What I learned in 2012

It’s the last day of 2012. I’ve learned many things over the year, too many to really list, but here are the highlights:

Life

1. Stop Crying
People who have already raised children have been quick to offer advice about how to deal with temper tantrums. The one that I heard most often and used to subscribe to was “Let them cry it out”. It was the idea that no matter how much the child screams and cries, you exert your immovability and status as the parent by not giving in.

Yeah, that’s a headache.

One day, I just got tired of the crying. So I knelt down in front of Kimi and held her by the shoulders facing me. Without anger but using a stern and serious voice. I told her to stop crying. Guess what. It worked. It took some time before she remained quiet, at the beginning she would just start crying again after I told her “good girl”, but now she quiets down and there are a lot less headaches.

2. Dogs like crayons
We have three shiba inus and after Kimi’s crayons started disappearing, we discovered little rainbows scattered across the back yard. And no, they weren’t skittles. The crayons now get locked away in a rubber tub and stay upstairs, beyond the doggy taste buds.

3. Metallic taste in the mouth isn’t good
After chasing a dog three blocks while in just my socks and carrying a food container and my laptop, I finally caught up to her. That might not seem like much, but trying to catch up with a disobedient running dog isn’t an easy task, especially while shoe-less. Thankfully, I’ve been tormenting myself with running with my coworkers over the past year and was better prepared to drag my mother-in-law’s chubby little shiba back to my house. My tongue was coated with the taste of metal and I spent the twenty minutes after my return dry heaving and cursing my husband for leaving the side gate ajar. I looked it up and according to Live Strong, that metal taste is a sign of mild heart failure. Yay me!

4. I’m not alone
I participated in NaNoWriMo this year, and through it I have met some lovely ladies who I’ve remained in contact with past November. Christy, Lisa, and I have been meeting on a weekly basis to talk life and editing (more life than editing). For someone who is a social recluse like me, meeting new people tends not to happen. But now that I have some new friends, I’m no longer embarrassed to say I like writing.

Writing

Over the past year, I’ve worked to improve my writing craft. Since receiving feedback from my first draft beta readers, I’ve dedicated my free time and attention toward making my story well-written and enjoyable.

1. Readers don’t care about backstory
Derek’s had a hard life. It’s helped shape him. But his childhood, though important to me, doesn’t really matter to the reader. I’ve deleted about 1500 words from chapter 1 of Thanmir War and there’ll still be more to go.

2. Don’t use *was* too much
A friend referred me to a writing editing tool. After pasting in my first chapter, I was horrified when it told me I needed to somehow get rid of 69 was’s! At first, I tried to rationalize that the tool was insane. How could I possibly rewrite all my stuff to remove that many? It had to be an inflated number. Then I accepted it was probably right and looked at rewording. I still have a couple of early chapters that need the editing treatment, but at least the prologue and chapter 1 are better off.

3. Hold the description please
I have discovered people under the age of 40 or so really don’t like description. I’ve been called flowery and long winded. My sister-in-law has vehemently expressed her utter loathing of my first chapter (on many occasions). The younger generation tells me to “just get to the point already” and “is all this really necessary”. Heh. I haven’t even published and I’ve already had my share of people telling me how painful it is to read my work. So my new rule of writing, if it doesn’t relate or interact with the character, it gets cut or reworded.

Not everyone agrees with that. My old co-worker Jim prefers full, lush descriptions. But I’ve decided it’d be better to err on the side of safety. Having less description will leave some wanting more. But having too much description will cause others to put the book down and never pick it up again. I think I’d rather have my story read and that be a complaint, than hear comments that they couldn’t finish it.

4. That isn’t necessary
I abuse many words. I’ve discovered *that* is one of them. Usage for the word varies by preference. Sometimes it is necessary to help clarify the idea. But many times, I’ve deleted the word without harming my sentence. It’s something to keep an eye out for!

That’s what I’ve learned. What about you?

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

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