call myself anything else but a writer (except for maybe author, fingers crossed!). At the start of a new year, I find myself reflecting on 2021 and its lessons about writing and my relationship towards it. Here are seven things 2021 taught me about writing.
Author’s note: This is part two of a yet-to-be-named series of narrative essays, this time focusing on villains. Hope you enjoy it!
Phonecall with the felon
“Good evening, you’ve reached Writer’s Aid, how may we help you today?” a man’s voice answered my call.
“I was told you could redirect the call to a character of mine?”
“Sure thing, tell us your name and the name of your manuscript, please,” he said, and I replied obediently. “Thank you. Now please press one to contact the protagonist, two to contact the antagonist, three for the love interest, and four for any side character. You have five minutes. Thanks for choosing us!”
The answer should be obvious, right? Logically the third draft comes next. I wish it were that simple. Here are four things I learned from finishing my second draft, what I did to the story, and what I’m going to do next.
But first let me congratulate myself on finishing the second draft. Yay! Here’s a realistic account of how it felt to finish it:
So you start another book and find yourself getting attached to a side character. The more you read about them, the more you like them. But a few chapters — or books — after you realize just how much you look forward to their interactions, they...die. And so you might cry or rant about it with someone. You might think you’re over it, but then you listen to that one sad song and remember them and feel sorrowful all over again. Tragic, isn’t it?
Tragedy has power. In any genre, it succeeds in stirring up powerful emotions: pain, anger, despair, fear. If you know how to write them, they can impact your readers in a way nothing else can. Therefore, here is a list of dos and don’ts that will hopefully help you out the next time you’re drafting a tragic scene.
Note: this article is meant for fiction writers, but poetry authors might find it useful as well!
We’ve all had his moment: You’ve been writing for months and you come to a stopping point — the end of a draft, or a break in consciousness — and you read back your work. A bad feeling creeps in: This sucks. Am I a bad writer?
And while these intrusive thoughts can feel valid, that doesn’t mean you should listen to them. It’s actually good if you think your work sucks! This means you’re improving and have become a better writer. Yay!
It’s easy to compare your work to a book on a shelf and think “I’ll never be as good as that.” But keep in mind that authors have editors, and books go through many revisions before they are published. It can be harmful to compare your unfinished work with a published one.
Here are a few reasons why you might think your work sucks.
This article covers six common devices or “gremlins” writers use when drafting that weaken their prose, but your first draft has permission to be messy and imperfect. Use passive voice, use telling and filtering! Do anything you need to get that first draft done. I’ve committed all these devices in my draft, so don’t feel bad if you spot them in your own. We’ve figured out how to fix them.
If you’re ready to level up with your next revision or draft, here are six common devices that weaken your prose and how to avoid them.
For many writers, the revision stage is their favorite part of the writing process. It gives them a chance to look at their work in a new way, they can fix scenes that they were unhappy with, proofread and fix typos, and change and rewrite as many times as they’d like in order to make the story the best it can be.
For others, like myself, the revision process is a nightmare.