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Writing Reflection 2007

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Writing Reflection 2007

A Year Come and Gone

2007 is at an end. I began putting up chapters at the end of August 2006. Not counting the four month break I took, I've been doing this for a year.

I do this because it's fun, but I also started this so I could practice writing. To see what I'm capable of and to learn from this experience.

So with a year of experience now, what have I learned? What stood out? Where can I improve? What did I get right?

It's been a year of writing. What have I learned about writing? What have I done right? What have I done wrong? What has changed? What has changed the same?

What stood out?

Editors are important

Having a second pair of eyes is important. They can catch stupid spelling and grammatical mistakes and points of confusion that I cannot from being too close to the chapter.

The problem is that I don't have an editor. So the next best thing that can be done is to make sure to take time away from writing. I have to take time away from the chapter so I can come back at the chapter with fresher eyes. What sounded right when I first wrote it can then sound obviously too bland, over the top, or just plain awful.

Taking time away from the chapter doesn't mean all work on the story has to stop of course. If I have an impulse to continue working, then I just move on to the next chapter, or work on my outline, or work on issues that I know will cause problems in the future. Or do something like this, where I self-reflect on my writing, and not the story itself.

World Building, Outlining, and Writing

My first attempt at verbalizing the way that I write was all wrong. I had less than a month of writing under me, and all three were still blurred as one in my mind.

World building is obviously developing the world the characters live in. How things came to be, how things work, and why things are. The general rules and philosophies of a society should affect how the characters think, as well as how magic (or whatever else) works, how commonplace it is, and how hard it is to learn.

The outline fleshes out the theme/idea of the volume (or chapter) and helps me clearly see how I get from the beginning to the end. It would be easier if I had more time to dedicate to world building before I started writing, but it's time I just don't have, so I have to do them side-by-side.

There is a clear line between outlining and writing. I can outline as much as I want, plan things out carefully so I know where I want the story to go, but the writing has to be spontaneous. The writing just flows out and this is where the story surprises me as much as it does the reader, because I didn't know something was going to be said a certain way, or a certain thing was going to happen until I type it out at that moment. World building also runs side-by-side with writing at times.

Where can I improve?

My Volume Outlines need more details

I have a story outline of how I want individual characters and themes to progress across the volumes and what I want to happen in each volume in general. But before I begin each volume, that's when I sit down and put that together and figure out the smaller steps within the volume needed to reach the ending I want. (Much like how I work off the volume outline to figure out the smaller steps within a chapter when I'm about to write a chapter.)

The way I've been doing it, I consider where I want the Volume to begin and end, then do the chapter by chapter break down. I list down the point of view for each chapter, and either the event I want to happen in that chapter, or a phrase that the chapter will be built around, or where that chapter is supposed to end.

That sounds like a decent plan, yet I now think there are four key points each chapter must have:

  • What is happening?

    The most obvious. Some event has to be taking place for it to be written about.

  • Why it is happening?

    Something has to be happening, but there also has to be a point. A purpose. It has to have some kind of significance to the overall story. Does it establish a character or setting? Does it leave a hint or some foreshadowing? Does is show some character growth?

  • Who is experiencing it?

    Which point of view does the chapter take place from.

  • How are they experiencing it?

    What are they feeling? Emotion is important. Extremely important. It dictates what words are chosen, and how the event should unfold. Stories should evoke some kind of emotion in the reader, and not read like a text book. For that to happen, the characters have to have emotions too.

My volume outlines have listed the PoV, and Event or Purpose. Two of the four criteria that each of my chapters have. When it takes seven months to finish the twenty-one chapters of Volume 2, (and that's not counting the four month break), it's easy to forget one of those details that I had in my head when constructing the outline by the time I get to the end.

From this point on, my outline now contains PoV, Event, Purpose, and Emotion.

What did I get right?


It is too easy to keep on wanting to rewrite a chapter over and over again. A paragraph needs more description, a word doesn't sound right, a sentence is too bland, the chapter is missing something, etc. There has to be point where you force yourself to stop, and just say it's finished.

Which leads to what I've done right. The structure I've laid upon myself:

  • Put up three chapters a month (two for Volume 1)
  • Each chapter will be no less than 1000 words
  • Each chapter will be no more than 2000 words
  • Each chapter will have a drawing/calligraphy piece.

Why three chapters a month? Because it's what I thought I could handle. It could have been a different number, but the point was to put up a chapter on a regular basis, so if I did find an audience, they would know when to expect a new chapter, and I wouldn't lose them. If I stay consistent, I figure that the audience will be consistent.

Why a limit of 1000-2000 words? For one thing, I figured it was workable with how many chapters I wanted to put a month. Other than that, they really were just arbitrary numbers that I picked based off of the first chapter. It was an amount I figured would be long enough where I could write something that's worth coming back to, yet not too long that it won't induce eye strain from reading on a computer.

It looks like I chose right because I've hardly ever had to worry about a chapter being too short or too long. And of course these numbers would most likely be different for other authors depending on their style, subject matter, and what their goal is.

And why a document of some kind? I think I mentioned this before, but I wanted to have some kind of visual since this is an online medium. Something that wouldn't have to be too art intensive since I don't have those skills. It also works for the story since the main character is a scribe and it fits thematically.

While I haven't been able to keep up with all four rules all the time, they have been a good guide in keeping me on track with what I want to accomplish.

Notetaking method

I got this right without really thinking about it much before hand. Ideas have come to me at all times of the day. Waking from a dream, eating breakfast, walking to class, in class, driving, watching tv, in the shower, at family functions, etc. The ideas can be as simple as one specific event you want to see, to as complex as a picture, entire conversation, or complete mental image of an entire scene unfolding before your mental eye.

The ideas can fade as quickly as they appear too.

That's why it's important to always have a way to take notes on you at all times. I currently use TiddlyWiki as my main method of note taking. I have it contained in my flashdrive so I can bring it with me where ever I go. These notes not only contain my story, volume, and chapter outlines, and notes on the world of The Magic Arts, but a journal of my progress, and copies of all my drafts as well.

If I don't have computer access, I also have the program NoteStudio (which sadly is no longer supported by the developer) on my phone. It's a wiki program that is trimmed down to just the outlines and world notes, but it's enough. My Treo 650 has helped me out so many times when I've been on the go, which will be upgraded to the Palm Centro soon enough.


So what have I learned? I've learned that what I'm doing is working pretty well so far. Of course I can always improve on my technical writing skill. Choosing better words, making a chapter have more feeling, but that can only be improved with practice, which is what I'm doing. I think the story is working. The basic premise of the story isn't falling apart on me, and if I keep this up, it will turn out to be a decent story. So we'll see where I end up a year from now, but I don't think this story will be ending anytime soon. Melfina and Stark has so much more to go through before it's over.

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