Writers are forever looking for ways to improve their writing. Attending critique groups is one way to do that. Over my career, I've attended plenty. I discovered I have a love of adverbs, words that end with the dreaded L-Ys. Creative writing teachers claim they are markers of (gasp!) "lazy writing." Along with passive verbs like 'is/was' 'take/took', or an overdependence on the blandness of looked, talked and walked, my writers' voice and the originality of my ideas was muted by the most boring of word choices.
To battle this inclination, once I have my first draft, I will do word searches of the aforementioned verbs and adverbs. I have compiled lists of substitutes:synonyms, antonyms, descriptors, idioms and action words that bring clarity to my vision and strengthen my writers' voice, which is essential in creating your own style. My style sets me apart from everyone else. Readers hunger for stories that may be familiar plot-wise or theme-wise, but are told in new and different ways.
My first drafts are often pages and pages of dialogue. That's how my stories come to me. I've tried to change that, tried to put to good use the techniques I've learned in critique groups and at conferences, by plotting ahead of time and filling out character studies. But I find that my mind is so contrary, it tends to spit out the exact opposite of where I thought an idea might go. To be efficient, my job is to take the story that is in my head and transfer it onto the page. If I'm successful, the reader experiences the same richness of emotion and detail that I feel and see, which is entertaining and worth spending money on.
Keep it simple, stupid, AKA KISS, has become my motto.
In the next few weeks, I will go into more detail about my word lists. I have seen other writers' lists but since mine are tailored specifically to address my weaknesses, they differ widely from most. But they are critical to my goal of creating fast-paced fiction, peopled by characters that excite the imagination. if that is your goal as well, perhaps examples of my lists will inspire you to create your own. And in this creation, your individual style, your writer's voice, will become stronger and inspire higher imaginings for you as well as your readers. This is the 'creative' in Creative Writing. In my experience, it's what makes the effort satisfying and worthwhile, no matter how many readers you have or how much money you make.
In exchange, I am always interested in learning how other writers process and craft their work. Because our brains are different, each story is different. Do you plot first? Do you write as fast as you can, then edit, or do some of both at the same time? Does your story come out in chronological order? Do you write first person, omniscient, or third person, and why?
Lastly, (yes, lastly came to me very naturally) do you care about any of the above? It's okay if you don't. That's a legitimate process, too, because some brains are wired to produce well-written stories on the first go round. I used to be jealous of that. (maybe I still am, a little). But I'm also aware that my brain is magical, unlike any other, and it is my goal in life to celebrate my uniqueness in every possible way. --Carol Devine