ex ante, in praesenti, ex post

I’m about to get all Latin up in this place!

Q1: When do I feel good about my writing?

Ex Ante

At least once during the conception phase of my writing experience, I’ll have an “Aha!” moment. If I’m lucky, it’s more than one of those moments for the particular manuscript I’m contemplating. And every once in a great while, it’s a series of Aha! Dominoes, where a new idea generates another, or resolves a dilemma, or presents a completely different take on a story.

My “before” moments are spontaneous and adrenaline-inducing. Unfortunately they’re rare, but when they happen…whoo boy.

In Praesenti

While I’m writing, I will occasionally describe a scene, jot down a line of dialog, or wrap up an action sequence in such a way that I sit back from my computer and just start grinning. A clever turn of phrase, tidy summation, or witty repartee between characters will just feel right while I’m writing it, and give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I live for these moments during NaNo, and revel in them (as evidenced by my prolific contribution to the “favorite passages” forum threads during November).

Ex Post

After November is over, my manuscripts typically languish in the “written but not edited” pile. It’s my major stumbling block to getting my work out to publishers and agents – once I’m done with my zero draft, pursuing it to a more coherent state is just not very appealing to me. However, I will sometimes muster the gumption to at least read whatever I’ve written a few months after I wrap up. I’m almost always shocked by what I read. The injection of time provides a more distant perspective, and that more often than not results in a feeling of foreignness to my writing. I’ll read an action passage and think, “When did I write this?” It’s very strange. Fortunately, the mystery writer that contributes to my manuscripts when I’m not looking does a pretty good job most of the time. I treasure those moments of surprise when reading my own stuff.

Q2: What are my strengths?


I feel like I’ve gotten reasonably good at writing believable, interesting dialog. I think I’ve managed to write stories that get out of their own way and let the reader just enjoy the experience. And I’ve worked hard to cultivate a motto: “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” I let that mantra steer both my attitude towards writing, and my actual writing itself.


Look, a lot of what I’ve posted this week is old material. I’m a firm believer in leading by example. As a municipal liaison for NaNo, I feel obligated to have a framework for successfully pursuing a November novel year after year. None of what I’ve written above is anything new for me. It’s tried and true material I’ve used to motivate my WriMos for years. I’ll let you decide how much is the truth, and how much is…creative interpretation of the truth. :)


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