Wednesday Writers Wisdom: As A Writer Part 3 by Jessie B Powell
What is Wednesday Writers Wisdom?
I’m glad you asked. I originally started this series to share writing advice with other writers, especially beginning writers. I know when I first started writing again in 2010, I needed a lot of help. So, thus WWW was born. You can expect to find writing advice shared by me, other #ourwriteside authors, and guest authors. Our emails are always available for question suggestions as well. I’d like to start the conversation and answer those questions you must have answers to. After all, this isn’t just OUR Write Side, but it’s Yours, too.
Meet Jessie Bishop Powell
Authoress Powell has generously written a 5 part series for you about her personal writing process she’s gleaned from being published, being active in the writing community, and working under the daily distractions of being a mom of children with special needs, too.
Jessie Bishop Powell grew up in rural Ohio. She now lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband and their two children. She has Master’s Degrees in English and Library Science from the University of Kentucky. Jessie’s first book, Divorce: A Love Story was published as an e-book by Throwaway Lines in 2011. The Marriage at the Rue Morgue , her debut mystery, was released in hardback on Friday, July 18, 2014. The sequel to this, The Case of the Red-Handed Rhesus, will be released in November, 2015.
AS A WRITER (Part 3): How to Suck at Writing Without Really Trying
I was twelve when I figured out what a horrible novelist I was. It was 1988. Brown County, Ohio offered nothing for aspiring authors, and I’d already blasted through the tiny how-to-write section in the Clermont County Public Library. (All of those suggested drafting, which I found patently ridiculous.) So I decided to allow myself to keep putting words on paper until I figured something out, but I accepted that I was in no way qualified to call myself a capital W “Writer”.
Mercifully, my second awful book was a lot easier to kill. Unlike the first, I didn’t have to burn it, and I’d never actually printed it out. I had a fifty dollar garage sale computer, so two whacks of the keyboard in MS Works for DOS, and the file was gone. But the style was equally bad. Also equally short. Nobody had told me about the 50,000 word rule at that point. My books might have qualified as novellas, but I doubt it. My entire fiction writing education was cobbled together. I read library how-tos. Mom handed me The Elements of Style, which I skimmed. Dad looked at a solid page of paragraph-free printing and said, “You must learn to double space, indent, use ‘he said’ and ‘she said’, and include quotation marks around dialogue.” There wasn’t anything else available.
So my epiphany really was figuring out on my own that all my writing was horrible. It didn’t matter what I composed, I invariably accidentally stole my plots from some book, movie, or TV show. My characters were, to a one, either Luke Skywalker, The Little Match Girl, or Eden from the soap opera Santa Barbara. There was no such thing as online fan fiction back then. So I didn’t realize this is a common first step for writers, especially those who start young. Maybe this was a good thing. I’d live on tenterhooks today if any of my early work could be searched by others.
I couldn’t control the writing urge. And I couldn’t delete everything. But I could limit its danger to my ego until I improved. I worked exclusively on the computer by then (still DOS; I didn’t get Windows until 3.1). So I started hiding stories, squirreling them away under file names I knew I’d never remember, hoping that when I stumbled over one, months down the road, I might actually like parts of it again.
Although I’ve long since stopped deleting my literary mortifications, I maintain the story hiding practice out of habit. SAM had to help me find this article draft, because I’d hidden it from myself. And it’s hardly the most significant thing I’ve lost in a hard drive. I started a new book awhile back, something I have only really talked about with Scott. I love the concept. But I wrote myself into a corner and dribbled to a halt sixty pages in. I had other stressors (hell, other things to write), and it fell by the wayside. That was three months ago.
I finally figured out what happens next.
And I’m damned if I can remember what I called the thing or even what I named my characters. It was obscure enough that I can’t develop a good phrase search to make my PC cough it up. If you need me this week, I’ll be parsing my laptop’s several document folders and scratching around in Dropbox, trying to find these people so I can start their next version.