Writing Challenge, Day 10: Of Swords & Excuses

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 10: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?

At the risk of sounding egotistical, I love reading something I’ve written aloud! Finished or unfinished, if it’s been labored over it is satisfying. Giving my work voice really helps me engage with it, too, and is a ritual part of my editing process. When I worked in my university’s writing center we often told visitors that reading aloud is one of the very best ways to self-edit. It’s like checking a sword’s tang: if the words feel clumsy on your tongue or sound unbalanced in your ears, you’ve only to bring your piece back to the fire and wheel, to give them a little more time, to cut them here, direct them there, to recast and remake them until they sing on trial.

Reading aloud is a great way to catch common punctuation errors or poor sentence fluency, but it also does wonders for dialogue. Next time you need to test how realistic a conversation between characters sounds, just lend it your vocals! Better yet, read aloud to somebody else. We really edit ourselves when we have an audience and there’s that (sub)conscious pressure to perform well.

My least favorite part of the writing process is the amount of time it takes me to get to the read-aloud editing stage. This is, in part, because I’ve a natural talent for excuses. A weekend morning might start like this:

Ok! Sitting down at the desk. Got my tea, plenty of sunlight, and my short story before me. Today I will finish it!

But look! Facebook is open!

(Five minutes later)

I might as well check my email…

(Five minutes later)

Story story story…ok. Reading up to where I left off…oh yeah, that’s what happened. So in this next scene my protagonist needs to have an “ah-ha” moment, and to accomplish that… To accomplish that…I know! I’ll think about it while I start my laundry.

(Ten minutes later)

Yay! Laundry in. …What was I supposed to be thinking about? Oh, right right right.

(A couple sentences later)

What? Do I want to go shopping (watch a movie) (hang out and pretend to write) (run to the library) (bake cookies) (change guitar strings)? Uhhh, YEAH!

(Three hours later)

Well now, this won’t do! I’m going to have to make some more tea.

(Five minutes later)

Oh crap! Laundry!

The other part of the time equation is simply that I am also, by nature, a slow writer. As I become more aware of my own processes I’m trying to push myself to loosen up and write recklessly, on the premise that one can always edit later. Alas, I am a terrible nitpicker.

What are your favorite excuses?

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