Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part II

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See Part I of this series, here.

6. It’s hard work and fun at the same time.

Whether you’re writing a novel or a haiku, writing can be a challenging pursuit. It involves daily practice and often hours of unflinching focus. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me as I love hanging out in my imagination bubble, but there are days where lifting the pen or punching those keys can be an enormous challenge. Sometimes the muse just won’t cooperate or the day job leaves me so exhausted, the words are hiding beneath layers of stress.

While the work is hard and never truly ends, it is worth every bit of the effort. Every word written brings you that much closer to finished draft. Every word makes you a better writer. And here’s the best part, writers usually love what they do, so that means all of that hard work is actually fun. Even on the days when the words are playing hide and seek. The bigger the challenge, the more delightful the reward.

7. Edit with an open mind.

For some writers, editing is the best part of the process. They can slash and rearrange without any hesitation. At first I struggled with editing because I liked to hang onto every single word. I swear my first novel was akin to a hoarder’s closet – cluttered with stuff that should’ve gone in the trash bin.

The simple fact is you have to be wiling to let things go in order to let things in. Writing is a fluid process with constant changes from start to finish. The more open-minded you are, the more your story finds it’s footing or the more your poem finds it’s rhythm.

Editing is about making a draft as good as it can possibly be. Sometimes that means simply polishing language and sometimes that means rewriting entire sections or reconsidering an entire storyline. Either way, let your muse be as much a part of the process as it was at the very start.

8. Do your homework.

If you’re writing a YA novel, read YA novels. If you’re writing haikus, read haikus. It’s a simple rule and one worth following. Even if you’re looking to reinvent a genre, it helps to know where it began, current trends, and techniques used by other authors. After all, how can you add tracks to a road if you don’t where it’s located?

When I started writing poetry again a few years back (after a loooooong hiatus), I just did my own thing and didn’t really think to read poetry. I like what I wrote just fine, but soon I realized I was missing out on a well of inspiration by failing to explore other poets. After immersing myself in anthologies of multiple poets and exploring poet blogs, I watched my poetry go from mediocre to something better.

The same is true for my novel writing attempts. For the first novel, I read plenty of fiction, but not in the genre for which I was writing. The result was a halfway decent attempt, but nothing too exciting (yet). For my second attempt, I read every YA novel I could get my hands on in order to get a strong sense of how to structure a YA novel and to learn techniques to make writing appealing to young adults. The result is a novel I’m pretty darn proud of.

The big take away here is to let other writers guide you through their work and inspire you to blaze your own trail.

9. Join a writer’s group

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. While most writers are introverts and prefer the solitude, it’s still important to leave that lonely bubble and socialize with other writers. A writer’s group can be a place for inspiration, camaraderie, advice, and networking. Writers’ groups range from groups that just write, critique groups, or groups that work on a single project. There are, of course, many more options and they are all worth considering.

Much like editing, writer’s groups offer that open door that all writers need. Sometimes we get so stuck inside our own little world, we don’t realize how stuffy it gets. Let some fresh air in by letting other writers into your world. They bring fresh perspective and insight. They lift you up when your inner critic is weighing you down. They never let you give up.

10. Trust your muse.

When in doubt, listen to your muse. That gut feeling is usually right and always knows best. No amount of book smarts, advice, or technique can outmatch the creativity that lives inside of a writer. Trust your vision and stay true to what your imagination sees. No matter what.

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Did I miss anything? What do you wish you had known before you started writing?

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c.b.w. 2015

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10 thoughts on “Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part II

  1. 8. I hear you. But what you don’t need to do is write like everybody else. There’s a contrary rule that says if you don’t read haiku or YA novels you’ll create something that is totally fresh.

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    • Agreed, but I think it’s important to know where the baseline is and have appreciation for what others have done. I know by reading other writers, I get a sense for what the so-called rules are so I can figure out how to bend them.

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      • I hear you, and I follow.

        When I wrote ‘The Everywhen Angels’ I had read a couple of Harry Potter books, because that was the basis of the challenge my friends set me. Before that, when I was much younger, I had read a lot of Alan Garner. However, I did no further genre research, I simply wrote it, and the result was critically well-received. In the case of ‘From My Cold, Undead Hand’, I read no teen-vampire novels at all; all I had to go on was the misty notion that ‘Twilight’ was a romance, and I wasn’t going down that route. A good result can be achieved without genre research.

        The important part of ‘homework’, however, is factual research rather than genre research. I did research the language my modern characters used in ‘The Everywhen Angels’ and had a couple of teenage beta-readers. Plus I researched some areas of the British school system etc. etc. I have been discussing this with Samuel Snoek-Brown, an American writer for whom I have a great deal of respect. His excellent critique of ‘Texas Rising’ is here: http://snoekbrown.com/2015/05/28/texas-rising-and-quickly-falling/ and it says a lot about historical accuracy in screen drama, its importance, and (of course) its applicability to fiction writing.

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  2. Such wise words about the process. As with anything it’s a learned skill (and also talent) honed by reflection and practice. Family history writing inevitably includes core facts but still requires you to “speak” to your audience if they’re going to engage.

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  3. One thing I’ve never even attempted is a writer’s group. Sure, I have a few supportive friends (a couple of whom like to write as well), but as an introvert, the thought of venturing out like that makes me uncomfortable. Do you go to one that meets face to face or an online one?

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    • I’m the poster child for introverts, so joining a group was not easy. But, I found small one that is very accepting of the fact that I like to sit a little off to the side and just listen and write. Sometimes I’ll share, but its okay if I don’t. The purpose of the group is to inspire writers, not critique. We simply write every week and discuss issues that are relevant to us as writers. I find it very comforting and uplifting to be among them every week.

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