Newsflash: writing is still hard.

I primarily live on Tumblr, where I have a main blog and a writing side blog. This question came into my ask box on my side blog:

One thing that I really admire about your writing style is your balance between dialogue and description. You don’t get bogged down in huge, endless paragraphs of text, but you still paint the scene very well. How do you find the balance? How do you imagine the scene?

Naturally, I can only give my personal answer for how this works. It may or may not work for you, I can’t guarantee either side of it. However!

Read a lot.

I’m not even kidding. I know basically every post I make about writing somehow circles back to this but it’s basically the foundation of any sort of writing. Always, always, always read. It doesn’t even matter what it is, to be honest (I tend to get a lot more out of reading the genre or pairing I’m working with at the time), just read. Your subconscious is a ridiculously active part of the brain and even if you’re not consciously acknowledging how an author is writing, there is a part of you that is cataloguing every nuance and choice the author is making, from vernacular to sentence structure.

To that end, I know one thing I notice, from fanfiction to books I buy in store, is how long paragraphs are. I have a personal pet peeve with massive paragraphs of text without even touching on how it looks on a page. I can’t read them. I won’t read them. So how can I expect my readers to want to read massive paragraphs of text when I refuse to do the same.

Understand writing is not all technical.

There’s a certain freedom in writing fiction, and even more freedom in writing fanfiction. While this does not mean that you should toss all the rules of grammar out the window (because I’m literally going to contradict myself in a minute here), there is a real element in letting yourself tell the story in the way the story wants to be told.

The fluidity of grammatical rules in creative writing is something you can see in my writing, just about as clear as day. I’m currently in a faze where I keep starting sentences with “and” (by the way, a big no-no in basically every other form of writing ever). Run on sentences are a thing you can do. Fragments? Go for it. Most of the time I’m breaking up my paragraphs based on feel and rarely based on the actual rules of English grammar. Hypocritical, because I totally ranted at Shari the other day about how there are people I work with who don’t understand the meaning of “paragraph” when specifically applied to more professional writing.

Don’t overthink it.

This is something I really noticed as a TA. Students would ask me about writing a paper and honestly? I don’t know how you write a paper. Not in a way I can describe to you. Part of that is that I’m one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have to think epically hard about what’s she’s writing (that comes with practice, I wasn’t born with an innate talent. Canadian apologies if I’m bursting bubbles on that front. Subsequent Canadian apologies for sounding like I’m bragging).

When it comes to writing, I write a lot and basically everything based on how I feel. That’s just a thing I’ve done essentially as long as I’ve been writing. Now, it’s not ideal some times, because sometimes it makes life epically difficult, but for someone who has been writing for fifteen years, it’s something you get used to. But I can’t count the number of times I’ve thrown a sentence at Jo or Shari and said “this doesn’t sound right”. Sometimes it is right, grammatically, technically, but that means nothing in the grand scheme of things if I don’t like the feel of it.

Trust your gut. You know what you want to say and how you want the words to make you feel. That counts for more (sometimes, please don’t just throw grammar out the window) than technicalities.

Practice, practice, practice.

Raise your hand if this is exactly what you didn’t want me to say.

Look, there are days I hate writing. There are days I literally cannot sit down at my computer and write for a myriad of different reasons that have nothing to do with whether I feel like I’m a good writer or a bad one. There are days that even notebooks don’t help get over the block, the exhaustion, whatever. Sometimes, I’ve poured myself so heavily into my writing that I’m too tired to write anymore and it takes a few days to get over that.

But I can tell you unequivocally, I would not be here, I would not be where I am in my writing skills if it weren’t for the fact that I kept at it. Well, and a couple of well-placed advisors along the way that helped me turn writing into something bigger, who helped me learn new turns of phrase by beta reading some of my work (I’m terrible at betas, ask me another time, it’s terrible). I wouldn’t have had those advisors and betas in my life if I didn’t start somewhere and keep trying.

Push yourself. I get to do that now with the cowriting I’m doing. We have totally different styles, but damn if the plotlines don’t make me work just that little bit harder to write up to my cowriter’s level, who is an absolute darling and would kill me for saying so.

Writing is, at the core, very personal and that includes how you write and what kind of balance or feel you want throughout what you publish. It’s not a cut and dry thing. So test, try. If you don’t like it, that’s what editing’s for.