Writing Better

I sat down at my computer to write with nothing particular on my mind. Just an exercise in making the words appear. There was an open Word document, my unpublished memoir titled Help in the Time of Schizophrenia, 248-pages needing revision and a publishing house. Honestly, I’m not sure how to go about that—the publishing. I know about developmental editors. I have a couple of contacts. Have I reached out? No. Publication remains a mystery. Maybe I’ll crack the code on my upcoming summer vacation.

When I finished my MFA last spring, one of my professors advised me to put my manuscript in a drawer and step away and read more and write more. That’s exactly what I’ve done until now. So instead of writing something meaningless today, I sat and reread and tweaked my words for what seems like the millionth time. I stopped on page twelve. 236 pages to go.

But, after twelve pages and a year, I felt better, much better. Through this break, I’m finding my authentic voice. I’m asking myself, “Would I say that?” I’m tightening the language. I’m adding details.

As for blogging, it’s more about writing practice—making myself do it vs. perfection. As for writing better, it’s more about the revision—root word vision—prefix again. Now I’m literally seeing the words and the story in a new light, letting go of what I once thought grand, finding holes in my storytelling. And maybe, just maybe, I’m inching my way to the goal.

102 thoughts on “Writing Better

  1. I feel you, Crystal. It took many years to publish my memoir and eventually I self published on Kindle. I got some great reviews but after one three star review, I never looked at the comments again. Sometimes I wish I had rewritten again but your Margaret Atwood quote is right on the button. If one person enjoyed it – that is kudos enough.
    I worked for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship in Scotland and know that there are never enough books about severe mental illness. BTW, my own psychiatrist, in Texas, recommended my book which touches on mental illness, to his own patients. You are a wonderful writer so don’t hesitate when you feel ready. Terrible writers make millions on ghastly books such as 50 shades et al!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Writing is a lonely journey. Precisely because it is so personal and desolate. There is no way of knowing if readers will like it or not; if it will be an immediate success or a legacy flagship that was never commercialy relevant for its time. We write because it our mandate, our prerogative and our passion. We write for ourselves before others. It is a labor of love.

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      1. Yes! There are certain problems in my writing that only I can solve. That’s the hard part. However, I’m fortunate to have friends who write. I meet one group for coffee nearby and another one online since we’re spread across the country. It helps to bounce ideas around with people.

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  2. “I’m finding my authentic voice. I’m asking myself, “Would I say that?” I’m tightening the language. I’m adding details” is exactly why I enjoy the revision process so much. As for publishing, I’m with you. I’m stymied. Yes, I know how to craft a proposal and have done so for two of my books, but I’ve never gone beyond that. What am I “afraid” of? Hmmmm….. The memoir of my relationship with my mother I did publish on WordPress at http://www.rosesintherainmemoir.wordpress.com a few years ago. There it sits for all time.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m not sure I realized you have two blogs. When I click your link, I find your epilogue, but I can’t seem to navigate my way to Chapter One. Maybe you can help? Anyway, I relate to the fear. It’s partially about not wanting to be judged for how I handled things and partially not wanting to hurt anyone through my story.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s a relief to hear a published person who has a masters in writing say she doesn’t have everything writing related figured out. I read an article once about Harper Lee. She was so frustrated by her umteenth tweak of “To Kill a Mockingbird “ she threw the whole manuscript out in the snow! Her agent had to convince her to bring it back into the house.
    One thing is certain, becoming a better writer means writing a lot—even if you’d rather not.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m so thankful for my school experience, and especially for the feedback my cohort provided. Still, so much of writing is about reading like a writer and writing more. I always knew I liked Harper Lee.

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      1. I forgot how reading good writing helps one become a better writer. For instance, I notice you vary the length of your sentences–even on your blog. Don’t do the same thing too much.❤️

        Liked by 2 people

      2. A book that I found helpful is Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. She talks about remembering what authors do well. I’m reading Andrew Sean Greer’s Less, his character descriptions are amazing, and he’s funny. I just finished Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and his universal themes abound. I want to do that!!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Crystal, I’m proud of you! I have a lofty goal to one day complete my memoir. In the meantime I’m enjoying my journey with words. And meeting writers like you and Cheryl and so many more has given me pause in my practice ~to let flow as it needs. Blogging indeed is my practice! I just completed a presentation of the Writing Process that is intended for new THIRD grade audiences. And through it, I realized that I still struggle with the process at times (particularly editing, eduting, editing, lol)…BUT the revisions come from a deeper part of me. I’m gaining writing wisdom and it will all happen when it’s supposed to happen. I can’t WAIT to read your memoir!! Keep up the wonderful work! ❤️🙌🏻

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Karla. I had writing in progress, more like essay after essay, and talked of the pieces as a memoir for seven years before I concluded I needed help. I needed more of a narrative thread (and lots of development). I’m with you—it will all happen when it’s supposed to happen, our journeys make us who we are, and lofty goals are good. What lucky third graders to hear your wisdom! Keep up YOUR wonderful work! ❤️

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Who knows what perfection is, anyway? I’ve read so-called “classic” books that I didn’t like very much at all. I’m reading Charles Bukowski’s novel titled Pulp. On the dedication page, he says this: “Dedicated to bad writing.” See ya!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I like Bukowski’s dedication. It’s relatable. I’ve read a Bukowski poem or two and stumbled across a reference of him in the book I’m reading with my seniors now—Andrew Sean Greer’s Less. Anyway, seeing his name again makes me think I should be reading Bukowski.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Thank you for sharing!!.. best of luck with your manuscript… when one deals with life and its challenges on a daily basis, it is hard to concentrate on any one thing… myself, I just sit down with a cup of tea and let my fingers do the walking while my heart does the talking and Que Sera Sera… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wanted to look for some wise and true quote to send your way, but the older I get, the more convinced I become, that writing is about patience, discipline, dedication, trusting your gut and your voice, and butt in the chair than anything else! And yes, I’m sure you’re “inching your way to your goal.” Keep at it!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. You’re correct, Crystal, in that no work ever is finished. A surging current of revisions and refinements scoops up all writers, past, present and future. As with life itself, improvements constantly light the horizon. At what point in the perpetual process do you allow others to have a look?

    That we, as writers, always can think of a better, more evocative way of expressing ourselves isn’t a weakness, it proclaims faith in our abilities. Yeah, that was a nifty turn of phrase, but I’ll come up with something even better before long.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reading old drafts is like examining one’s old self, Crystal. A lot would have change, so there’s always a lot to change – to improve – which is always good. It’s when there’s nothing to change that I start shivering.😂 Good luck with the revisions. Can’t wait to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Even in blogging I like to write and step away for a while, then come back to it and re-write it. Blogging is soooo much fun though. Good luck with your book!! It sounds incredible

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I can completely understand that! I can also relate but since my blog is my current creative outlet and I am not really doing anything else creatively speaking at the moment, it has helped me learn how to write better by letting it sit on my computer for a day or two before I reread it and post it.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Awesome blog Crystal. I agree with you that blogging is about writing practice , I love to write✍️ blogs weekly too it’s how I perfect my craft and skill.

    Good luck with your unpublished memoir, hoping your words revision and prefix becomes a success as you compile the words🙌

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I know the feeling.
    I took courses, did a few online and then read a few articles but when it came down to it; in order to write good, you have to write.
    I don’t think I’m a great writer but I do enjoy it’s delightful endeavor.
    Thanks for sharing 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I write nonfiction, so my writing is less plot based. However, once I had a complete draft, I worked on a connecting thread chapter to chapter. I found ideas while reading other books and had a breakthrough while reading Here Is Where We Meet by John Berger. His chapters at a glance weren’t related, yet his connections expert.

      Like

  13. One step at a time. That’s all it takes! 💪

    As for publishing, you could always self-publish.

    I’m sure the community you’ve built here would support! 🤝🤝🤝

    Like

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