Will you READ it already?!
This past week in my life has been almost a literal whirlwind. In short, I was dropped from the nursing program at school and that sent me on a quest to find a new career goal between runs to the business office, professors, financial aid, and fighting off waves of sadness. Currently, I’m thinking education and I’m stuck between English for secondary ed or elementary ed. I’m trying to convince myself I don’t need to decide at this second, but that’s hard.
When my teachers first told me they needed to dismiss me, one thing they brought up is that I mentioned to someone I like writing. Obviously, I love writing. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t write the blog. However, I kinda dismissed that suggestion because a) my school doesn’t have the creative writing program I would like and b) it’s too competitive a field for a career and c) I’m too nice of a person.
All fine and good. I move on.
Then I discussed my mermaid paper with my professor, Dr. D. In spite of his doubts on my topic, he likes it. It has actually rather impressed him and Dr. D has, once again, mentioned publishing. I’m kinda like, “Okay, whatever. That might be cool.” I’m still staring at the chapter three section and trying to figure what to write exactly. Or even outline!
Moving on to announcing my dismissal on facebook and telling my nursing partners. (Obviously, some are shocked, because as someone put it, I dominated the tests.) Someone in all of this asked me if I’m going to change my major to writing.
After that, I posted Just Trust Me with the hopes that people would read it. I got one person liking it and two people at least clicked on it. But no comments otherwise. Nothing.
Then I go back for this final nursing thing about administer withdrawal to protect my GPA and such. Blahblahblah. Anyway, I just mentioned to my teachers that I was writing a paper comparing mermaid folklore across the world. They asked me how I came upon this idea and I explained that I wrote the story for the writing contest at my school (no clue how I placed yet) and I decided to write it as a novel. I wanted to do some research about it first though. They thought it was awesome.
Then the provost of my school (less than 800 students) has never met me before. No big deal. But she recongized me AND she made comments about how I have really made a difference in the TRiO writing center and that Dr. D has said that I write really well.
I only write for the student newspaper at school and to be honest, I’m not pleased with how my articles are coming out. I really wish I had someone to help me just iron out the little things and let me brainstorm with them. But I keep hearing about how good of a writer I am, or if I’m going to go into writing, but you know what?
But no one has read my fiction!
I think I write good fiction. I have come a long way in the eight years that I’ve been writing. And while some of my stories may not be up to the standards I would like, and I am a little on the slow side when it comes to editing, I really like the stories I have.
I even randomly started reading the ending of one of my stories that I haven’t touched in over a year because I randomly thought of it.
Everyone else knows that I write fiction too. Almost everyone understands that this is a passion of mine.
But no one reads it!
For once, just once, I want someone who has read what i have written in fiction to tell me that I’m a good writer, or ask me if I am going to look into writing, or something like that, I don’t want these people who don’t even know I wrote a novel to be suggesting I write as a career. Because for all they know, my writing stinks!
As it is, because I mentioned that I want my mermaid story to become an novel, I have now promised my nursing department a signed copy of it when it is published. I suppose it should be if, but I prefer to be optimistic.
And we did this and this and this….
I mentioned recently in passing that I hate skimming in writing. By skimming I mean I pass a significant amount of time where the reader needs to know that things have happened but I don’t want to show it. It would just take too long.
So my question for you this week:
How do you handle skimming in stories?
Ease of the Write.
Some things concerning the challenge of writing a good book.
What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. ~ Samuel Johnson
When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. ~ Enrique Jardiel Poncela
Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves. ~ Don Marquis
suffocating under all that info
Now, for some writers, this is a basic topic, and for others, this is something difficult to understand, and even more difficult to avoid.
We take all of our time working very carefully, building backgrounds of characters, histories of various places and objects, and general mannerisms people use in our current novel. Then, of course, we want to share all of our brilliant information.
What do we do? We decide to write it in. In general, writers put this information in the beginning of their story.
Now, most any writer who has read much of anything writing or studied it in school understands the concept of having a captivating beginning. So, what sometimes happens is we have a story like this:
Martie ran down the alley, dodging mud holes and rotting garbage alike. Her heart beat so strongly in her chest that it felt like she might die. She gasped for air in strangled gasps, barely able to get enough. In her hand, she still carried the gun, clutching it like a lifeline. Something in the back of her mind told her that if anyone saw her, with the gun in her hand and the blood on her shirt, they would immediately call the police, but she could not seem to get rid of either. Instead, she ran, just like she always did.
Or maybe she hadn’t always run. As a child, she lived in the exact same apartment in the exact same area of town. She always went to the exact same school until she graduated one and could move up to the next. Even in college, she never jumped around from one to the next, or even one degree to the next, always sticking with what she had decided upon when she first began. It never seemed right to change.
She never was interested in running while in higshchool, opting for the more passive hobbies of drawing. Her dormroom was full of boxes upon boxes of sketchbooks full of everything she had scribbled down to pass the time. Many of them were good, some worth selling. A few she had sold.
But all this came to an end five months ago….
Five pages later, we finally get back to Martie running through the alleys, losing the reader on page three, if we are lucky.
This, my friend, is called an infodump by most people. It may occur in any part of the book, at any period, describing anything. The biggest problem with them is that they are generally long, boring, and usually not needed.
Wait! What am I to do if I can’t do this? How am I suppose to tell my reader anything about the beautiful world I created?
It’s called bite-sized pieces. One little bite-sized piece at a time.
First of all, you need to learn to recognize what an info dump is. They do generally appear at the beginning of the story, so that is usually a good place to look. This is very, very, very hard to do. I thought that this one novel I wrote had no real obvious info dump. When I let some other people read it, they suddenly said that, “Um, BTW, this part where you explain about how good of a pilot Shad is, that’s an infodump.” i honestly had no clue.
Secondly, you need to learn to evaluate logically if you need that infodump at that exact moment. Really, on page 1 with the above example, do I really need to go into the whole history of Martie’s life, hobbies, ect? Obviously, no. Do I really need to go into a whole history of Shad being main pilot by seventeen, when most people don’t even get their license until 23 or so on page 3? No.
The secret then is to share what you know in small snatches of information. This is sometimes difficult, sometimes easy. I tend to stick some of it in dialogue, but you don’t want to have Bob tell Mary what Bob and Mary have been going through for the last five months. Instead, you can have Bob run into one of his buddies from highschool and the buddy asks him how he’s doing and Bob can then explain everything, without it being obvious. (However, if this buddy does not play a role in the story, you don’t want to do that. Keep in mind that every scene needs a purpose.
I also might slip a sentence or two here or there, just to explain an action.
In general, I tend to stay with one thought when sharing information. And one tiny thought at that. It might be as large as three paragraphs but if it’ll be much longer than a page, maybe you should avoid doing that whole thing in one sitting.
Two things to keep in mind about the reader. One is that, although the reader might like your book, if he/she finds an infodump, there is a 50/50 change he/she will merely skip over it to the more interesting parts.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, you might not realize that the reader doesn’t know everything that you know. If you remove the infodump, the important information still has to be communicated to the reader, or else, you’ll leave the reader confused and frustrated. (I felt so confused when reading one book.) Keep this in mind. In Shad, I have a lot of abbrivations because the sweepers would talk like that. I still need to be able to tell the reader what SSD is and what SCL is, ZT, SRIS, FSR, ect, without listing them all off. This is challenging.
However, if you do manage to complete it to that point, then you might actually have a pretty decent story.
family and writing don’t mix
I started officially writing on February 14th, 2003. I know that because we were traveling to Springfield for Valentines day, I wanted something to do in the car, so I took the computer and wrote my first sentence. After that, I just kept writing.
I don’t remember how my brother, Oliver, began reading my stories. He was eleven; I was fourteen, but I would write them and he would read them. I must have realized that I wanted to get better, because I would end by wanting feedback so badly at the end, and he would never be able to give me much.
Then began the writing contest at the library that August and soon afterwards I started one of my longest projects, along with role playing. Over the next four years, I worked on a story called Hope (I actually rewrote Hope once, because it started out so poorly and with no character.), role played with my friend and wrote ETOLT. This is when I learned a lot about characters.
But, because it took me practically four years to write Hope, Oliver grew up, I grew up, and I didn’t want Oliver to read the story, nor did he want to read them.
But Elianna did. (My sister.) She wanted to read Hope, and as soon as I printed it out and said that she could read it, she read it. I gave her my old, old stories I wrote when I was fourteen and she read those too. She even liked to read the short stories I wrote for the writing contest while I was writing them.
Elianna is, or maybe was, my plotting buddy. No, she couldn’t give me a lot of ideas but she let me tell her my ideas. She knows almost most my stories because I tell her them all before she reads them. (It doesn’t help when I want to know what does she think of X’s surprise, but… ). She jokes that when I get a book published, I need to dedicate it to her.
No one else in my family though really seemed to care that much. My mom ( who is bad with names) never could seem to follow my stories. Moreover, she’s a slow reader, so reading a book of mine would take her months. My other brother hates reading. My dad… I don’t know, I just don’t like the idea of him reading anything. And Oliver became too critical for me to want him to read anything, even if I thought he did. (It’s easier to have a stranger read it.)
The problem is I don’t know what to think of my sister anymore. Part of the reason that we could plot together is because we went to bed at the same time. However, we rarely do that now, myself going to bed an hour later than her. Also, it isn’t fair that when we talk, it’s me who does all the talking. So when it comes down to it, we don’t have much of a chance to talk anymore.
Besides that, I’ve finished a bunch of things but she wants me to print it out for her and then maybe she’ll get around to reading it. I had Shad printed for five or six months before she decided to read it. (She then read it in 3 days, and I think she liked it a lot.) When I asked her if she wanted me to print something for her to read, she changed the topic and didn’t really say anything.
I understand that she might be outgrowing the desire to look up to her big sister all the time. (Which, for those who are younger, is very scary.) But I wish that if she didn’t want to read it, she would just say, “Abigail, I don’t want to read your story.” I think she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings but it’s harder when she doesn’t say it flat out than to have her beat around the bush and pretend she wants to. (With this particular incident, I mentioned something to my mom and she said to print it and she’ll read it. Hasn’t yet but someday.)
I write because I like to write. I write because I have hundreds and hundreds of stories popping into my head constantly and I need to get them out. I write for others to read. If I could have some of my books published and not gain a penny from it, right now I think I would be happy with that. I just want people to read what I wrote and enjoy it. (That enjoying part is the key here. :) ) But I don’t have any friends to read what I wrote. I don’t have any much in my family who want to read it (including my sister). But I do wish that people would read it, enjoy, and then tell me what I do wrong so I can get better.