I ramble a lot. I frequently get myself stuck near the bottom of a rabbit hole. Usually, it’s too late when I realize it, but then I just switch off and go back to what I was doing. Some people don’t believe in ADHD, but everyone who’s ever known me does.
I have a visual impairment of sorts that, for my entire life, made it nearly impossible to read well. My eyes flitted and fluttered from line to line. I frequently ended up reading the same line two or three times. It drove me nuts. It wasn’t until I was 52 that I learned the problem I had was most likely due to the double-vision I’d lived with all my life.
The purpose of telling that tidbit is to highlight that while I always loved to read, I really didn’t read much until I was in my mid 20’s. That only lasted for a short while. Eye stress and strain made it a chore to read for more than 15 or 20 minutes per reading. I’d found moments where I was motivated to read longer and just deal with the pain and discomfort, but that never lasted long. Except in the rare occasions that I found a page-turner that captured my imagination.
In 2018 I went to an eye doctor for the first time since I was 10 years old and found out that I now need glasses just to pass my driver’s eye test. Now I wear glasses. That also turned out to be the fix for my double vision, the stress, and strain, and the flitting around the page has gone. So long as I wear my prescriptions.
Has this now made me a more voracious reader, trying to make up for lost time? Not really. I love stories, but I’m still stuck in the mindset that reading is a struggle and it’s uncomfortable. That said, thanks to audiobooks and sinking up to Kindle, I can now read and listen to books at the same time. It’s awesome. So right now, that’s who I am. I read and I listen often.
My writing began in 1997 when I wanted to write a Star Wars novel and I wrote the first chapter. I sent a letter to Lucasfilm asking how I go about writing a Star Wars book. About a month later I received a form letter that, for all intents and purposes, was a cease and desist order. That’s how I learned my first lesson in publishing.
Since then, I started and stopped more stories than I can count. The most discouraging thing is that I’ve never completed a story.
Back then, I always got lost in my rambling plots. I was pantsing all the time. Then I tried organizing with an outline, but it was so convoluted that I lost track of it. I need meds to be organized. Since then I bought software and books on writing this way and that, about methods and processes, but none of that has gotten me to where I want to be.
Now, I’m trying NaNoWriMo to see if creating a deadline will work for me.
I might not be cut out to be a novelist, but I’ve been told I come up with great concepts and that I can tell a good story, but they fall flat and aren’t emotionally impactful. My best to date was just that. I wrote 120,000 words that had no cohesive thread on paper thus no story. The conflict and emotions only existed within my mind.
In my imagination, I was connecting those dots. I was connecting one scene to another. Those are my weaknesses.
However, I recently had an epiphany when while reading a blog post by David Griffin Brown of Darlingaxe.com, that inspired me to spend about 20 minutes creating a writing exercise on the spot. The blog was about the axiom “show don’t tell”. I wanted to write an emotionally impactful scene as quickly as I could that showed the character’s emotions rather than narrating them. That’s been a major weakness for me.
I didn’t have a subject. All I had was the first name. Jack. That was from the blog. Everything else I wrote, a little over 500 words, came to me on the fly over the next 20 minutes or so. I made some edits and presented it to two people I know and asked them to tell me if it made them feel anything and if so what? I got an emphatic yes from both people. Above all, they said it made them feel empathy and sympathy for the two characters in the scene.
At that moment I felt like, and still do feel, that I found a key to unlocking some gaps in my writing. I’ve come to understand that I haven’t been writing scenes as much as I’ve been writing scenarios, story-lines, and synopses, but not stories. I set things up and I plan disparately across a continuum that never congeals. I get stuck in world-building. I have maybe once until the aforementioned exercise, ever written anything that was in the structure of a scene, that created an emotional impact, and that was showing not telling.
I’m now hopeful that I will be able to move forward into NaNoWriMo and complete a 50,000+ word manuscript that tells a story by showing who my characters are, that creates an emotional impact on the reader, that doesn’t wander all over, and that ultimately connects in a meaningful way to the reader.