Writing Dilemma

Writing
Photo Credit: jjpacres

I know this is supposed to be a blog about ADHD, but I’ve been distracted (big surprise) by my desire to write a novel. It’s always been a dream of mine, and I even wrote a full chapter to a book in high school. It didn’t get anywhere because I didn’t plan ahead. I just started writing and then quit at the first big obstacle.

In order to avoid the same mishap this time, I’m actually planning the characters, events, etc.

Like I said in my previous post, I have a rough outline and a good overall idea of what I want. I just haven’t sat down and started really getting into the finer details of the story.

So here’s another problem I have. To all the authors and English teachers out there, I present to you a question (one that’s been bothering me ever since I edited a friend’s book). Does a novel lose personality if one writes with proper grammar? For instance: “Jimmy thought about his mistakes while staring down the long row of prison cells. He could’ve done better at hiding the evidence; then a thought popped into his head, one he hadn’t seen or heard from in a many years, You could have done better with your life.

I know there are some changes that could be made, but would that take away the emotion and flow of the statement?

You see, I’m an over-editor, if there is such a thing. I’ll read my blog posts several times and revise it over and over until I think it’s as close to perfect as I can get it. The obvious issue with that is, I’m afraid I’m going to ruin the mood of my novel by turning it into a cold, technical book instead of a flowing story full of emotions and color.

Any thoughts?

P.S. I made 9 changes in this post before publishing it.

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10 thoughts on “Writing Dilemma”

  1. I say all this with the intent to be helpful:

    Grammar is for editors to worry about. So is tone, theme, story arc, etc. At least you should shut off your internal editor now and just write. You can worry about the tone and work on that later. If you are just starting, words on the screen are the important thing.

    “Proper grammar” is a gnome. It belongs in grammar exercises, but not in art. Rules are made to be broken (but you should know why). What most people call “grammar” is usually style, and style is about taste, not right and wrong.

    Imagine someone telling the Impressionists “you can’t paint like that; it’s all blurry!” and you understand the relationship between “grammar” and writing as art.

    Also, planning might help, or it might lock you into a box that will cause you to give up later. My approach is to work on understanding characters, putting them together into a situation, and seeing what happens. But that’s me. Some writers plan everything.

    I think it’s most important to develop a strategy to get started again when you lose interest or hit the wall. I don’t know what that is. It’s different for everyone. Inertia helps me. So does medication.

    Here’s a good link about the writing life. It’s brutal, but accurate:

    http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/21/25-things-i-want-to-say-to-so-called-aspiring-writers/

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    1. Thanks for the help. It’s hard for me to turn off my inner editor (maybe I should be one lol). I’ll try to shut it down as much as I can while I get the story down, then I’ll turn it back on and see what happens. I’ll keep an original just in case I hack and slash it to pieces with fixes.

      As far as me and planning: I feel like I need to plan everything, so I don’t lose track of the details (i.e. hair color, physical locations, who is where in the scene, etc.). My ADHD assures me that I will get side-tracked and forget something, so I need it written in front of me.

      Again, thank you.

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  2. Ryan, You have accomplished many things in your life and you can accomplish this. It’s ok if you make mistakes! Doing something you truly enjoy keeps you focused. If you don’t enjoy it you can’t stay focused. Your publisher will proofread for errors and changes that need to be made.
    My hairdresser is writing a book and publisher she used ripped her off $4000. So be careful.
    Matthew 6:33, Phillipians 4:8

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    1. Thanks! I’ll make sure I do my research before going to an agent/editor. I might try to just self-publish, but that’s a bridge I’ll cross way down the road. I appreciate your support. It means a lot to me. 🙂

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  3. Ryan, I have to make a comment, since your post hit a cord in me. I am the same, I edit and re-edit everything over and over… sometimes I loose the original message in the process. (Although sometimes it is a good thing because my original was either too harsh or over emotional – in regards to work emails). Anyways, being a a former high school teacher, I think Johnathan is right… grammar is a “style”, everyone’s preferences are different, there is no right or wrong. I would say go for it, just get it on paper and see where it goes. I envy you in that I would love to write a novel… I even started one in high school, but then I realized I just don’t have the talent to build good characters, leaving the story without any “meat” or connection to the reader. Good luck and enjoy the process!!! P.S. I fought the urge to edit this post! It is so liberating!!

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    1. Eve, it’s good to know there are people like me out there. I know exactly what you mean about over editing being both good and bad.

      I once read an article about writing novels. It said that a lot of authors have a hard time writing stories with believable characters and relationships when they’re young because they don’t have the life experience needed to build deep characters. Perhaps you should try writing again since you’re a little older and have more “life” to draw your material from. Use people and places you know, and combine them in different ways until you have something you like.

      I say go for it!

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  4. Hey Ryan, I hope you don’t mind me getting in contact with you. I just stumbled across this blog while doing some research for a scriptwriting course I’m taking. My main character has ADHD, and I really want to get an accurate, realistic portrayal of someone who lives with it; I don’t want it to just be a label that slapped on and not really acknowledged. Reading health websites and watching doctor’s videos are good, but to me they’re a bit sterile, they don’t give a sense of what it’s like to really be the person in question. I’m just wondering if it would be alright to come to you with any questions I might have in the process of writing it. Perhaps if you could tell me if there are any stereotypes/clichés that I don’t want to fall into? I’m already extremely appreciative of this blog and it’s an amazing coincidence that you’re hoping to write something yourself! I’d definitely like to hear what kind of things you’re writing.
    All the best,
    Lois

    PS – I’m with you on the over-editing, I do it even with e-mails and posts that are just a few words long sometimes… My thoughts on grammar, if it’s suffocating your characters, let it go and have them be free. I think if your reader can understand what you’re saying, there’s no problem at all.

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    1. Hey Lois,

      I’m actually quite flattered that someone would ask me for advice and insight. I would love to answer any questions you have!
      The biggest stereotype is the inability to pay attention. It’s completely accurate, but a stereotype nonetheless. If you would like, you can email me at rgriffith26@gmail.com
      I know I’m not really getting into the details about it with this reply, but I will through email.
      As for your scriptwriting, I’m actually a content editor for my coworker’s books (www.voldamar.com), so if you want someone to look over your work, I’m available.
      Now for my book: because it’s so early in the process and I’m paranoid about someone stealing my idea, I’m not going to release much about it until I get closer to publishing. I can, however, tell you that it’s a fiction book about time.

      -Ryan

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  5. This is an old comment thread, but I wanted to add some clarification. When I said “turn off your internal editor,” I did not mean completely, as some of the comments imply. Instead, I meant to save editing for later. Ryan, when you say you made 9 changes in the post before you posted it, that’s a good thing, if you’re refining it. (My first thought “only 9?”) It can be hard to know when you’re making improvements and when you’re just moving words around, but with practice and reading it gets better. Really good writing does not arrive fully formed, even though it may seem so when you are reading it.

    The early stages of writing mean just that: writing, not editing, not worrying abut which writer you sound like, not worrying about who’s going to publish it, etc. (That’s like worrying about writing your resume and cover letter correctly when you’re in kindergarten.) That worrying happens, but in order to clear the path forward you have to find a way to set it aside.

    But at some point editing does happen and it should. A close friend of mine just published a book of poetry with a reputable press. One thing he remarked on: after having worked through the poems dozens of times, having sent them out dozens of times, having a good number of them already published, he was astonished at how much editing there still was to do. (He’s a Ph.D. in creative writing.)

    Worrying about audience and publishers and correctness and such early in the process is ego-mind. In Buddhist terms, in that circumstance a person is clinging to both fantasy and to protecting a projected image of the self (I can’t make any mistakes). Both of those things are imaginary and neither are in the present—the blank screen is real and here now.

    Also, there’s nothing wrong with keeping track of details—some writers call those character sheets—but too much pre-planning, for some, stifles possibility.

    But all of this is a personal balance that you have to find for yourself. There’s plenty of information out there about how writers write, and they vary widely. For instance, when I write first drafts of poems, I usually prefer pen and notebook, precisely because it is inefficent.

    This is the only rule: whatever moves you forward is good. (Even if that means totally backtracking for awhile.)

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