One of the great–and aggravating things about writing–is that no matter how much I learn, I always find there’s something else new to learn. This last year is no different. So what did I learn this last year?
1. That I could finish a book on my own. I’d gotten into co-writing for two books (same book, completely different rewrite) because I struggled so much with plotting the story itself. Then we broke up. I wrote a first draft in thirty days to prove to myself I could actually get an entire book done without a co-writer.
2. To outline. This last year, I finally found an outline that really works for me. I think I’ve tried every form there is, so I ended up making up one of my own. That’s one of the major reasons why I’ve done better with plotting. Still not perfect, but the outline has helped me keep from doing rewrites of the entire book to work my way into the story.
3. That I need to stick with writing what only I can write. Earlier this year, I was trying to make a subplot work (the one I’ve been having so much trouble with), so I introduced a crime to the book. I figured it would be a way to make those elements Ineeded for the story come into play. Spectacular crash and burn. It should have been a sign when I fought my way through the chapter showing the discovery of the body. I like to read crime novels, but write them? Not for me.
4. Omniscient viewpoint. This year, I discovered omniscient viewpoint. All of the writing books had generally dismissed it as not being used any more and never had explained why you might want to use it. I did a viewpoint workshop in February where I rewrote my opening in all the viewpoints and realized that my story needed to be omniscient.
What I go into the new year learning:
1. Taking advantage of everything in the story. If an unnamed waitress walks into the book for one scene, I’m reminding myself to think about what else I can do with her. At the moment, said waitress is going to tattle to the tabloids about something she didn’t hear (no, that’s not a typo; she just made something up).
2. Subplots. I still have a lot of problems with this one, but each effort I make chipping away at it gets me close to possible solutions.
3. The sense of smell. Earlier this year, I did a workshop on description that I had a really hard time with. Two reasons: How I do description and inflexibility on the kinds of scenes we were writing using all the senses. I tend to spread my description over more than a few pages. I also had a problem with describing characters and senses like smell in the middle of an action scene (that was the inflexibility part) where the choices were things like fighting and extreme sports. But since then, I’ve run into a book which used the sense of smell throughout (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) and did a different workshop where smell was approached differently, and I’m thinking about ways to use it more. Not in the middle of an action scene, though.