Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wrestling the Voices

Been having trouble writing lately.

I'm working on a project that I hope will turn into a web-based series of free short stories from The Fourth Dimension universe.  Much has happened to Arus since we last saw him, and when Volume IV rolls around, a number of years will have passed.  So I wanted to give readers a chance to learn a bit about what he's thus far encountered during his time as a soldier for the Aeden Alliance.

The problem I'm facing is that I am getting far too picky with my sentences.  I'm just agonizing over every single word.  With each sentence I write, I stare and reread it over and over, picking out useless words, tangled phrases, and repetitive language.  As a result, I'll sit at the computer for an hour and type three sentences.

I'm no expert on the English language.  For example, I don't know if "English" in that last sentence is supposed to be capitalized or not.  If you asked me to identify a dangling participle or to conjugate a verb, I'd have no clue what you're talking about.  I didn't major in English or Journalism in college, and I wasn't a straight-A student in grade school.  So I don't have any formal training to tell me what is right and what is wrong when writing a book.  I just write what feels right.

These days, twenty minutes at my computer goes something like this: Write a sentence, delete it, write half of a new one, delete that, write another one, reword it, reword it again, reword one more time, delete it, check facebook, delete the whole paragraph, get a soda, and start again. 

There was a time when I just sat down, wrote the story, and then went over it again later to edit in/out words, sentences, grammar, or punctuation as necessary.  I need to get back to that, because lately I've been wrestling with OCD and the nagging voice in the back of my head that's whispering, "You know you're going to change that sentence.  Why move on to the next scene when you know you're going to change this one?  Better to fix it now so you won't have to come back."  I spend too much time rewriting and rewriting what I rewrote (and, admittedly, checking websites because my brain has the attention span of ... well, something with a really short attention span).

I guess the point I'm trying make is:  New content is on the way, but I ask for your patience and understanding while I wrestle the voices in my head.

God bless,


  1. What it sounds like to me Kevin is that you're becoming an author...not just a writer. Three sentences you're happy with, or even one, sometimes, needs to be enough. I tell my clients to resist the urge to edit while they write, which is what you're doing. Most of them, however, are writing one book of memoir and they do not hope or expect to become authors.

    You, on the other hand, are refining a skill that you plan to take further. I think the more you write, the more you edit and it's a natural refining process until you get to a stage (maybe a book or two down the road) where you hear your voice clearly the first time and you start to edit less WHILE you write. William Zinsser would say that what you are doing is an absolutely essential part of good writing. I highly recommend his book, On Writing Well. It really helped my find my authentic voice and it continues to help me in the editing stages of everything I write.

    I always tell my clients: Don't ever fall so in love with a sentence or a paragraph you've written, that you cannot strike it out without a moment's hesitation, if the result is that the piece, as a whole, is better.

    As for grammar, punctuation and sentence structure, that's what editors are for; however, The Grammar Girl is my "go-to" resource when I need a quick answer. Also, I could not live...uh, I mean write without my favourite style books. Find one you like and stick with it. (My favourites are Fowler's and Canadian Manual of Style, but if you are in the US you would probably prefer Chicago Manual of Style). But don't get too bogged down by all that stuff in the initial writing stages. I've actually written something about this recently...and how it relates to the inner critic. Just about finished so I will blog about it soon.

    By the way, English is always capitalized, as is any language or nationality (French, German, etc.). Keep writing, Kevin! One perfect sentence is a thing of beauty!

  2. Great post and great comment from Christine. I'm not offering advice, but when I get stuck I do the exercise where you just write for ten minutes or fifteen minutes. Doesn't matter what comes out, the important thing is to keep the hand moving on the page. That'll sometimes loosen things up so I can get a few more sentences down before I start analyzing every word. Good luck...

  3. I write full time these days, but I have nothing more than what, I suppose, America would describe as a High School education with some college afterwards.

    When I'm working on any novel, I tend to write the first draft in about a month to six week, and that's because I DON'T stop to pick my words. The finished product can take anything up to two years.

    Not sure how to guide you, Kevin, other than to say set yourself a target. A minimum of 1,000-2,000 words a day and see if that helps.

    Having said that, I'm fond of saying, "When you're writing, there are no rules."

  4. Good motto, DW96 - Thank you so much :)