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.
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 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?
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 a
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.
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?