Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Working Backwards

   As I started writing seriously my freshman year, I have naturally improved in my writing, which is completely logical since practice does help in virtually every aspect. Reflecting back on my stories, I realized that one of my weak points in writing was plot. Characterization and dialogue came naturally to me, descriptions were a conscious effort, and then there was plot. An active mind, I come up with scenarios in my head constantly, and have to file through them to decide if they are worth writing down. I can create a character or situation with ease, but what happens to them, that can be a challenge.
   Through both creative writing classes and just flat out writing-- I believe the fact that I read more has helped too-- I have improved on this. Of course it will remain my weak link, but the improvement is exciting.
This is my cow eraser. We were typing up a story.
   In realizing my weak link, my somewhat backwards pattern of writing I believe can be explained. My first completed story, file name "Portal" (because I don't always title my work), I wrote freshman year and is 110 pages, single spaced. I never bash my work, and I think it was a decent piece, especially for a first. And while 110 pages seems impressive, it is really due to my lack of a solid plot. Yes, there was the loose plot of a journey, but otherwise the story entails of just random occurrences as they tried to reach a specific destination. It focused mostly on the characters and their conversations-- constant dialogue, as it was my first story and that's what came naturally to me. So the story dragged into quite a large size. If you had asked me to write a short story back then-- I'm not convinced I could have done it. In fact, I know I couldn't have.
   My next completed story, file name "Cello Story," was exceptionally boring, but only 50 pages. I learned to transition better and not use excessive dialogue, cutting down the story size. The plot was still weak, again more of a character story, but it was at least concise.
   From there was a period of unfinished stories I hope to return to, and then I entered a Creative Writing II class, in which one unit we had to write a short story. Nervous about this, as I recognized my pattern of writing, I decided to attempt short stories before being forced into a corner of something I hadn't even tried before. I succeeded, writing a 10 page single spaced story, file name "crazy story." It was rough, but it did what I was hoping to accomplish-- have a solid story in a short space.
   The maximum for the class short story was 10 pages double spaced-- much different than what I normally wrote. Mine ended up being 11 pages doubled spaced, titled "Duly Noted." It was nothing profound or exciting, but it gave an interesting scenario with an at least fairly exciting plot. The point was I had finally broken the barrier that I had for so long struggled with.
   For the longest time I thought it impossible to write an entire story in so short an amount of pages. Once I succeeded in doing so though, it clicked and ever since plot and concision have stuck with me. Over the summer I wrote a short story (file name "A Simple Story" -- 13 pages single spaced) that is one of my favorite pieces I have ever written. Now even on my larger scale stories I can plan a detailed plot, which definitely shows in the story. Even though plot has improved, it will remain my weakness, just as dialogue and characterization will forever be my strong points-- it's being conscious of and accepting the challenge of plot that helps to improve my writing.
   So although I worked backwards in page numbers, I try not to focus on the number of pages so much as the content, which of course has always been my focus.

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