What I Wish I Knew About Writing When I Started
5 Lessons I've Learned
I’ve been writing a novel for over a year now. I know, I know. That’s way too slow. In my defense, it’s my first novel. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot on the way. I went from floundering to having a clear path to the finish line in less than a month and I’m a week away from finishing my first draft. Here’s a few things I wish I’d known when I began writing.
#1 I’m Not Writing For Me
I read this all the time from full time authors and writers. They don’t write for themselves. I thought this was all a bunch of BS when I started. I wrote for me and me alone. And that was a huge mistake. If I’m only writing for me, then I’m the only one who will read my work. I might as well put my novel and this blog into a leather-bound journal and be done with it. But that’s not what I want. I want to write things that people like to read. So I write for myself but I write for you.
#2 Having A Plan Is Important
When I began writing my novel, and writing this blog, I had just read a book by Stephen King titled On Writing. Stephen King likes to write by the seat of his pants. Pantser is what that’s called. He doesn’t have an outline or a plan, he just comes up with interesting characters, puts them in interesting situations, and writes down what happens. I’m a pantser to an extent. I wrote most of my first draft of my novel that way, nearly 70,000 words. But at some point I realized that I was getting nowhere and I was going to continue getting nowhere until I came up with an outline, dropped some of the extraneous prose, and pointed this ship in a definite direction. The problem was, I knew what I wanted to say and I knew where I wanted to go, I just had no idea how I was going to get there. And, much like someone adrift at sea, I went wherever the currents of my mind took me. I was getting nowhere fast.
#3 Begin With An Idea Of Where You’re Going, But Allow Wiggle Room
When I began my novel, I had a pretty well thought out plot. I knew what my story was about, I knew where it was going. I had a good idea of what I was writing stuck in my mind when I started. And the current version of my novel is almost completely different than when I began. Some of the characters are the same. The very very basic idea of the plot is kinda the same. But it’s almost completely unrecognizable as the book I started writing. As I went through and began writing my ideas, new ideas occurred to me. New twists and turns. Completely new roads presented themselves to me. This book, in its current form, wanted to be written this way just as much as I wanted to write it the other way. In the end, it won. And I’m glad. I’m not one for all the spiritual stuff, but I do believe that things want to be created as much as we as artists want to create them. I began with a basic idea and that idea has morphed into what I have now. And what I have now is a book that’s almost ready to be polished and published.
#4 I Thought I Had A Lot To Say
When I began this blog, I thought I could write a post every single day and keep pumping out content on a daily basis forever. I have so many ideas every day that I just knew I would be able to go on and on about whatever topics I chose to write about. Then I started a blog and started putting myself and my ideas out there. All those ideas that were floating around my head, disappeared. There was nothing but crickets in my mind. I made it one week before I crumbled and decided I just couldn’t put that much content out and still put quality content out. I realized that I had a lot to say but I didn’t have as much to say that was as worthwhile as I thought. I don’t want to just put out a bunch of junk. I’d rather scale back, put a little more thought into it, and put out two or three meaningful, helpful articles each week. Because I did have a lot to say. Just not a lot that was valuable.
#5 Above All, Add Value
This one is very simple. If you write what you think is the world’s best piece of prose that has ever been written. A piece of prose that would bring peace on earth, stop world hunger, end poverty, and unite the entire world. It doesn’t mean anything unless someone else finds value in it. I, and I’m sure most writers feel this way, feel that almost everything I write is the best thing that’s ever been put into print. But it’s only good if someone else wants to read it and enjoys reading it. That’s the only way I’ll be able to take my writing hobby and turn it into a writing life that’ll pay my bills. One day I’d love to be able to replace my day job with writing. But to do that, I have to bring value to a lot of people through my words.
In closing, I’d like to point out that there are probably numerous other lessons that I’ve overlooked or that I don’t even know that I’ve learned yet. And there are still lessons without number that I haven’t even begun to learn. I’m not a professional. I’m not the best. I’m learning as I go. I’m expanding my skills. The way I’m doing that is by writing and writing and writing some more. I’m writing until I’m sick of it and then doing it over and over again. And I love every second of it.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to email me at [email protected] to say hello, tell me I’m full of it, or whatever else comes to mind. I’d like to hear from you.