Notes on writing and style

As I’ve been finishing more writing projects this year – including my novel draft, a handful of short stories, and a few novella-length stories that are more fluff than plot, I’ve noticed my writing evolving. The first thing I’ve noticed is endings – my stories, short and long, are tending to have endings, even if I toss it on casually or don’t intend to revise the story. I’m doing things that I find myself adding during revision to the first draft – dropping unnecessary dialogue tags, for example. I’m probably using one where I used to use five or six. I’m getting more of a sense to how much plot fits into how many words in my writing style, so my short stories have stopped being twice as long or half as long as they’re meant to be.

One interesting thing I’m finding about plotting novels is that plot-collapse that happens part of the way into the story. It used to be that all my stories, consistently, collapsed around 10,000 words. Either I wrote a 10,000 word story, or I wrote 10,000 words of a longer story and got stuck. A year or so ago I would have said my stories collapsed around 25,000 words. (I don’t count serials, which are a different kettle of fish.) Colony X is, to my memory, my first story that didn’t collapse around either point, though I did have the 2/3rds doldrums (you know, the ones where you want to throw your computer against the nearest wall and then never write again). Its first draft has been finished for months now, and since then I’ve found that my view on length has shifted – I tossed off an 18k novella for fun the other week. I don’t intend to do anything with it, I just kept going with it and it turned out to be 18k of a duke’s son having adventures and affairs with royalty. (He also became a pirate. I don’t judge myself.)

I’m also asking for commentary/editing on my writing more than I have since I was taking creative writing at university, and that’s very helpful too, though I wish people would agree with each other about commas. In one short story, a beta reader removed a pile of them and then the short story’s editor proceeded to add them all back in.

I’ve been reading a lot of books on the art, too, most of which are terrible. I currently have two categories of books I’m not allowed to read until I finish my drafts (terraforming/survival on an alien world stories, and diary memoirs), but I’m reading nonfiction and articles relevant to them.