Lately, I’ve been ranking each day into one of three categories. On an okay day, I accomplish one of the following: writing, painting, or getting in a workout. A good day includes two of these activities. Naturally, on a stellar day, I fit in all three.
I haven’t had a single stellar day in over a month, but I really don’t mind. Although my latest painting sits untouched, Book Two of my DARK EARTH trilogy is advancing in quantum leaps. Enrolling in that writing course with Athabasca University was one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.
Allow me to introduce you to my instructor/mentor, Angie Abdou (https://abdou.ca). Angie is a critically acclaimed Canadian author, and has seven books published in both fiction and non-fiction. Her novel IN CASE I GO is the only one I’ve read as of yet, but I found it mysterious, lyrical, and extremely compelling. I highly recommend it! As detailed in an earlier post here, I met Angie at the Writer’s Guild of Alberta Conference last spring. She critiqued a sample of prose I had submitted, and suggested I sign up for her advanced independent study writing course.
Fast forward to last September. Angie approved my project of writing a book, and we agreed on a submission schedule of approximately twenty pages (about three chapters) every two weeks. Easy peasy, I thought with inflated confidence. I’ll write SIX chapters bi-weekly and get way ahead, so I can coast for the last few months of class.
Bwahahaha! I crack myself up sometimes. As each deadline approaches, I find myself scrambling to finish the chapters, proofread, edit, proof again, re-edit, and send them in. I’ll be the first to admit my time management skills are less than outstanding.
This procrastination, however, turns out to be hugely beneficial. After each submission, Angie returns a very detailed critique. At first, she focused on basic faults in my writing, such as weak subject/verb combos: it was, they were, we are, etc. Yikes! I discovered I tend to make that lazy mistake quite frequently!
I worked diligently to strengthen my sentences. Then Angie pointed out my plethora of redundant dialogue tags. Okay, then. Another thing to improve upon. I stripped my next submission to a minimum of, “he said,” “she asked,” “Count Dracula replied,” while still keeping it clear who was speaking. Tricky sometimes, but fun.
“Good job,” Angie wrote. Then she added it was time for me to work on adding layers and complexity to my story. D’oh!
My point is that, had I gotten too far ahead, I would still have been forced to go back and make major changes. It’s not that I was unfamiliar with any of these common writing mistakes; I’d read about them numerous times in books on technique. Having them actually pointed out in one’s own prose, however, is truly a game changer!
Although Angie says her critique has been described as, “a little intense,” the challenges she sets before me have improved my writing ten-fold. I love it! I just wish she had been mentoring me on my first book. As it stands, Book One will soon undergo a massive rewrite. I’ve learned so much from this course that the new version should turn out greatly improved: more streamlined, and therefore, more readable.
I have several weeks of travel scheduled between now and the end of my studies; in fact, I fly to Shanghai, China tomorrow! Although I often find it difficult to work in writing time on the road, I’ll attempt to do so, even if it’s just a chapter outline or two. No more trying to get ahead of the game for this woman. It’s much more exhilarating to pedal fast than to just coast!