Saturday, March 15, 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice

I’ve been writing for a while.  My first ‘official’ novel was written in high school, once I finally figured out the value of outlining and preplanning.  It took me almost three months to write, but I was incredibly proud of myself.  After two or three ‘drafts’ of that novel, which consisted of mostly just fixing the spelling, I moved to my second novel, though that one was never finished. 

When I got to college, I left all of my writing at home and focused on ‘real life’ until I realized that the more I ignored my writing, the harder it was for me to focus on my studies.  And nursing is not a field that you don’t want to be able to focus in.  My Junior year, I went back home, grabbed my binders and started reading through that first novel that I’d written.  To my surprise, it was awful.  Terrible.  I cringed at how juvenile it sounded. 

I spent most of my Junior year, and the summer after revising the novel.  I made some pretty substantial chances, and it ended up with 35,000 more words and a much more satisfying ending.  But it still didn’t feel like enough.  So I went back and revised that.  And then I revised again.  I read books on how to write, and I began to branch out, explore on the internet to see what was available.  I found critique partners who were willing to work with me, despite my inexperience. 

After a year of revising that first novel, another idea came to my mind.  I tried to follow the same procedure, using months to plan and prepare, but this story took me by surprise and after just a week of planning, I wrote the entire novel during the last month of my Senior year.  I was amazed by how much better this novel was than the first one.  It’s not me bragging, I had just learned enough skills that this draft was almost to par with draft number 4 or 5 of the first novel.

I’ve found, after years and years of writing, that I’m a reviser at heart.  I don’t mind taking my novels and tearing them apart, just as long as I know that it will be better.  I just finished a major revision of my Blue WIP, probably one of the only ones where I was dissatisfied with how it turned out after I finished the first draft. 

Now that I’ve finished with that revision, I went back to my NaNo novel, ready to tear it apart.  Last week, I went through the entire thing, doing a quick read to decide what major changes needed to be made.  To my surprise, this novel was solid.  Yes, there will be revisions, but nothing as drastic as the first 4 novels that I’d written.  The practice, and the dedication that I’d shown to my writing had finally started to show.

Growing up, I took piano lessons.  And I believe that I had some talent.  But years and years of half-practicing and not dedicating myself to the craft has decreased that talent somewhat.  At least, that’s how I feel.  Now that I live on my own, and now that I understand the value of practice, I actually have improved much more than I did when I took lessons.  It’s just a matter of focusing and practicing on a regular basis.

Picture taken by me

Writing is the same way.  No matter how much talent a person has, there’s always something more to learn.  I heard once that the first million words are just practice.  As I went through all of the novels, half-novels and rewrites that I’d done, I realized how much that’s true.  My NaNo novel was probably the novel where I surpassed that number.  (If not before). 

Does that mean I’m done?  Everything I write will be gold?  Not in the least.  But it does mean that I’ve learned, I’ve improved and I’m going to keep improving.