When I started writing this blog, I had two goals, improve my writing and become comfortable sharing parts of my life. Well, there was also the lure of becoming rich and famous through my writing but reality set in quickly. Writing for a living takes a lot of work. The more writing I do, the more I respect and admire the authors that do write well.
Over the last 30 months I’ve written 180 posts. I also started posting some of the stories I’ve written. When I go back to read some of my earlier posts and stories, my urge to edit and rewrite them gives me confidence that I’ve succeeded in improving my writing ability. And yet, the evidence is plain, I still have ample room to improve.
I’ll confess, I’m as addicted to looking at the visitor logs of my website as some people are to checking their Facebook pages. This is partly a security measure to see what the flavor of the day hack attempt is but I find it especially intriguing to see visitors from all over the world reading something I’ve written. In a typical day I get twenty to thirty visitors from three or four different countries. These are real people too, not the bots every blogger is plagued with.
Every once in a while I’m rewarded with a visitor that takes the time to read more than the single post that Google suggested. These people are telling me they enjoyed my writing enough to invest more of their time reading my ramblings. I could hardly ask for a more sincere compliment.
At the start of this year I was feeling confident enough in my writing that I started posting short stories that I had written. While I’m comfortable writing factual data and product reviews, that’s only one small part of writing, being able to tell a story so well that your audience identifies with and cares about the characters in your story requires a whole new level of skill.
Unfortunately here, my visitor logs tell a stark truth, none of the visitors to my website has ever read more than one story. I have a number of people willing to read my stories and give me glowing praise on how good they are. I have several friends that have taken their time to read my stories and give me their opinions on the weaknesses of my stories. Their comments have enabled me to improve. If I ever get to the point that I publish a book, you will be in the dedications.
Don’t get me wrong, this post isn’t to castigate you for not reading my stories or to bemoan the fact that nobody reads more than one. I know that my role as a writer is to entertain and captivate the reader. It’s my goal to make them so interesting that you will be compelled to read more than one.
Writing has changed the way I read. I still read a lot of fiction but I’m starting to dissect the stories I read. What did the author do well? How did they handle dialog? What level of detail did they put in their descriptions? My first surprise, just because they’re published doesn’t mean they write well. Even stranger, just because I enjoyed the books doesn’t mean they write well. Let me reword that, entertainment value does not always require strict adherence to the guidelines of writing.
Here’s my dilemma. I’ve reached the point where I have some insight into what it takes to be a good writer. If this were one of my on-line RPGs (Role Playing Games), I’d say I’ve hit level twenty with only forty more levels to go. I understand my role and some skills but I have a long way to go and each level only gets harder.
Like on-line RPGs, experience is only gained by doing. To make progress I have to continue writing but unlike gaming, where my fellow gamers are not shy about telling me how I need to improve, I need to get people reading my stories before they can tell me what’s good and what’s bad.
Before you comment, yes, I could join a writer’s support group. It’s a great idea except my fellow members are facing the same vision problems I am.
I was reading some reviews on a book I was thinking about buying when I realized that most of these comments fell into the same categories. Readers must actually care about such things as poor character development, poor descriptions, and poor punctuation. They want characters they can care about. When I considered this revelation, I realized my stories suffer from all of these shortcomings.
To be sure, and you’ll have to take my word on this, since I’ve started writing this blog, my stories have improved greatly. Taking one more step on my journey, I’m offering this quarter’s story, The Hanged Man. It doesn’t correct all my known problems but I believe it’s good enough to achieve my next level as a writer.
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