What I've Learned from Six Years of Writing

6:00 AM

Look at me. *spreads arms* I'm such a seasoned person now! I've been blogging for a year and writing novels for six! That must mean I know alllll the things!

*cricks chirp*

...right?

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. But you do learn a lot from six years of writing, and today I'm going to share six of them.


(I did this last year, with What I've Learned from Five Years of Writing and thought I'd keep up the tradition.)

*WARNING: you will get some sentimental photos in this post. Brace yourself XP

And this first point will go to the "unfortunately" in my "that's not how it works".


1. Growth is a beautiful thing.

Think about how boring it would be if when people started writing, they were all complete bosses at it.

Just think about it. It's one of those things that you kind of roll your eyes at and say, "I know, I know, it wouldn't be so great." But really think about it.

Everyone has to start somewhere. And when you start a brand new thing, it only makes sense to start at rock bottom. And then you work and grow into a beautiful seasoned writer.

And you keep working, and keep growing.

And I think that's one of the most beautiful parts of writing.

We've moved past binders, but here's a photo of my cousin and me when we were eleven, holding our books.

*happy sigh* we were so little.


2. It's okay if you don't write like a machine. 

Meaning, it's okay if you don't rip out 5k words every day and get your 90k word drafts finished in a month, and get that thing whipped into pristine shape in three months and off to beta readers right after, and have it all polished and ready for publication before the year is up.

That's ... unrealistic. Maybe not for some people *pokes those select few and checks pulses for proof of humanity* but for the general public, writing just doesn't happen that quickly. It takes time.

And that's okay.

Maybe someday when you're published and writing is how you make your living, you'll be able to write that fast. You'll be able to write and publish a book every year.

But you will be able to write that fast because it will be your job. You won't have school or other work. You will have loads more time to dedicate to writing.

But right now, if you're not writing for a living ... you've got either school or work. And that takes time. I've been writing for six years now, and I've written ... five complete first drafts. (one of them co-written)

And ... I haven't gotten any one of those into reading shape.

Which leads to number three.


3. Pinpoint the (sometimes) subconscious, unrealistic expectations you have for yourself, and your writing, and DESTROY THEM. 

It's unfair to try to make yourself accomplish as much as a published, writing-for-a-living author. Both to you, and to them. This is what they do for a living. Of course they're going to write more than you!

It took a lot of work and discipline in order for them to get where they are today. Why should you be an exception to that?

Sometimes we have these expectations lurking in the back of our minds. And it makes us insecure in our writing because we're "failing" in all these areas that we feel we should be excelling in. And if you feel bad/insecure about your writing, sit back and try to figure out why you feel that way. Are you wasting time you could be using writing by playing on your phone? Okay, maybe you could work on that one. Are you berating yourself for not having the book you started a year ago off to beta readers? Give yourself a break. Think about why you feel that way. If you're doing your best with the time you have, THAT IS ALL YOU CAN DO. Don't beat yourself up if you're not meeting expectations that you cannot reach.

Figure out what you can do with the time you have, and make the most of it. You'll have a lot more peace in your writing.


4. Themes are actually ... okay? 

You might be squinting right now thinking, "...yeah? Is this supposed to surprise me?"

I don't know how I got this mindset. Back in the early days, I guess I read too many blog posts warning authors not to "preach" when they try to get their theme across. And that just drummed into my mind, "DON'T THINK OF ANY THEMES. DON'T ADD THEM IN. YOU DON'T WANT TO SCARE ANYONE AWAY." And it bothered me for an embarrassingly long time.

But now that I've been reading blogs and craft books for a while, I realize that was a really silly mindset for me to have taken on. Themes are not a bad thing. They are what make your story special. They are what give your book true meaning.

They are what impact readers.

And yes, you don't want to preach. I still try to avoid putting names to my themes, but there are some that I'm aware of and look for ways to incorperate. Like loneliness and sibling-friendships and self worth.

Themes are beautiful. So embrace them, and don't be ashamed of them!

(sentimental photo of me flipping through my first book,
back in the old days)

5. You don't have to let everyone who asks read your work.

STORY TIME!

Okay, so when I was ... thirteen? I think I was thirteen ... Anyway, when I was thirteen, my mom asked me to read my book aloud during our read aloud time.

*cue gasps of horror*

I know, I know. Every writer's worst night mare, right? At least it was for me.

I freaked. out.

I printed out my prologue and first chapter and smoothed it out and took deep breaths, but when I sat in there to read, with everyone waiting and listening ...

I could not utter a single word.

I just burst into tears.

That created a looooot of problems for me in the future which I will not go into right now, but the point I want to make is it is okay to say no to people. Even people who are close to you. People whose opinions you value.

You know when your story is ready to be read. Don't push yourself past that. Just explain to the person in question that it's just a first draft and not ready to be read/going through lots of edits at the moment and you're not comfortable handing it out to anyone yet/etc. There will come a time to share, and you will have to grit your teeth and push yourself to hand those chapters over.

But let yourself have time to give something you're proud of. Something that you've worked hard on. In that way, if they're critiquing it, you'll get feedback you need, too. It won't be stuff you're already aware of but have yet to fix.

I might be smiling here, but should anyone
try to read my work I would shriek and hiss.

Which leads to point six.


6. You will have to share your writing eventually. 

This past year, when I won a contest and got to send the first three chapters of my manuscript to HarperCollins for a critique, I spent a whole month doing almost nothing but editing, desperately trying to whip my chapters into shape to meet that creeping deadline (there's a reason 'deadline' begins with 'dead'). And once I sent those chapters to the editor, my family attacked in full force.

"This means we get to read it now, right?"

"If you can send it to a professional editor up in New York, you can give it to us."

I pretty much had no choice but to hand it over. But at that point, it wasn't that hard to let it go. I had that whole month to mentally prepare myself (I figured my family would finally make me hand over my work) and I had worked really hard on editing these chapters.

In short, I had something I was proud of.

I'm not saying those chapters were perfect. And the feedback from the editor gave me a lot to think about, and a lot of stuff to work on.

But those chapters were some of the best writing of which I was capable at that time. If I look back at them now, I can probably make changes and make it better. But it's been several months. Of course I can make it better.

I've grown since then.

My advice would be to write something you can polish and be proud of. It'll be hard to let go of it, and scary. But it has to happen eventually.

Plus, your family will stop bugging you (save to ask for more).


I hope this post encouraged/enlightened you! I've learned loads more than this, of course, but that's what Stan is for, is it not?


What have you learned from writing? 

<3 

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32 comments

  1. What?! You've been writing for six years? Wow, I don't think I knew that. :P

    This was so encouraging. I great to get reminders like this. Thanks for sharing, Hannah! :D

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    1. Yassss. It feels like longer, honestly XP Thanks for reading! <3

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  2. Wow this is so great!! <3 I loved reading through this!

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  3. Wow, you've been writing for a looong time. o.o And those pictures of you when you were younger are so cute!

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    1. Eeee thank you! <3 They give me all the nostalgia *dreamy sigh*

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  4. Whoa! Congrats on writing for that many years (so far)! :D

    These lessons are beautiful! I definitely needed to hear some of them, so thank you for sharing.

    <3

    audrey caylin

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  5. Amazing that you've been writing for six years! I've been writing for only... One and a half, actually. These lessons are really helpful and something I need to hear! =)

    Micaiah
    www.notebooksandnovels.com

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    1. You've only been writing for a year and a half and you already have a blog? DUDE. You are rocking it! *high fives*

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  6. duuudde. six years of writing - that's epic!! I've prob been writing for...thinks* about three years seriously, anyways. I "dabbled" before that lol. but srsly, congrats.

    ughhhh yes. believe me it was so hard - I had to hand my unedited novel (I printed it in book form) over to my sister. she left a lot of good and bad notes but overall it was a good experience bc obv siblings can critique all they want lol XD

    awesome post and goodness you are so adorable <33

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    1. Naw, three years is definitely dab worthy :D That's amazing. And AHH SO BRAVE OF YOU O.O I still haven't handed my whole book over to anyone but my cousin yet, and that's only cause she's seen it all. I AM SO IMPRESSED.

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  7. Awesome advice as always and you look so adorable in your photos! <3

    I need to keep it all in mind. Bless!

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  8. Yesss, all of this is such amazing advice! And I agree!! I actually totally fell apart with my writing when I turned 20 because I felt I "failed" because I didn't get published as a teen. Like what. No one's journey is the same!! I think we writers are very good at putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and we need to learn to just take our own paths. :')

    OMG THOUGH I MAYBE WRITE A LOT AND VERY FAST. XD πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ But everyone is different!!

    And I loved all the super cute photos of smol you with your first book. <3 That's the bessst! Also my mum wanted to read aloud my first book too and I think I had a similar near-death experience. She only read one of my books for the first time in like 7 years recently.πŸ˜‚ It was TERRIFYING but also a huge release because once parentals know how serious you are, it's easier for them to fully support, I think!! (Not that they didn't support me before that. They did!! they just were really anxious to know what I was working on haha.πŸ˜‚)

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    1. Eeeeeeehehe I suppose you do fit that criteria XP *pokes* But you are a Dragon Queen, so you're an exception. And I totally get the parental support thing. *nods* They were kind of afraid to ask about my writing after my little freak out, but once I let them read the first three chapters of my WIP, that opened a lot of doors.

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  9. Congrats on writing for so long! As always, your words are so wise, and I loved seeing all those sentimental photos! <3 I hope you continue to grow and flourish in your writing! :D

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  10. This is such a fabulous post and wow, six years! I love all the sentimental photos you included and oh my goodness: handwritten novels in binders. I can't believe how thick that story is that 11-12-13 year old you is holding! My first book when I was eleven didn't get past like ten pages for a good what, three years? XD
    jeniquablog.wordpress.com

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    1. Eeeehehe I was a very dedicated child XP And very proud of my assortment of notebook pages making a messy binder full of words! We all have our own starts and our own processes. And we're both here today, so I guess that means we're on the right track! <3

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  11. This was awesome! I feel you about people reading my stuff, but once I finish a chapter I bribe/force my sister to read it. I just can't stand reading over my shoulder as I'm writing.

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    1. Eeeee SAME. Like, no?? Don't read over my shoulder??? That's great that you have your sister to give it to though! :D

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  12. James Oliver2/26/17, 8:14 AM

    Good inspirational post, I love the pictures, you were such a tiny human with such a big binder! AND SIX YEARS IS A LOT MAN:)

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    1. EEEE IKR. Those binders were packed XP

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  13. AHHH HANNAH I AM SO PROUD OF YOU MY FREN. (look at tiny little hannah. so cute oh my goodness. XD)

    Your dedication and motivation and words are so, so inspiring. Thank you for being so amazing. <3

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    1. Eeeee <3 Thank youuu for being such a lovely fren <3 You give me allll da warm fuzzies *beams and ugs*

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  14. Awesome encouragements, Hannah! You've definitely learned some valuable things in six years of writing and it shows. I look forward to the things you will add to this list next year! :D

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    1. Thank you so much! I act like I know more than I do XP but six years does teach you a lot, and I hope to keep sharing with people things I've discovered. :D

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  15. I love this <3 I think it's really important to stop and think about all the ways you've grown and the things you've learned, and don't forget all the things you're going to learn as you go! <3

    (To the Barricade!)

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    1. Yes yes yes! :D It's amazing how you can have grown and learned so much, yet still have so far to go and so much more to discover. Life is amazing.

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  16. PREACH IT GIRL!! THIS POST IS BEAUTIFUL AND SOOO TRUE. Sharing writing is definitely the most terrifying thing omg. I just had my first finished novel printed in book version for my parents to beta read and ASDFGHJKL THE STRESS IS REAL. I think I've probably had more than one of those freeze-up moments when asked to read my work aloud. :') But you're right on! Writers need to listen to their guts and not share until they feel ready. It's so important to feel confident in your writing.

    I also love what you said about not writing quickly! I'M THE SLOWEST WRITER I KNOW and sometimes that's a bit discouraging. Because I wish I could crank out books like my frens do...but because of my lifestyle and work, that just doesn't happen. SO YES THIS POST HELPED ME TO SEE WHAT REALLY MATTERS. Quality over quantity. Always. <3

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!

    lotsalove,
    abbiee

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    1. Yessss yes. Quality over quantity *nods* That's definitely the most important thing! Not that people can't have both, but if you are to prioritize, quality is the way to go :)

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