When Your Own Bad Writing Makes You Sick

Ever look back and read work you’ve done in the past to realize it sucks so bad you almost feel physically ill?

Yep, that happened to me in a big way Sunday. The previous week my son started school on Wednesday, so I started working on my new novel with gusto (I’d been waiting all summer to start!), but realized I had some background information and research that needed to be done first. Then I got the bright idea to read the half completed first draft of my second novel (Dark Territories) over the weekend. God, what a horrible, awful, terrible disappointment that turned out to be.

I couldn’t even get all the way through two chapters before I decided I’d had enough, because I was real close to vomiting. Yeah, it was that bad. And I can’t even pinpoint one specific thing that was terrible. There was a well balanced amount of terribleness from stiff and completely out of character dialogue to plot leaps that would make a mountain goat proud. There were tie-ins from one story arc to another that left me wondering exactly how much I had to drink that day. And please don’t even get me started on my long windedness. I could probably make a schooner set sail with all that blustering air moving about in each scene.

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A Year in Review

It’s actually a good thing that we have a built in system that insists that a person take stock in the past year and give thought to the coming year. I suppose the infamous January 1st isn’t the only date that does this. Birthdays tend to have this effect on us too, especially the big 30, 40 and 50. It’s these times of reflection and reassessment that help us understand what we’ve done and what still needs to be done. It forces us to take a hard look at ourselves and redefine our goals. So this is my attempt at taking a look back into the year to see what I have accomplished (or not accomplished) and where I should go from here.

2011 has been a big year for me writing wise not because of any big publishing accomplishments (though I did get one short story published) but because I made a big step in the way I think about writing. I finally accepted the fact that writing wasn’t just a passing fancy and it was something I wanted to be serious about, so I took my amateur hobby to the next step by learning more about the craft of writing.

In 2011, I purchased as many writing books as my budget allowed, I took many online writing classes, I went to Context 24 (a writing convention), I became more involved with my writer’s group, I started a personal and writing blog (this blog), and looked for opportunities to reach out to my writing colleagues. In just a few short months, my overall knowledge of writing blossomed beyond my expectations and I found myself immersed in numerous writing projects.

I will not go into detail of everything I covered over the year, browsing through this blog would be a good taste of the topics I studied; each post created was a reflection of my interests. What wasn’t posted remains in the several notebooks full of things I never had a chance to transfer to this blog. I think the biggest topics I did touch on for the longest would be plot, characterization, sensory description, showing vs. telling and dialogue.

The biggest reward for me came when I compared a recent story to a piece I had done a year before. The difference was staggering. Granted, I realized I still had a long way to go, but I was amazed at how far I had come in such a short time, because of the new found dedication I had applied to my hobby. Yet, even with all the progress I made, it still was not enough to keep me from hitting a major wall of writer’s block in the fall.

The writer’s block was debilitating. It got to the point that each word was a real chore to write, which soon caused me to lose the desire to write. I knew something was wrong, but could not articulate it until I came across the book How to Be a Writer by Barbara Baig. This book caused me to re-evaluate my writing process. I spent the better part of December working towards this and now have a new writing process that has opened up a flood gate of ideas for new and current writing projects.

I look forward to the new year and all the possibilities that await there. I’m not sure where this writing journey is going to take me in 2012, but at least I know where I’ve been, where I want to go and how to get there.

New Year Writing Goals to be posted soon.