Monday, August 16, 2010

Making the Writing Look Good

I have a new calling at church: I'm the Assistant Stake Executive Secretary. This means helping the three members of our Stake Presidency with maintaining their schedules and agendas as they coordinate the affairs of nearly two-thousand families and individuals spread out among ten different congregations.

In short, my job is to make the Stake Presidency look good.

There are a lot of things to coordinate--meetings, agendas, appointments, callings--and this week I've been doing it all on my own, as the main Secretary has been on vacation with his family.

I thought I was doing pretty well until yesterday afternoon, when I realized I'd failed to inform the Stake President of a meeting with the Mission President.

Now, this missed meeting isn't a hundred percent my responsibility. It's on the schedule for everyone to see. The problem is when I talked to the Stake President and updated him on his schedule, I didn't double-check the calendar.

Oops. So much for making the Stake Presidency look good.

I'm still well down the learning curve on this calling, and getting a handle on exactly what my responsibilities are has been a real challenge.

The same thing has happened as I've tried to develop my skills as a writer. There are so many things I'm responsible for as I try to make my story look good: smooth prose, an interesting premise, empathetic characters, solid story structure. The list goes on and on, and it seems like just when I think I've made some progress, I'll come across something else that I've missed and need to do better.

Yet as many writing skills as there are to learn, I'm having fun learning them. And I'm finding the more I write, the more natural these things become.

Right now I'm working on making sure every scene in every chapter has sufficient conflict to move the story forward. I've always been kind of a peace maker, so conflict doesn't always come easy to me.

But as I work at giving my characters sufficient conflict, I find the conflict writing itself into the story without my needing to put quite so much effort into it. And my writing looks better as a result.

What about you? What writing skills are you currently trying to improve?


Michael Knudsen said...

I hear so much about too much description that sometimes I short-change a character or setting with insufficient detail. Sometimes it takes a longer (if you can believe that) second draft to breathe life into my story, then I cut from there. I'd love to be able to capture the right look and feel better on the first try.

Don said...

I'm with you there, Michael - my first drafts are pretty spartan as well. I find that I'm too busy describing the action and writing the dialog that I don't have time to flesh out the scene until later revisions.

kbrebes said...

Good luck with your new calling, Don. I write too much description, too. I'm trying to seek balance these days, plus I'm spending time thinking about how to increase my reader's emotions in the direction I want them to go. I've never bitten my nails in my life, and suddenly I am!

kbrebes said...

Good luck with your calling, Don. I write too much description, so I'm trying to seek balance. I'm also trying to work at building more reader emotion. Nice post!

kbrebes said...

Uh, oh. I didn't think that first post went through!

Steve said...

I fall into the passive voice trap. Its a contant struggle for me.

Peggy Urry said...

Working on integrating action in my dialogue and keeping that darn passive voice out of my WIP. Great post Don!