Her chocolate brown hair fell over the back of her desk onto mine. You might as well have put me in the stocks, the medieval stretcher, than to place me directly behind her. Sixth grade’s goddess of all goddesses. Her name alone gnawed at hormones I never knew I had. Penelope Davenport. Though it took two months, I finally drummed up enough courage to say hello, and I was shocked. She gave me a few moments of her time.
“We have science together, right?” she said, my jaw bouncing off the speckled floor.
I sit right behind you! You swing your hair in my face daily! I’ve even picked up your pencil once or twice when you’ve dropped it!
This guest post is by D. M. King. King spends countless hours trying to figure out a more creative way to teach 8th graders that writing really is important in the grand scheme of things. Mixed in with all that concentrated energy, he casts immeasurable numbers of what if’s into the river just to see what he might catch. Occasionally—a fun concept like his latest YA/Novel NINE swims by, he reels it in, and calls it a book. He likes to take in movies with his wife, pretend he’s a child again with his grandsons, and play golf. He’s a Kent State University graduate with a minor in psychology and concentration in creative writing, a published playwright with Brooklyn Publishing, and most importantly a Child of God. Follow him on Twitter @ and visit his website iteach22.wordpress.com.
I know it sounds crazy, but I didn’t care. We’d made small-talk, and that’s all it took before I’d pledged my heart to her. Those were the best three days of my life. Yeah—I said three days. Why? Todd Stevens. The Todd Stevens, quarterback, blonde hair, blues eyes, already on steroids Todd Stevens. My first love gone like my allowance ‘cuz I used it to buy her a ring. I was so sure she was the one.
I was so sure she was the one. How many times have we completed a paragraph or a chapter even and swore that even Steven King would be jealous? That first draft—so easy to fall in love with because of the countless hours you’ve spent together. Drawing upon the muse and flooding the page with your once in a lifetimes story!
Most writers experience what I like to call the Writing Zone. Not unlike the Twilight Zone, we finish a section of our novel or short story and bask in the mystery. Where on earth did that come from? Like one of my favorite episodes with William Shatner who sees the monster on the airplane wing 30,000 feet in the air. We float as well because the words came so easily. The characters had a voice, and all we had to do was translate it. Every dot and tittle worked to perfection. We do what most experts say to do and leave it alone for a few days, come back, and it’s still the best thing we’ve ever written. Oh—but is it really?
A songwriter for over thirty years, on occasion I’ve written a lyric/song in around ten minutes and never had to touch it again, but that was rare. Extremely rare. Here are a few things to consider after you’ve written your first love—uh—I mean draft.
1. Sensory details.
Will the reader see, taste, smell, feel, and hear your story? Or will you leave too much to their imagination? I’m not talking about sensory overload like some writers insist on doing, but enough to place the reader into your setting.
2. Beta Readers.
Don’t rely on yourself to decide if it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Bring in some trusted readers to see what they think. As objective as we think we can be about our own writing, we can never be objective enough.
3. Read it out loud.
Some sentences look amazing on the page, but when you read them out loud, oh boy. Tongue twisters annoy some readers. Too much alliteration can give your prose a sing-songy feel. Unless that’s the effect you are striving for, reading aloud can help you catch those awkward places.
4. Pick up a novel in your genre and read it.
There’s nothing like a little comparison contrast when it comes to writing. Study how the writer sets up the ends of chapters, creates tension and suspense in the reader, and writes action/ dramatic scenes. Note their word choices and use of literary devices like metaphors and similes, personification.
5. Set a time to begin editing.
Take a chapter at a time and focus on mechanical things like commas, run-ons, and ambiguity. Overuse of certain words or phrases. After that—make a list of concept oriented edits where you make sure characters stay consistent, you don’t head hop, and you have added enough twists to keep the reader reading.
6. The pay off.
Read and re-read the ending over and over again like it’s new each time. Picture yourself as a reader getting to the end of your novel. They have invested time into your story, so did you deliver an ending they’ll find satisfying? Or did Cousin Burt save the day with his magic toilet brush just in the nick of time?
Go ahead and treat it like your first love for awhile. But don’t be afraid of recognizing a few flaws. The BEST thing about anything we write is the simple fact that if it stinks like Limburger cheese, it can be fixed/changed. It can become that nearly perfect love of your life.
After all—we are traveling through another dimension, a dimension of not only sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Writing Zone! First loves? Tuck away the fond memory and find someone who’ll love you, long nose hairs and all. Even if you can’t throw a football.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.