Old Dog, New Trick

I am an essayist at heart. If I were to die and could come back as anything I wanted, I’d come back as David Sedaris. I’m good with the observations, the musings, the rants, the short and snappy. I write articles and blog posts, short stories and children’s stories. Twenty-five hundred words are about where I generally max out.

But in order to continue to grow as a writer, I need to challenge myself. And that means stepping out of my comfort zone. My usual process (if I’m blogging) is to be struck by an idea, to noodle it around a bit and let it grow and blossom, then the writing bit, the tweaking, editing and polishing and finally the posting. From start to finish, it takes me a day at most.

There’s no character development, no plot, no storyline to track. I’m not saying it’s easy — coming up with interesting ideas takes some thought, putting words together in an engaging and interesting way takes work and polishing to perfection can be tedious. But it’s like being a food server or a cashier as opposed to a teacher or a lawyer. Like the former, when I finish my job, I’m done for the day; while for the latter, every day picks up where the previous day left off.

Now, I’m not jumping straight into the deep end thinking I’ll start with a full-blown adult novel. The last time I tried to do that I was in the seventh grade and the result was highly entertaining in the most awful way. If you’ve never read a novel by a precocious thirteen-year-old trying to write adult characters, I must recommend my book The Islanders, which you’ll find on my now defunct, but still fun, Terribly Earnest site.

Instead, knowing that my long-form muscles haven’t had a good workout in quite a while, but that my children’s game is strong, I’m working on a middle-grade chapter book. I’m about 7,500 words into it, which feels like a pretty decent accomplishment, considering the typical length of my writing. But I must admit that the thought of cranking out another 15,000 to 20,000 words is somewhat daunting.

One issue I’m running into is that I find it difficult to walk away feeling like my work is incomplete. This is great for cranking out a lot of words in a day, but it may be causing me to rush things. I think I need to set some daily goals and slow down a bit. I also believe that in the writing parlance, I’m what’s known as a “pantser.” That is, I fly (or write) by the seat of my pants. I have a general idea about what’s going to happen in my story, but I don’t have it mapped out, so I don’t know if I’m making real progress or just meandering.

I am excited to finally have a #WIP (work in progress) and an #MC (main character) to talk about on the Twitter. Most of the members of the #WritingCommmunity (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) have these things and I always felt a little like I was on the sidelines because I couldn’t participate in all the discussions. But now I feel much more valid and legitimate with my new hashtagging abilities.

I’ll continue to keep you abreast of my progress, and my successes and frustrations, as I navigate this change to my regular writing style. Of course, I’ll still be blogging and ghostwriting and working on my other stories. I’m not abandoning the tried and true, I’m just mixing things up a little. And if anyone has any advice, suggestions or comments about my new endeavor, I’d welcome some feedback!

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