Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Looking Back - 13 Mistakes I Made

So y'all know my story. Pseudonym was kinda e-published right away. Like, my first finished story ever. Needless to say, my motto became, "Never look back," mostly because it's a tad embarrassing to see all my beginning mistakes out there, floating in the world for everyone to see.

So I never look back.

Until now.

A bunch of my older short stories are being bundled up together in a couple books, and I have the opportunity to get in a quick edit.

It's been educational. I decided to list all my mistakes. I'm not sure why, LOL. It'll make a good Thursday Thirteen!

1.) I was, it seems, obsessed with the word that in the beginning.

What is up with that? I think I erased two thats per paragraph, at least, sometimes one from every sentence!

2.) If you think I use the word but too much now, you should have seen me back then! But, but, but, but, but ... but insanity!

3.) My narrator voice kept creeping into my character's dialogue. Heck, one character's rhythms kept creeping into the other character's rhythms.

4.) In the beginning I didn't understand or feel the rhythm of paragraphs. Like, I didn't know the power of using one-sentence paragraphs. In the middle, I knew that power too well. (Still do.)

5.) Oh, god, my punctuation in my first few stories was horrible. With all the commas my one editor used to put in, I'm surprised that wasn't fixed. I'm hoping some weird thing happened during the re-format.

6.) And there was one story where it was clear I had just learned the fun and glory of the em dash, LOL.

7.) Precisely 19.2% of my short story heroines are named some variant of Jennifer.


I didn't realize.

Dear, God, how could I not realize???

I don't even like the name all that much! For people, great name, fine. For characters ... too ... too ... something.

8.) Sometimes I would switch between deep third to a narrator third, like, "She felt the stress of the day slip away. She breathed out a sigh, took off her shoes, and settled in front of the fireplace. Jennifer was a work-hard, relax-hard sort of girl."

9.) One of the stories was horrid, just purely unfixable, and editing a bit useless.  We're talking numerous soap-operish, "Oh, Jennifer!" and "Oh, Carl!" "But, Jennifer!" "Yes, Carl!" "Jennifer!" "Carl!" "Oh, Jennifer!" "Oh, Carl!" Oh! Oh! Oh!

Oh. My. God.

Hello? There's TWO people in the whole darn story! I think a reader can manage to remember their names. In fact, with two people in the story, a reader doesn't even have to remember their names!

That one was a rough edit. I was cringing the entire time. They must have told each other they loved each other in every other paragraph!

All I could do was delete a lot. If it were mine to throw away, I would!

Hear me, O Universe! I am sorry for writing that piece of crap story!

10.) My paragraphs were too long, often. Later, my paragraphs were too short.

11.) A couple times I asked readers to make too big of a leap, plot-wise.

12.) Oh, the head-hopping. *sigh* (Clearly, my obsession with Oh is not over.)

13.) My biggest mistake was not writing in first person. It is SO clear to me, after re-reading all these stories, that I am a first person writer. My third is so obviously itching to be first.

Despite all the mistakes, I also get this odd fear that I was a better writer then. I pray it can't be true, but it's this weird niggly feeling I get.

There were two surprising things. I noticed my characters are always ... real and fairly vivid.

The other is that I actually write stories. Like, beginning, middle, and end. Even from the beginning. I have no idea how, because I've always felt that was one of my weak points.

It's really a bizarre miracle that occurs each time, pretty much outside myself. I really feel like someone else is writing. Maybe the universal mind or something, who knows.

Getting to the end is still something I find surprising, each and every time. That there's a story between the beginning and end is a bit of a miracle, too.

Mostly, when I get to the end, I think, how the hell did that happen? Who did that?

Ever experience that feeling? Or am I just weird that way?

Gas was $3.759 at the pump today.  Remind me why they just don't round up and say it's $3.76? It's equally awful either way. At this point, a tenth of a cent isn't going to make much difference. When you're paying $67 to fill the tank, are you going to quibble of two pennies?

21 bonus scribbles:

Susan Helene Gottfried 5/07/2008 10:33:00 PM  

Nope, you don't need to follow the themes, which is why I punted on it.

I think you perceive yourself as a better writer back then because it was more natural; you didn't know to look for or think about certain things. Things THAT... you know... make THAT much more sense now that you've gotten some of THAT seasoning stuff.

Just a theory...

spyscribbler 5/07/2008 10:42:00 PM  

Susan, I'm ROFLMAO ... that must have something to do with that!

I'm really glad I didn't know all I didn't know at that point, LOL.

Good to know about the themes.

LaDonna 5/07/2008 10:49:00 PM  

Spy, this blog was so fun! I loved reading about discoveries you made along the way. And I'm nodding my head here, especially one of the last ones on finishing a story. I agree, it's like who did that? That's magic. It's just there, and I appreciate it.

Bethanie 5/07/2008 10:55:00 PM  

Loved your list! Especially the 'fun and glory of the em dash' - I'm so there.

That and the one-sentence paragraph.

Happy TT!

Edie 5/08/2008 12:38:00 AM  

I looked at some of my old short stories, and I was surprised at how much I liked them. It made me feel good.

I just commented in your last blog about James Patterson's one-sentence paragraphs. It works for him!

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 12:45:00 AM  

LaDonna, me, too! Even though we struggle to get it finished, and we work so hard, when it's done it's always such a mystery. Magic, like you said.

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 12:46:00 AM  

Bethanie, I hear you! The em dash and I are in love, LOL.

Happy TT!

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 12:48:00 AM  

Isn't that a nice feeling, Edie? I was impressed, mostly. I thought it would be much worse than it was. Except for two of them.

And, yeah, LOL. About that one-sentence paragraph. I limit myself to one every two or so pages, on principle. If overused, they lose their punch and become ... I don't know.

Liz Wolfe 5/08/2008 12:54:00 AM  

I'm totally with you on that.99999 crap with the gas prices.
I cringe at the very thought of reading my older stuff. A while back I re-read the first book I had published because I was writing the fourth book in that series and I wanted to refresh my memory on some things. It was AWFUL. Every freaking sentence I could think of a better way to write.
As for things like em dashes and "oh" and "that", in my second book I over used "small" and "large". Fortunately the editor saw it. About the middle of the manuscript, she wrote a note: For God's sake buy a thesaurus!
I don't think I've used those words more than once or twice in a manuscript since then...LOL

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 01:06:00 AM  

Isn't it torturous at times, Liz? While I was impressed I was able to have characters and story, I was like you -- nearly every sentence would be changed.

I'm sure it didn't feel hilarious at the time, but gosh, that's funny. I can't tell you how my "oh," repeatedly, in dialogue, had me IN STITCHES, tears running down my face.

I will never let myself live that down.

Michele 5/08/2008 01:09:00 AM  

Yay! for one sentence paragraphs! :-)

Great post...

And gas is over $4.10 a gallon here. ::shaking head::

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 01:12:00 AM  

Oh. My. God. Michele, wow. Wow. That's awful.

Bernita 5/08/2008 06:28:00 AM  

Then there are people like me who are altogether too fond of the one sentence paragraph.
I don't dare look back.
At least you had a good reason to do so.

Rhonda Stapleton 5/08/2008 07:40:00 AM  

DUDE...this is hilarious. But I agree that you've just gotten better as a should be proud of how much you've grown instead of fretting over the quality of earlier stuff.

lainey bancroft 5/08/2008 08:20:00 AM  

THAT WAS too funny!

And OH, my, THAT WAS also something I could have written! Not sure I could stop at 13, though. I'd need a few more so I could list my love affair with the exclamation point and hyphen abuse!

Bottom line, Spy, someone thinks your stories are wonderful enough to be bundled and resold.

Oh, my! How cool is THAT!

Meg 5/08/2008 08:37:00 AM  

As a first person writer myself, I highly recommend it.

As for letting the narrator voice creep into the character voice, ever notice how all of Woody Allen's characters are actually Woody Allen? His short stories are a hoot, though!

Great list. Stop by and visit my 13.

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 10:49:00 AM  

Bernita, I love your style. Don't touch a thing. Your one sentence paragraphs give us time to delight in every word.

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 10:51:00 AM  

Lainey, let me tell you, those were just the first thirteen things, LOL. I could go on and on! And I'm not sure it's so much they liked my stories enough, it's just they're there, and this is a way they can see if we can get more money out of them, LOL.

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 10:52:00 AM  

LOL, Rhonda, thanks! But I so enjoy making fun of my former self, LOL. :-) You're right, though. At least I have proof that I've improved a little!

spyscribbler 5/08/2008 10:53:00 AM  

Meg, he writes short stories? I had no idea! I am so there. I have to get my hands on those!

Zoe Winters 5/14/2008 02:13:00 AM  

Hey, I can relate to that "first person writer trying to be third person" I've noticed that in some of my writing and may in future try to explore my first person writing.