Pausing to Learn

I have a bad habit (Well, numerous bad habits, but specifically in this instance…) where I tend to focus solely on writing to the exclusion of anything else. Editing takes time, and even though that’s where the real story appears it sometimes feels like a waste of time. I feel pressured to get back to drafting and redrafting, and creating something new to start the process over. I also sacrifice time spent reading and learning new things in order to draft more. Writing more is always good, but without involving learning in the process I’m just spinning my wheels in the mud. I’m not getting anywhere.

I wrote a ton of flash fiction pieces back in 2011, when I had a good bit of spare time. Every other day I was cranking out a few drafts of a 1,000 word story then sending it off to somewhere. And rather than read someone else’s work or try to learn a new process or technique, I would dive on into the next story idea. And guess what? Stuff was getting rejected left and right. At the time I just assumed it was because it was good, but not good enough to get published.

No, actually, it was all crap. Half-finished ideas, second-draft rather than third-draft material, world-building exercises rather than full stories (Still guilty of that one from time to time). I was doing everything wrong, and not learning a thing from it.

That’s bad.

Today my intent was to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming Black Library submissions deadline. I didn’t get any of that done. I spent my exercise time listening to a couple of Writing Excuses podcasts and came across a great video series on story structure by Dan Wells. He outlines a story structure he came across in a roleplaying game manual, something that works for any genre and really any medium (He uses both books and movies in his examples). The videos totaled up to just shy of an hour, but I spent nearly three hours going through it, taking notes, and basically absorbing everything I could from it. It was very illuminating, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t get to work on my brainstorming, nor did I get to work on my own novel. But, I did learn a new method that I believe will help tremendously, with short stories and novels. So, a wasted day? I think not.

Work begins again tomorrow! Stay tuned for more updates.

 

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