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It Takes Practice and Wild Turkeys

My daughter is learning about photographing patterns, light and shadows.  She took these with her digital for fun, but more often than not, you’ll find her with the new camera.  The child likes nothing better than to be out with that 35 MM taking black and white photos for her class.  Until she learns to develop her own film, we are making weekly treks to buy and develop. 

(Okay, to be honest, she likes being on the phone more than anything.  Sometimes, she carries the phone around outside WHILE taking pictures.  She also likes her IPOD.  Sometimes, she carries the phone and IPOD around while taking pictures.  She’s talented that way. It would be nice if that talent included remembering to put the phone back where it goes once in a while…) stratford-and-alexs-033.jpg  stratford-and-alexs-030.jpg stratford-and-alexs-026.jpg

But, she’s learning her craft.   It’s a necessary part of the process.  I’ve told my children from birth, that to be good at something, they have to practice.  Karate, volleyball, clarinet, math– all of these things take time. 

 Funny how you can know this, share it with other people, yet not apply it to yourself. 

So why do so many expect writing to be any different?  The talent can be there, but learning to write tight, to portray living setting and emotion, to create characters that stay in a reader’s mind long after putting down that book — it doesn’t come easily.  To most.  There are those lucky few who get it right immediately and I really, really wish I’d been one of them.  But no.

Yesterday, one of my cps, Rachel Vincent, wrote about critique partners and writing that first book without one.  I happen to think it’s good advice.  I wrote my first two by myself.  I learned quite a bit about writing when I didn’t know the rules.  (Before I understood completely that those kind of rules are meant to be broken.)  Now, these are books that will never, ever, ever, see the light of day because damn, they’re so incredibly bad, I hid them from myself.  (Really.  I can’t find them.) But I wrote every word all the way until “the end.” 

Unfortunately, it took me several more tries to get it right.  I used to think that when it came to writing, I was a slow learner.  No, that wasn’t it at all.  I’m just an evil, over-achieving self-expectation- defeating-crazy-assed perfectionist.   

For some reason, I thought I’d spit out To Kill a Mockingbird with the first try.  For the record, I’m no Harper Lee — not even close.  I write in a completely different genre and while I hope messages of equality, compassion and acceptance come through in my work, it’ll be coming through bloody battles, smart-mouthed characters and yeah, a weird creature or two. 

I’ve been slow to post because I’ve been working on that book of mine.  Yesterday, I wrote an entire chapter, saved it and it still disappeared when the laptop crashed.  I stomped around, raged a bit, then shrugged it off because sometimes, these things happen for a reason.  Believe me, this is new.  It used to take me days to recover from the anger that would cause. 

But this morning, after sitting and trying to “re-create” the same piece of work, I found the story took a better route.  Now, this doesn’t mean I won’t get ticked the next time it happens– I’ve a doozy of a temper– but I’ve reached this level as a writer that’s more…what’s the word… comfortable.  I’ve finally learned that every word is not precious and sometimes, even good ones have to be ruthlessly sliced to make a manuscript better.  Though I’ll probably be hitting up that critique partner with more than one chapter at once soon, I’m a lot more happy with the way this new chapter is taking shape. 

Speaking of which, I need to get back to it.  I got distracted by the five wild turkeys in my backyard.  Now, I’m not my daughter, but I can take a decent photograph. 

Uh, these are terrible, so I must point out that I had to stay far away and zoom to catch them.  Plus, even far away, I spooked them and they took off.  Since I’ve also picked up a lovely stomach bug, I was wrapped in a dark green blanket with little gold threads when I snuck outside — I’m sure the turkeys ran because of the big, glittery green thing flashing lights at them.   stratford-and-alexs-037.jpg stratford-and-alexs-042.jpg stratford-and-alexs-040.jpg


  1. October 17, 2006    

    Wow. You have wild turkeys in your yard. We get beavers, racoons, possums, and even skunks. And we’ve had the occasional deer. But no turkeys. They must know we’re carnivores. 😉

    I’m right there with you on that first book thing. I’d written three (for a total of 361,000 words) before I got my first critique. I think it was good for me. I thought I was freakin’ brilliant. The publishing world would be lucky to have me. And by the time I figured out how wrong I was, I was already hooked on writing and couldn’t have given it up if I’d tried. 😉

  2. October 17, 2006    

    I’d love to see a picture of the big, glittery green thing flashing lights. That is sooo funny. But I am sorry you’re not feeling well. 🙁

    All I get are stray cats and rabbits. And the rabbits like to crap their round, tiny terds on my patio. It really pisses me off when I let the dog outside at night without my slippers on.

    About losing work, (as I have a lot of recent experience in this area) when I remember to, I send my days work to google mail. And that is all I use the gmail account for.

    I’m pushing to have a complete first draft finished before the end of the year. (I’m not sending Rachel chapters until the entire first draft is finished.) It would be nice to actually have a completed project to pitch at Nationals. That may be a lofty goal, and if it isn’t ready by then I’m okay with that.

    I’m not going to blog during Nanowrimo (Nov.) unless I’ve met my daily word count goal of 1667.

  3. October 17, 2006    

    That first picture is great. The fact that she was probably talking on the phone and listening to loud music throbbing through her eardrum is even more impressive.

    You have turkeys in your yard? I don’t think that’s just normal, but whatever. Could make for an intresting Thanksgiving…

  4. October 18, 2006    

    That daughter of yours has some talent! *clearing throat* Maybe you could get some pointers from her. 😉

    My earlier stuff, written without a critique partner, is horrible. There, I said it. It’s hard to say because I really liked my characters. I just wish I had done them more justice with a better story. I learned quite a bit from the experiences though.

    I think I’ve learned even more from workshopping. Having things pointed out that I took for granted others would know was truly an eye opener. I’m still learning and growing as a writer. Unfortunately, I don’t have a reliable critique partner right now and I’m having to trust my own judgement. Scary after getting used to feedback.


  5. October 18, 2006    

    I hav a few of those horrible firsts under my bed too. Hope you are feeling better by Sat. See you at the meeting.

  6. October 18, 2006    

    Please tell me how you posted your pictures.

    I’m still hosting all of mine through image shack.

    (And I hope you are feeling better today.)

  7. October 18, 2006    

    Good for your daughter! Some of those pics are really gorgeous.

    I think we all have something under our beds…and I don’t mean the Boogie Man. I’m talking about those manuscripts that no one will ever publish. Even Nora has one of those.

    So we’re in good company.

  8. October 19, 2006    

    Being cursed with a desire for perfection is indeed a tiresome thing. I’m always off by just a bit! I suspect we’re our own harshest critics, Rinda.

    The very first picture of the trees and their shadows, with the sun peeking between, is quite arresting. I really, really like it.

    You have turkeys, we have a beavers. Deer. A woodchuck my husband has nicknamed “the Mole Bastard” because it comes up and practically waves at him through the patio window. But, it refuses to be caught. When my son was very little, he was alarmed; he thought that ground chuck (the beef) came from that creature. Not that I buy anything but sirloin, but what does an eight year old know?

  9. October 20, 2006    

    Sorry it took me so long to post. Usually, comments are emailed to me so I know when people respond… These were all a surprise today when I visited– a nice surprise.

    Bellezza, right now we have armadillo problems. They’re tearing up the yard. We’re putting out live traps this weekend, then finding a nice place to release them– somewhere without yards– somewhere I can get permission. (g)

    Heather, when you write a post, there’s a place underneath where it says you can upload images. Then when you click on them, you can choose to have them post as thumbnails or originals in size. I think there’s a limit though. I may check into image shack. I keep learning that I’m screwing up on this blog, so whatever is the right way and all that… heh heh

    Hoyeya, I messed with those pictures to get them the right size, so they look awful… but they were also moving pretty fast in some of them and far away. But alas, my daughter is better at photographs than I am. 🙂

    We had fourteen of these turkeys in our yard one day. They walk like they own the world and they even try to fly when you spook them. Very amusing.

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