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On bad writing habits, stream of consciousness + a NaNoWriMo excerpt

Tomorrow afternoon I’m leading a writing group with Wit & Writing for Women where I’ll be tackling bad writing habits.

In preparation, I’m coming up with a few bad habits of my own when it comes to writing. I think I have more of them than I can conjure up on the spot. Here’s the shortlist of my bad writing-related habits:

  • I let good ideas escape me instead of writing them down somewhere
  • I wait until the last minute to write things and don’t come back to them to edit/don’t leave time to edit
  • In fiction, I struggle to get outside my own head
  • My vocabulary could use some new additions
  • Still using hedge words (Recently read in my own work a character doubting herself after a decent joke, saying: “or something like that”)

I’m ready to get more feedback on my less-impressive stylistic habits. I’ve been away from the freelance game for a little while, focusing instead on one larger (and awesome) project, so I haven’t received the editor feedback that I thrived on a year ago.

In an effort to get a taste of what some of my stylistic shortfalls might be, I opened up my National Novel Writing Month book to read some. I haven’t edited it since finishing it (sort of) at the end of November, so instead of learning something useful with it, I really just ended up having fun reading a chapter as if it were the first time I’d seen it. I was surprised at how little I remembered, considering I’d been the one to write all 50,557 words of it.

When I wrote during NaNoWriMo, it was often very “stream of consciousness”. By which I mean there was way less thinking on my part than usual before my fingers flew. And definitely zero editing. It wasn’t anything like how my news articles come out of me—those are pondered over during interviews and written relatively slowly. Like peeling a frozen banana.

I told another writer about that stream of consciousness writing that felt so foreign to me, saying it felt a bit like I was cheating at writing because it came so easily. He just said, “good. That’s what a writer does.”

So it hit me: I’d broken my normal writing routine and found another method that worked for me. At least, it meant I’d gotten something on the page.  I might not have done it particularly gracefully, but I’d added something to my arsenal and that has its value.

Once I drag myself into the editing room on  my NaNoWriMo piece—and the more I read of it, the more I feel like it deserves an edit (and a proper storyline)—I think I will dig up some habits that aren’t particularly useful. But for now, here’s a little excerpt that made me grin upon tonight’s reading.


From: “More to Come” (NaNoWriMo 2013)

(Context: Protagonist Chelsea is getting a ride to a pub to meet coworkers at her new job at the newspaper from Bob, 73, one of her roommates.)

I got dressed (didn’t bother to check my butt in the mirror; reflective surfaces were far more cruel to a skinny-jeaned ass than the human eye. Of that I was sure), brushed on a fresh coat of mascara and slicked on a tinted lip balm. I made my way to the kitchen where I found Bob typing away on his MacBook Air. I still didn’t know what his book was about but at this point I thought it was adorable that he was making headway on it despite only being able to type with two fingers. His hunt and peck was pretty quick, but it still would be no comparison to a well-practiced home row.

I offered to teach him some keyboarding techniques.

“Oh, I don’t know about that, Chelsea. I don’t want to be able to type any faster than I can think.” He chuckled at his own joke and I wasn’t sure if he was actually brushing me off. “Ready to hit the road?”

I told him I was.

“Is that what the kids are wearing these days?” he asked in a way that channeled my own grandfather.

“Some of them, yeah,” I said, suddenly nervous. “I mean, it might actually be a little out of date to be honest and I wasn’t so sure about the red pants because it’s summer and it’s really more of a fall colour. Do you think I should change?”

“No, no, no,” he said. “Women always think they should change. It’s not until you turn 50 that you figure out how to make a decision that matters. You’ll also realize you’re always right. Or was just when I realized I was always wrong?” He chuckled again.

I liked the way he combined philosophy and self-deprecation. He was like a more self-aware Yoda with better skin and clearer colon (so I was told very early on in our friendship. Too early).

Fifteen minutes later, I was stepping out of the car in front of a pub with a packed patio out front.

I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside but I was more nervous than the time I asked out Johnny Sutherland in the seventh grade. I thought I was going to throw up on him. In reality, it was only a burp, but I had just eaten a banana. That doesn’t sound so bad but the kid was allergic to bananas and before I could finish naming the movie I wanted to take him to (mom’s feminism showing again), he was scratching his face as a rash began to form. He had bumpy red dots across his cheek for weeks after and was understandably not interested in sharing popcorn with me ever. I tried not to take it personally. But it took a long time before I started eating bananas again. I was afraid to tell my mom what happened, simply because I didn’t want to revisit it. She told me later that she thought my aversion to bananas was phallus-related. I was glad she brought that up the first time she met Kevin.

It was safe to say this evening couldn’t be as agonizing as the Sutherland affair or the ensuing phallus-gate. I adjusted my skinny jeans and made my way in.

Filed under: Blog, Writing, Writing Tips

About the Author

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I am a writer living under a pile of scrap paper and unopened fan mail from the cable company. I believe a messy desk is simply a sign of inspiration waiting to be uncovered. But I’m biased. More from me on Twitter: @zoeywrites

1 Comment so far

  1. Pingback: How about 30 days of blog writing in November? | Zoey Duncan

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