Breathing Grammar

I am on a mission to learn English grammar and it is possibly the hardest thing I have tried to learn in a long time. Here I was thinking “Oh, I already know grammar, I write ALL day long”. It isn’t that simple though – sure, I’ve learned to mimic good grammar. I know what sounds best when I am typing a sentence. It is almost unholy how wrong I was about English grammar being something that would be easy.
I recently began taking the Grammar Lab through the online certificate for copyediting offered by the University of California San Diego. I graduated with my MBA through Southern New Hampshire University in September 2014 and I have been itching to go back to school. Going back to school these days means following my passions instead of the necessity of trying to land a job to make my bank account not roll over on its back and die.
Creative writing has always been my passion. It has been that way since my childhood when all I wanted to do was write stories, read Stephen King and listen to Green Day. For a long time, I wanted to have a career in creative writing. Then, I kept being informed over and over that writing wasn’t something I should do if I actually wanted to survive on my own. Now, I am surviving on my own and I am still bitten by the need to write creatively and professionally.
Gaining the copyediting certificate is probably half my need to be a perfectionist at writing and half my need to just keep learning. I have written my first fiction novel, and although I have a lot of self-doubt about the novel itself, I still want to do it justice by editing it to the best of my abilities. I may also be procrastinating in editing it because I want to forget all about it so I can realize any dreaded plot holes. Either way, while I am waiting for my nerves to stop being jittery about my 80k word salad, learning how to edit will help me with my future writing.
Also, no one ever said I could not one day be a freelance copyeditor. People like to read and write but editing a book is difficult as hell. It is nice knowing that I can develop this skill so that it may become something more prominent in my life in the future. Sure, I put writing on my back-burner due to fear. However, this isn’t some long lost pipe-dream. I mean, I am only 28. You’d think I’d given up for 30 years by the way I am talking.
I wonder, if by the end of this class, I will be able to breathe English grammar. Maybe not – but I still own The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, which gets into the nitty gritty of grammar like no other book I have ever read. I am sure I will learn more grammar as I get into the meat of the copyediting certificate. It is guaranteed since I am determined.

When Outlines Fork Up

On October 5, 2015, I ordered Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M Weiland. I read the entire Kindle e-book in one sitting as though it was a best selling thriller novel. I could not walk away, I was inspired. So, I immediately started outlining my novel in order to prepare for NaNoWriMo the next month.
So, I outlined, and outlined, and kept outlining. When November hit, I began to write this story from this outline I had spent three weeks developing. Within the first 5K words, my plot line had hit a fork in the road at least three or four times. The outline was useless except for giving me the ability to develop the characters in my mind.
Still intrigued by the outlining idea, I learned about Scrivener (which I am using now and adore) and used the corkboard feature to revamp the steps I wanted to take in my novel. I did not keep to that outline since my plot progressed more naturally with a few other monkey wrenches tossed in the path of my characters.
By January, I began to really struggle. I did not reach my 50k words in November which I was not heartbroken over. I had my elements, my characters were talking to me, yet I did not like where they were going. I was getting bored with my own plot line and that is never ever a good sign.
Somehow (fearful procrastination), a few months went by and my story sat at 35K word, wondering if it was going to be tossed into my junk pile. Then, I began to journal about my feelings on this writers block. I did not outline this time. I did write about my desire to go back to another story in which I wrote only 8k words but it had seemed more like the middle of a story instead of the beginning.
Ding. Ding. Ding. My creativity kicked me in the face. I didn’t even have to scrap the 35k words since my twist fits right in. It is as though I was writing in order to add that other more intriguing plot to my story via my subconscious.
I’ve since given up on the traditional version of an outline, since no such thing exists. I do hand write journal entries on what I think the characters want. I also do a lot of “What if?” statements to see what sounds like a good idea. I feel like I am accessing a different part of my brain when I decide to write by hand as opposed to using a keyboard. I’ve always like to hand write my ideas first and all my outlining was handwritten except for the Scrivener version.
James Scott Bell writes about Pantsers and Outliners. Pantsers being writers who are creating their stories by the seat of their pants. I can promise I will not follow the outline I write. I have no regrets about the outlining process though. What if I had written my first idea without hitting that fork in the road? Then colliding with another fork. And then once again. I’ve spent a lot of time with these characters over the past year. They are starting to grow on me. I am still putting them through hell though.
This writing thing has a lot of bumpy roads and I’ve identified a few of the plot holes I will need to fill in thanks to my detours. That is for the second draft though, when I build eloquent architecture where there once was just a brick wall.