Learning in Layers

There’s so obviously a Shrek reference there that I’m going to ignore it. 🙂

The last week has been one full of learning. You know when you start a new job and they throw all the information at you at once? Some of it makes sense but the rest is kind of gibberish? Well, that’s what happens to me when I’m learning the craft of writing. I read a craft book a few years ago from cover to cover. Some of it made sense and the rest just confused me.

I’ve gone back and reread some of the craft books. Some things still confuse me but I find I can figure it out what they mean better than before. Here’s where the layers come in. For me, as I’ve written, things click into place at different places in my writing. Sometimes it happens when I go back to edit a passage. Sometimes it happens after talking to a fellow writer.

I will admit, I struggle with passive voice and telling instead of showing. And the whole dumping of back story. Sheesh! Sometimes it looks like a dump truck backed up to my manuscript and unloaded every bit of information about the characters. I’ve slowly begun to realize what it looks like in my own work when I do this.  But it’s difficult to step back far enough to recognize all of it.

The latest layer happened courtesy of a critique of my first two chapters and a discussion with a fellow writer. Again, the dump truck had spilled back story and run over any conflict I’d written into the story. Both ladies helped me realize what I lacked in the current incarnation of my story. I needed more conflict, my hooks were missing and what really was the heroine’s motivation for anything she was doing? After throwing myself a little pity party, I really looked at the comments, thought about the discussion and applied it to the story. You know what? They were right. The critique was particularly helpful because she didn’t just say fix this, that is missing. She rewrote a few of my paragraphs to demonstrate exactly what she meant. lightbulb! Her critique was exactly what I needed to get over the hump and make the story that much better.

So, it takes layers. If you don’t understand something, keep working at it until you do. I’ve seen a quote floating around Twitter lately. “It’s not when you start that matters, but when you quit.” Don’t quit just because something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t fit. Figure out why it doesn’t fit. Sometimes you have to learn something first and get it right before the next concept falls into place.

Figure out the layers and work up until the writing is as good as it can be. Good stories too, like ogres, have layers.

Do you learn in layers?

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