This week, I have achieved what I set out to do: I finished the first draft of my short story! Those last few pages went by so quickly but that might have just been the sheer enjoyment of using my typewriter over actually writing fast, who knows? That little stack of typed pages with the tiny punctures from the viscous full stop sat proudly on my desk for the whole of one evening until I had it in my hands and jammed it through the scanner onto my laptop. I had to settle for a free, somewhat temperamental OCR program which didn’t scan quite as accurately as would have hoped but saved me time in the long run instead of copying out the manuscript word by word.
It was then out with the red pen and metaphorical scissors for the long awaited editing. Those pages are now covered with scribbles, spelling corrections, rephrased sentences, suggestions for alternative words and phrases to check for repetition. I was surprised to find very little adverbs as it happened but I did remove a lot of “that”s (which I suggest you do too: you’ll be surprised at how unnecessary they often are and how much they disturb the flow of your prose) which found there way in.
Once I had finished with the corrections and ticked said corrections off (admittedly, very satisfying), I slung it into Grammarly for one final check and read through. It’s now been given to my first trusted guinea pig for a test read so hopefully they’ll come back with some improvements for me to make before I send it off to my second guinea pig.
I’ve also settled for a pen name!
So here is my reading list for the next couple of weeks. There’s some older ones as well as some newer ones in there so I feel I have a good mix. I decided to hand type this on my new (or at least new to me) typewriter just for the fun of it.
You can also go over to my blog page and see the books I have already read: just click on “Reading List”
Writing something every day is hard and I can tell you now that I have failed at it. Some days I feel so uninspired to write that I know whatever I write will probably be deleted moments after I write it. For a while, I was able to write every day. Remember that short story I was thundering through? Yeah, that’s still unfinished, sitting on top of my printer just waiting. The reason I had to stop was to write my History and English coursework. Both were mammoth tasks. I actually enjoyed them, researching sources not only made my coursework better, it expanded my knowledge. Reading various essays by historians on the causes of the First World War or by critics on Daphne du Maurier’s presentation of ‘The Supernatural’ in Rebecca only pushes me to try more in my own writing.
Anyway, back to writing something every day. A few weeks ago, I watched a TEDx Talks video on creativity and productivity (I would link it but I can no longer find it). Talking, was a graphic artist who had set out to get 10k plus followers on social media within a set time. He needed to produce something every day or near enough every day to achieve his goal but found that some days, after hours of working, he would often feel like the last thing he wanted to do was draw. As soon as he said that I knew that whatever he had to say next would surely help me. I had been experiencing the exact same thing: the last thing I want to do after getting home from college was to punish myself further by sitting myself down at another desk.
What he said next was he made himself draw one line, just one line every day. By the time he had set himself up to draw that one line, and once he had completed that one line, he felt he could draw another, and another. I have applied this to my own work, both writing AND revision. I tell myself that I will write one line every day; one line of my novel and one line of revision for English and History. Sometimes that is all I do but other times I end up writing a page or even two!
Something else he talked about was in response to the saying ‘practise makes perfect’. He found that drawing every day didn’t make his drawing improve, it remained the same. He could draw faster, but not better. He mentioned “Active Learning” which was (to put it briefly) seeking to improve by referring to others work and advice. Transposing this to writing, I think we can say that just writing every day won’t make your writing better. We need to actively seek to make our writing better by reading and researching what other writers do. Most days, as well as writing that one line, I will read something about writing prompts, dos and do nots; or watch a video by an agent talking about what they look for in a book.
Now having said this, I think it’s important to not get bogged down by this. At the end of the day, reading and watching ‘how tos’ doesn’t make you a writer; reading this post doesn’t make you a writer (but don’t go just yet). Writing makes you a writer. I know from experience that once you reach it to the bottom of a WordPress blog post, you’re greeted by a lovely list of ‘recommended posts’. You must resist. Save it for tomorrow. Now is the time for you to write that one line.
I am deeply ashamed. I started this blog with the hopes that it would bloom into an enjoyable, productive and social platform. In reality, however, it became a responsibility that, when missed, much like revision and exercise, was a soul-crushing guilt. My neglect was probably because I realised that it required around the clock attention and regular posting: something I am not good at. I also realised that I’m not as interesting as I first thought and was, by the sixth and seventh post, scraping the barrel for things to say. The honest truth is that writing is a very repetitive process in the mechanics of it all and once you’ve written about your day once, you’ve pretty much written a post that will cover your average day for months to come. On top of this, I balance writing alongside my studies so the days when I actually manage a decent amount of writing are few and far between. Anyway, having unloaded all this on you unsuspecting, lovely, lovely people, I am glad to say that having spent a few months away from here I am ready to come back even if for another month only to go away again. I’ve managed some writing so I’ve got that to talk about! Do you have any suggestions of things to talk about? It’d be great to hear from you again.
So I’m sorry about not posting recently, I’m currently on holiday and despite the changeable weather, we have still managed to fill our days so I’ve been away from my laptop. I have managed to read though: I finished my first American Classic – Native Son by Richard Wright and am on to my second – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Reading is something that is very important to me. I learn so much about writing by reading how others write and it’s something that every aspiring writer should do.
Read everything and anything [including this blog], don’t just stick to the same genre you are writing: read other stuff too. If you’re writing a sci-fi then read a classic, read a horror or even better read a classic sci-fi ie. H. G. Well’s War of the Worlds. Don’t just read to say you read, read with the intention of learning. Take note of how the author explores and presents themes or the way they use literary devices. All of this will aid you in your own writing.
I have decided to take things a step further. So since I’ve been reading old classics I thought I’d give some classic children’s books ago. Not only that but a book in Swedish (which I have been teaching myself). I ordered the book online originally called Kometen Kommer which translates to The Comet is Coming and was published in English under the name Comet in Moominland which may be a bit more recognisable to you as the famous Moomin series. It’s written and illustrated by the Swedish-speaking Finn Tove Jansson and it’s a great book. It’s really interesting to see the difference between Swedish and English literature (they don’t use speech marks for one thing).
Anyway there’s something for you to think about. What sort of stuff is on you’re reading list? Are there any foreign books you’re considering? I’d love to know.