Ever wished you could go back in time and share something with the younger you?
This month we decided to share some wisdom we’ve gained since writing that first chapter, things we’ve learned since our ‘decision’ to become writers.
Read Robin’s inspiring blog here if you’ve missed it.
I scribbled my first ever story in a notebook. In pencil, and I remember it like it was yesterday, not eighteen years ago. The words flowed. Sentences followed and paragraphs were created that evolved into chapters. I thrived! I wrote about five more ‘novels’ in notebooks. Back then I thought it was simple. I was so blissfully happy in my ignorance.
Then I started studying the craft and realized how much there was that I didn’t know. How very little I actually did know about this dream I wanted to pursue. Things that I’ve never even considered plagued me. It overwhelmed me. And it terrified me, but I persevered. Somewhere between joining ACFW and now, I’ve managed to gain some form of foothold. I’ve experienced just how up and down a writer’s life can be.
There are hundreds of things I would tell that starry eyed thirteen-year-old. But if I have to narrow it down, here’s the things that would’ve made a lot of things easier.
1. Please do not compare yourself to other writers. Ever.
We’re all different. That’s how God made us 😉
Some writers have a knack with descriptions. Others flourish with dialogue and some manage to create well-developed, larger-than-life characters. You have your strong points – you really do – don’t belittle your strengths. Appreciate the talent the Lord gave you and work on improving it.
2. Don’t aim for perfect.
Allow yourself to write terrible first drafts. Writing a novel is going to take time, sometimes a lot of time. For some writers it takes multiple rewrites before they have a manuscript that’s publishable. You’re one of those writers. And it’s OK. If you always stress about writing a perfect first draft, you’ll never have anything to work with.
Good things take time.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”Ecclesiastes 3:11
“Nothing kills creativity faster than perfectionism, especially during the first draft.” ~K.M. Weiland, Conquering Writer’s Block and How to Summon Creativity.
3. You can’t make everyone happy – you’re not coffee!
Don’t let your people pleasing tendencies influence your writing so much on so many different levels. I have several examples that I won’t bore you with. The brutal truth is if you’ve received feedback you don’t necessarily agree with, then so be it. Unicorns aren’t going to keel over because you’re not accepting every single suggestion you receive. The sun will still rise. The birds will still sing in the morning. One day you’ll decide not to implement some suggestions you’ll receive from an author you admire and your book will be OK. You’ll be OK. The critic will be fine too. I promise!
Don’t rush. You’re still young and naïve and have so much to learn. And yes, receiving that desired publishing contract is awesome. It really is. But so is the ride. And the people you’ll meet on the journey. Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is still forward!
Since I know we’re not the only writers with some wisdom to share, I’ve asked a couple of my good friends to share their answers as well. Check out they’re websites if you have a moment.
(Thank you ladies for sharing so willingly.)
Find a writing community. You will need it. There is so much to learn, and writing can feel like a very lonely endeavor. When the amount of work becomes too daunting or the rejections start coming in, you’ll need a writing community to turn to. Supportive family members and friends are a huge blessing, but only fellow writers can completely understand and give you the reassurance that you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then, if I could start over I’d start creating my platform much sooner and pay closer attention to the business end of this business, including marketing/promotion techniques. Writing a great book is vital, but not knowing how to promote it renders it moot.
Believe me, having to play catch-up where marketing techniques is concerned is my biggest regret.
~ Author, Linda W. Yezak
I think it was Steven James who said something to the effect of, “Worry about the story, not the sentence.” I agree. A compelling story will get readers to forgive a multitude of sins if you can sweep them away. I would urge my younger writer self to (1) really explore plot structure sooner, and (2) make sure every scene raises the stakes, builds tension, and moves the story forward. #2 would have saved me a lot of re-writing. Oh, and one more thing: PLOT your story. I’m a huge convert now!
~Author, Heather Blanton
If I could turn back time (yeah…Cher’s now stuck in my head), I would tell myself to pay more attention to what I was reading so I could answer the old cliche questions, who, what, when, where, and why?
Who: Who are the characters and why am I finding them so appealing? Then bring those qualities to my own characters.
What: What makes the story so good in my eyes? Is it the setting, the period, the plot, the characters?
When: When am I reading the most? Morning, afternoon, evening, night? If that’s when I’m most drawn to story, maybe that’s when I should be doing my writing.
Where: Where is the story taking place? What geographical area do I read about most, and why? Should I be setting my story in a similar area? Or maybe “where” could be where am I reading? Maybe think about writing in that spot. If that’s where I feel most relaxed and open to imagery and story, that’s where I should probably sit to do my writing.
Why: Why is this book important to me? How can that translate to my own writing?
Hello…it’s me. Just wanted to drop you a note at the beginning of your writing journey. You probably already noticed that I said “journey,” not “career.” I won’t throw zen statements about a journey being one step in front of the other or that it is a long haul. Don’t be so hard on yourself when you fail, because you WILL fail. A lot. You will get unhelpful critiques and never hear back from agents or editors who asked you to submit. Yes, silence is the worst.
Keep going. Even if it’s a blog post or a chapter on a fanfiction story because your heart cannot find your book characters for days (even weeks). Write inspirations, even a sentence or just a word, because your characters WILL come back. Keep learning and step out of your comfort zone for a short story or two because you will surprise yourself.
Above all, be faithful to the vision God has laid on your heart. He has given you a story to tell. Tell it. He has given you desire to write. Write it. These words, they are not yours or mine, they are His.