Not that long ago, I was digging through my old papers (moving the OLD old into boxes to put in the attic, so the less old can fit in the file cabinet.), and found some stuff I wrote back when I was 19.
And DAMN did that stuff suck. At the time I'm sure I thought it was, at least, solid. But, really, it sucked. Empirically. Physicists could prove it sucked.
Hell, stuff I wrote five years ago, in my early thirties, sucked.
I can honestly say that the point where my curve started to move away from sucking is when I started taking the process of critiquing seriously.
I haven't done much freelancing or fiction writing, but I'd never send something out to a place I cared about without critiquing from at least two people. I think the key for me was my high school advanced writing class, when my teacher actually made a graph showing the number of "to be" verbs used vs. grades.
Yeah, it's kind of a gimmick, and it drove me crazy at first. But knowing that it was possible to just write as I pleased and then FILTER it somehow -- did I tie up the loose ends of the story? do the paragraphs flow nicely together? do I have, y'know, a thesis? -- has been the key component of my writing style, and subsequent success, since that time.
Now, if only I could learn not to procrastinate...
For me, it's never "to be" as much as "to start". I constantly catch myself having characters START to do something instead of just DOING it.
As for procrastination... I'll get into that another time.
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