Tired eyes throbbed, staring at pulsating text wavering across blurry screens. Filled with hate, despising plot flow and loathing characters, I changed the publish date to fifteen minutes in the future. Unclicking Private, I pressed Update. Part Three joined the first two parts of A Whisper In The Storm (for mature readers). Two parts, unwritten, remain.
Yesterday, I awoke, edgy, oppressed by nagging guilt. I felt compelled to write, to capture original thoughts and deeds. But, worn down, my raging torrents of ideas trailed off into wisps of insignificance.
Although inconvenient, morning is my most creative time. When I write, I actually start before I am fully awake. Often, in dreams, I wrestle with new material, fixing flaws, and finding ways out of binds. If I am alert enough, I snag some of those thoughts, before they fade away. And, if I continue writing through the morning, I replay my waking thoughts, remembering intricate details, along with partly formed thoughts. When I am ready, I can weave them in.
I started with Excel. I dashed down vague ideas, fine details and story parts, ignoring complete sentences. Who needed paragraphs? I added columns for each character, describing traits, mannerisms, and physical details.
I stitched the story together, adding more rows. I used character TO DO columns for character actions and dialog. I made notes in the best row. Often, I created new rows. The story column filled up, while the character columns emptied out.
Eventually, my torrent of words overflowed their Excel cells. I moved to Word. From there, I began writing whatever popped into my mind, and more. Strong currents swept me on while I sewed character and plot details together.
For me, story writing was morning work. After lunch, I usually struggled to find original ideas. If I tried, my dull wits produced mundane words, which grew into pedestrian tripe.
Afternoons became useful when I reached the tipping point where writing slid into editing. Eventually, I created less story material, and spent more time editing. Editing, in time, gave way to publishing mechanics.
Having never taken a writing class, I knew my writing lacked refinement. I wanted to write better (I gave up on writing well) when I started A Whisper In The Storm in early September. When I read some of my earlier work, I saw unattractive warts I wanted to expunge from my writing style. My rewrite reminders grew out of Excel spreadsheet TO DOs.
As I created the first three parts of my story, my list grew. I used my list to change how I wrote. Hopefully, each story improved.
The first items focused on story development, sewing together the larger fabric. I wanted to keep events and ideas in order. When I could, I tried for style. But, ideas dominated my writing.
- Plot W: Story organization suggested in a WordPress article.
- Running list of plot and character notes
- Interrupted conversations
- Strong opening paragraph
- Strong closing paragraph
With story stability, I moved to style mechanics. With each story, my style list grew. I relied on Word’s Find button to mark words using bold, italicized, red font. In some instances, I searched out single words, in other cases, I marked many words. Then, I could easily see each, entire paragraph and every marked word in it. Then, paragraph by paragraph, I made changes to improve clarity, hoping to improve readability. I searched for five types of words:
- Names and Pronouns: – he () – she () – her () – you () – it () – they () – them ()- his () – hers () – names of characters ()
- Formal word: Contractions () – possessives ()
- Dangling endings: – ly () – ing ()
- Negatives: – no () – not () – never () – nothing () – none
- Fuzzy words: – the () – a () – an () – be () – are () – as ()- was () – were () – has () – had () – or () – and () – but () – will () – seem () – than () – then () – only () – like () – thing () – everything () – anything () – something ()
- Strong Verbs
I started with Names and Pronouns since I often grow bewildering thickets of he’s and she’s. Simple name insertions fixed some problems. Sometimes, I rewrote sentences. Other times I rewrote entire paragraphs. Changing pronouns to names caused large rewrites.
I moved on to contractions and possessives. I decided, for my style, I wanted few apostrophes in my story. Again, paragraph by paragraph I made changes. Some rewrites proved surprisingly extensive.
In WordPress, I read about Death by Adverb. I added -LY endings to my list. Later, -ING went on, too. Still excited, I reworked words, sentences, and paragraphs.
As Part Three struggled to live, my fuzzy list grew to twenty-three words. I started this list because I overused words. I sought out passive voices. Taken in one step, so many words would have overwhelmed me. Instead, I made five groups. By this point, my writing made me cry. Plowing through, paragraph by paragraph, trampled all joy from my heart. I yearned to finish, tempted to publish my pile of words.
Still, from another WordPress article, I discovered Strong Verbs. Another list was born. I reviewed it, found homes, page by page, with small rewrites. Over time, I hope strong verbs become second nature to my writing.
My story neared its final form. I turned to spelling, grammar, and story flow:
- 1. Spell and Grammar Check
- 2. WordPress Tools
- 3. Last smooth out
Word, with its grammar and spell check formed my first line of defense. I fixed mistakes. Finally, I pasted my story into WordPress, hit Publish, and held my breath. The wheel spun, Wheel of Fortune style. The dreaded “The proofreader has suggestions for this post. Are you sure you want to update it? Press OK to update your post, or Cancel to view the suggestions and edit your post.” box popped up. Humbled, I fixed more mistakes.
Of 7,700 words, WordPress flagged fifteen passive voice phrases. Characters ignorant of proper English, spoke most of them. They did not know better. I did, but let them display their ignorance. With my last rewrite, I smoothed and blended paragraphs back into a cohesive whole. Finally, I hit Publish on Part 3.
Had I participated in the November writing mania, I might have reached 50,000 new words. After all, I am at 24,000 words now. But, who would cook Thanksgiving dinner?