Until you do.
I’m sitting in a quiet beach house right now as my younger daughter naps. I should be working on my fantasy novel, which calls to me every time I’m away from my laptop, but it’s already been a long (but fun!) day so I’m writing this post instead, because it’s easier on my sun-soaked brain.
Since submitting to PitchWars I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey as a writer. When I walked into my first writing class in April 2016 I had one full rough draft of a novel and had just started writing No Man’s Land. I was a total novice, but I signed up for “Advanced Novel Writing” anyway. It was the only novel class available and I was full of newbie enthusiasm. I didn’t want to wait for a beginner class. Besides, I had written a whole book! (Sort of…) I thought that made me, if not advanced, then at least advanced–adjacent. I was supposed to submit a writing sample ahead of time, and I had it ready to go, but never worked up the courage to send it in. When the first day of class arrived I hugged my laptop to my chest and made myself walk in. (And handed over my writing sample, finally.)
There I was, shaking in my shoes as I passed out my first chapter to a room full of strangers. I half expected them to point at the door with disgust on their faces, and half hoped they would be amazed at my brilliance and talent. LOLOLOL.
You guys. YOU GUYS. I think I used every writing cliche ever. Probably half of my 80,000 words were that, just, and only, Chapter One started with the main character waking up and looking in the mirror, characters were holding their breath without knowing it– all of it! Now, if you’re a writer who’s been doing this for a while, you may be nodding your head and chuckling. If you aren’t, you may be thinking, “Wait, what’s wrong with that stuff?”
Which is my point, actually. I didn’t know what filler words were. I didn’t know anything about point of view except that first was “I” and third was not. I didn’t know about common fiction cliches. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I was completely oblivious to the fact that there was so much I didn’t know!
Luckily for me, the other writers in class were kind and patient, and said things like, “Starting with waking up and looking in the mirror? That’s brave,” instead of “Oh, honey, no.”
They gave insightful, helpful advice, couched in gentle compliment sandwiches (“I love that line! But this part isn’t clear. But nice description!”) and took the time to chat with me outside of class, too.
I was so fortunate to meet experienced writers willing to help a newbie out. Since then I’ve taken three other classes, and had chapters workshopped a dozen times. I’ve had the chance to be the newbie in the room, and I’ve also had the chance to be the more experienced writer. I’ve learned from everyone who has read my work, and from reading theirs as well.
Before PitchWars some of the mentors started a hashtag with bad writing advice and I was CRYING laughing at some of them BECAUSE I DID ALL THE THINGS THEY WERE LAUGHING AT. It was a relief to realize that we all do at some point.
This is why I love the writing community so much.
So keep on going, writing friends. Especially those of you who are just getting started. There’s always something new to learn. And keep those old drafts. They might make you cringe but they also show how far you’ve come.
(Disclaimer- for the record, this post is really, truly, about me, not about anyone else’s writing. Everything I’ve read in CP swaps has been incredible. You all amaze me!)
And as much as I take pride in my current manuscripts, I’m sure I’ll look back years from now and laugh at the mistakes I’m making right now. In fact, I glanced through some old stuff I posted on this blog a few months ago and had to take some of it down because suddenly I could see everything wrong with them.
Anyway, go forth and write, writers. I can’t wait to read your words. 🙂
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