How-to Books and Learning by Osmosis

Today is the day for pulling together a bunch of semi-related ideas that have been rattling around in my head of late.

I’ll be publishing my first novel without the input of an editor. The earlier version that I serialized on Live Journal got some very helpful comments from readers, but other than implementing the suggestions that would clearly improve the novel, any flaws in the final version will be entirely my fault. In a way, it’s an experiment. If the book should ever reach the eyes of a reviewer, will it stand up or will something terrible that I’ve completely overlooked give the reviewer cause to tear it to shreds? It will be a test of how well I’ve learned my lessons and what I still need to work on.

I’ve never taken a writing course, and I’ve only skimmed through a couple of books about writing. I’ve read a few articles and blog posts here and there, which gave me some useful insights into story development, and I’ve looked into POV and some punctuation details that I always have trouble with. Other than that, writing fiction has been a learning process nourished by the hundreds of novels I’ve read over the years.

You might say that I’ve learned to write by osmosis. But that would be too simple. At an unconscious level, I know a great deal about how good novels are written, and the differences between good and bad writing. But it’s the struggle to do my own that’s been the real teacher. It’s usually true that we’re too close to our own work to see what’s wrong with it. If you have the basics tucked away somewhere in your brain, you have a better chance of finding the problems without having someone point them out to you. Better, not perfect. Probably the most helpful comment about the serialized Boundaries was that I tended to tell rather than show. That’s a biggie, and it made a huge difference in how the novel developed in the next revision.

Now I’m at the point where I can go back to something I wrote earlier and see the flaws and how to correct them. I also have a better grasp of what I need to be doing, as I’m doing it. But the learning process goes on, and maybe someday, submitting my work to someone else’s eyes before publishing will be part of it.

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2 thoughts on “How-to Books and Learning by Osmosis

  1. I am glad to see more Nano’s on here. I am hoping this year goes better than last year. So you mentioned that you serialized your last novel? How did you do that? Was it chapter by chapter allowing the readers to just enjoy the work and critique as the book progressed?

    Or were you looking more for constructive criticism? Did you show your character charts, synopsis ahead of time to give the readers a deeper breadth of what you trying to accomplish?

    I ask as I am planning on doing something similar for NaNoWriMo. I would love to hear more details about this.

  2. My NaNo novel isn’t the one I serialized. I wrote another one soon after, and when it was fairly well worked over, I started putting it online. I *was* looking for useful critiques, and I did get them. Since it was only my second novel, I considered it part of my learning process.

    I’ll be doing the same for this year’s novel. I’ve written a few posts about it, but not in depth. When I start serializing, I’ll have a header that explains that it’s a first draft (though I do a lot of editing during NaNo, so it isn’t going to be a complete mess), and that anybody who wants to can comment and offer criticism. (Though not suggestions for how the plot will develop. 🙂 ) I”m going to post it day by day, usually, unless I get red hot and write so much that I have to split it into two days. Not likely to happen.

    Glad you reminded me about the synopsis. I have it on my NaNo profile, but posting it to the blog before I start would be a very good idea. None of the prep work, though. I don’t think that would be too interesting for many readers. The people who commented on the last one were a mix of those who just wanted a good story and cheered or booed the characters. They were in the majority. The ones who offered valuable critiques are writers themselves.

    When I was doing it, I wasn’t even thinking about building an audience for a future novel. It was about possible buyers for the revised version, which is almost finished and will be an ebook.

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