What I've Learned from Five Years of Writing

12:12 PM

(I know this is early, but I will not be home on Friday, or Saturday, so a Thursday post will have to do. Get over it.)

Wow. Five years? Yeesh. It feels like yesterday. I still remember it crystal clear, too. I was sweeping the floor and going on a rant to my big sister about how I wished J. K. Rowling would write a book about blah blah blah, and I'm not sure how long I'd been talking and I'm pretty sure my sister spoke more in an effort to get me to shut up rather than to jump start a journey that would change my life (I don't think she even remembers this conversation. I sure do).

She turned to me, rolling her eyes and saying, "Why don't you just write the book?"

Me? Write ... a book? 

Honestly, the thought had never occurred to me before. Somehow, my little eleven year old brain hadn't grasped the concept that authors are humans, just like me, and that if I put my mind to it, I could write a book just like them.

So I ran to get my math book and tore out one of the empty sheets and got to work writing. (Things weren't really quite that simple, but I will have to post about this later. I'll just say for now that I wouldn't have gotten past page three if not for my wonderful cousin.)

I finished the book I started that day (well, I didn’t finish it. I finished two and 2/3 drafts of it, but it is by no means ‘finished’) as well as the sequel to it, a massive beast I wrote with my cousin, and the first draft of another book, which I am editing right now. All in all, I have written (the first drafts of) four different books.

In the course of writing these books, I've learned a lot. I've probably learned a lot more than I can sum up here, so I will boil it down to a few principles for you to ponder.

So here you go (I have a pretty picture from Pinterest and everything, look at that). Here are some things I have learned from writing. 

#1: You have to write.

*gasp* Really, Hannah? 


You can read a billion blog posts. You can go and make yourself bankrupt buying craft books. But there are so many things that you cannot learn by reading. Those things you must learn by writing.

When I first started writing, everything was terrible. 

(I'm not being modest. It really was terrible.) 

But it was necessary. I had to write a couple of really bad books in order to figure how to do things. In order to figure out how I worked, how I wrote, what my style was. 

My voice. I had to find my voice.

Have you ever seen a blog post titled along the lines of, “Want to write? Here are seven easy steps that will help you become a writer! Yay!”

NOOOOOOOO. Please no. Don’t fall for that. If you put the pen to a paper, you are a writer. Simple as that. (Well, you could also type, or put a pencil to paper, but you get the point.) No one can tell you how to be a writer. They can tell you how to become a better writer. But if you put words on a page, you are a writer.

Don’t be afraid to start writing. There’s nothing you have to learn beforehand, no ‘secret’ to becoming a writer. You just have to write.

#2: There are more reasons for writing a book than getting it published.

Did you get that? Read it again. Think about it.

This was a really hard lesson for me. One I didn't learn until four or five months ago.

You know that book I started at age eleven? Well. I worked on it for four years.

That's right. 

Four. Stinkin'. Years.

I poured every ounce of my creativity into that book series. I had nine books planned. I'd written the first two by hand, and typed them up on the computer. I'd already gotten through a good chunk of book three.

But ...

Four or five months ago, I hit a rut. I had known deep down for a while that something was wrong. I texted my cousin about it, and she told me this. (Yes, I know cousin dear. It’s only my second post and I’m already quoting you.)

“It depends on whether you think publishing is the ultimate goal a book or series can accomplish.”

Wow. I was so focused on the thought of publishing my books. I forgot why I was writing them in the first place.

I didn’t write them for the world. I wrote them for me. I wrote them to discover what my style was. I wrote them to find my voice. 

And they just weren't meant to be shared. 

Maybe someday, after I’ve published a few books, I might pull it out again and try to make it into something fresh and new, but for now, I needed to put it up. So I did.

#3: It is okay if you do not have a theme.

When I first started writing, I wrote for the story. For the exciting plot. For the action, the adventure. And then people were blogging about why they wrote. Most of them said something along the lines of, “I write because I have something to say and I want to share it.”

I kind of scratched my head at that. What does that mean, anyway? Elven/twelve year old me was a little confused. I just wanted to write a good story. I didn’t really have much to tell the world by way of theme.

Lately, I’ve started to understand exactly what theme is. I realized my first books did have theme.  All stories have themes. So I guess a better way to put this point would be, “It is okay if you do not know your theme.”

In fact, that’s probably a good thing. It means the story is speaking for itself. It means you’re not forcing your ideas and beliefs upon anyone. You’re just letting your story speak for itself.

So don’t stress. If you don’t know what your theme is, that is perfectly okay.

#4: Make writer friends.

This is one of the most important points. I probably would not still be writing if I hadn’t got my cousin to do it to, and I doubt I would have finished that first book if I hadn’t had her to mail all the chapters to. 

Writer friends are priceless. They understand like no one else does, and they can help you in ways that no one else can. GTW Facebook group (and even the actual blog) are great ways to make writer friends. GTW people are AMAZINGGGGGG. Just saying. *hugs alllllll the people* 

This is getting long so I’ll just give you one more point and be done. ;) 

#5: Find your forte and relish it.

This might seem like a weird point, but it is just so true. Find you favorite part of writing. Your strongest part. Find it, and enjoy it. Go all out. When you’ve got writers block, turn to that so that you don’t have to actually write, but can still be working on your WIP.

I love world building. Like, I really /love/ world building. A lot. I make maps and create cultures and write histories and legends and build governments and figure out politics and allllll that fun stuff. It is my absolute favorite part of writing. (I’m going to do a series of posts soon on world building, just so you know.)

When I don’t want to write, I’ll allow myself to go and add to my map. Or to flesh out the culture of a neighboring kingdom. Or something fun, before I make myself buckle down and write. 

Do you love characters? Write interviews. Do you love plot? Brainstorm a new twist, even if you might never use it. Find what you love most about writing, and have extra fun with it!

Well, this is long. Sorry not sorry. Congrats if you’ve read all the way through! I could keep going on, but this is kind of the point of the blog. To share what I know with you lovely people. So I will go on. In time. 

*NOTE: Stan dearest has been tagged in several bloggerly blogger thingy things, so we will post responses to those on Wednesday! 

How long have you been writing? What have you learned? Share in the comments!

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  1. Hello! Good first post! I have been writing just as long as you have, *wink wink* and I agree with your points. CONGRATS ON UR BLOG!

  2. Love this, Hannah! Number one and number two really spoke to my heart. I've been struggling with both of those lately. So enjoying Stan! ;)

  3. *hugs* Yessss. So many people struggle with writing to get published and yeah, that would be awesome, but it's not the most important goal in my opinion. I've had kind of a similar writing journey, too :D

    1. Yesssss. If you write to get published ... You likely a) won't have much fun writing, and b) will probably ... Not ... Get published. And you'll just be overall sad and miserable. *hugs you back* *whispers* now go edit Pariah because PARIAHHHHH

  4. :D Good points all. It can be so hard to lose sight of why I started writing in the first place. Even now that I've been writing for going on twelve years, I still lose sight from time to time, and it's great to be reminded. It can definitely be tricky to find the theme of your story--for one of the stories I've been working on for years and years, it took me the longest time ever to figure out the themes. :P

    Thanks for sharing your writing wisdom! :)

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, little writer me was so worried for quite a while about theme. *shakes head*

  5. *ALL THE HUGS BAAAAACK* <3 WRITER FRIENDS ARE THE BEST. And omg, we are quite alike. I've learned a lot of these lessons too, and some are good reminders right now. :) Thanks Stan and Hannah. ;)

    1. *hugs and nods* writer friends are so wonderful. They make a HUGE difference. I would probably not be writing if not for all of them! Thank you for reading! :)

  6. Great post, you are absolutely right on all accounts. There is nothing else you have to do to be a writer, except write.


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