Practice Makes Perfect

I fully expected to get a lot of writing done over the long weekend.  With my partner being out of town and a rainy forecast, I hoped to make significant forward progress on Addicted, my first work of fiction. Unfortunately, aside from a few new posts here on the blog, I haven’t gotten any writing done.

The writer’s group met yesterday and critiqued chapters twenty through twenty-three of Addicted. The regulars all agreed it was my best work to date. I was thrilled.

Normally I spend the Sunday after a writer’s group meeting following through with all the suggestions they made about my manuscript. Last night it took me all of twenty minutes to make the changes they suggested. I take this as a sign that my writing is getting better. Some of the improvement is the result of practice, some from what members of the group have taught me, and some from the reading I’ve done.

Last week I finished reading Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us. It’s a great book for new writers that helped me to see several major problems with Addicted. The biggest problem is that Josh Freeman, the protagonist, is way too mamby-pamby and passive which leads to problems with the plot. There’s not enough conflict (as in really none through the first twenty chapters), and there’s no reason to care what happens to him.

The good news is that I see what the problems are. Some I’ve fixed, and some I’m not sure how to fix or if I’m even going to try. Part of me wants to just finish Addicted–for the experience–and then apply everything I’ve learned to start another novel.

This week I’ve started reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. Thanks is focused on helping new writers to get published. Maass’s book is more about how to write the kind of novel that’s likely to be a hit. He talks about a lot of the same things, but includes more detailed information about what’s required to elevate a story to bestseller material. It’s very interesting, informative, and in places, over my head.

The things I’ve learned about writing are just now starting to show up in the sections of Addicted the writer’s group is seeing. This week they’ll get chapters 24-27 to critique at our meeting two weeks from yesterday. I’ve only written through chapter 32, so I need to get on the stick.

Chapter 32 is the big climax scene. I’m waiting to get some feedback about what I need to do to improve the buildup to that scene before going any further. I know where the story is going and how it’s going to end. It’s just a matter of writing it all down.

In the end, I still consider Addicted to be a practice book. When it’s finished I want to go back and dial down the explicit sex scenes (they currently contain more detail than is necessary to advance the plot), change a couple of chapters around so they come from someone else’s point of view rather than Josh’s, and spruce up some of the earlier chapters with the techniques I’ve learned and applied in later chapters. Then I’ll be ready to submit the manuscript somewhere for publication.

Practice makes perfect. The feedback I get from the writer’s group about my work is priceless. The books I’m reading about writing help me to understand the feedback they give me and what to do to make my work better. Hopefully, all this work will pay off and I’ll get something published. When that happens, you’ll be the first to hear about it, right here on…

My Glass House