|“Retrato de Mariano Goya” – Francisco de Goya|
Oh, to start writing again.
Such angst! Such vision! Such ambition!
What do you wish you had known when you started? What would you tell your younger writing self?
Mine is pretty simple. When I first started out I was very focused on the end result. I wish I would have known that whatever happens with any particular manuscript: It’s all worth it.
What about you?
Linda Godfrey says
I wish I'd known that I really could write, but that it would take creating a few "drawer" novels before I began to understand the craft of fiction.
I wish I'd known how much I was going to fall in love with it! Then I wouldn't have dabbled so long, and I would have sunk my teeth in a lot sooner!
Who in their right mind goes into the world-creating business? Leave it to the gods.
Stop making people smile so much, and quit with the stage directions.
Oh, and pick a POV for heaven's sake!
Had anyone take twenty minutes of class time in any of the three semester long course I took in creative writing to explain “character driven” versus “content driven” vs. “journalistic style” and other terms that I do not as yet know, and give a list of authors who exemplified those styles. I think I would have found my voice a little faster. On the other hand, there is something to be said for the joy of discovery.
Hollister Ann Grant says
Nathan, what a wonderful topic. I'm reading every response and nodding like a bobblehead doll. I also love the Goya painting at the top of the screen.
I wish I had known:
To stop straining so hard to make perfect sentences and just say it.
That if something bothers me, polishing and polishing isn't going to fix it. If it stinketh, it stinketh and needeth to be trashed.
I wish I discovered sooner that a good writer is not something you *are*, but something you can become after years and years of hard work and deliberate practice.
I also wish I’d been okay with failure sooner and realized how much each (mis)step helps me grow. I love Eric Weiner’s analogy in “The Geography of Bliss.” All of the crap we write is like fertilizer – it is necessary and allows the good stuff to grow.
I wish I had known how many people who can write were going to tell me how to fix my work… Agents, Managers, Producers, Directors, Actors and everyone else who has never written a complete script and never will. Especially agents.
Ellis Shuman says
I wish I had known that every step of the way is worth it and one should not give up. The end result will surprise you and you will thoroughly enjoy the fun along the way. Keep writing!
wry wryter says
I would have said to my younger writing self, and I say to all young writers,
Do not waste that which is given to you in youth TIME.
BLINK and these precious moments are gone.
Gail S. says
I agree with Bill: I wish I'd known to treat a writing career like I would any other start-up company, with the big investment (of time, and money) that it takes to get a business off the ground. That means plugging eight hours a day into it (if not more) for a long, long time.
Roslyn Rice says
I wish I had known not to focus on just writing a book. There are so many other ways to have freedom in your writing-magazines, blogs, devotions, cards, etc.
The true writer is just happy to write in whatever venue is presented to them.
I would tell a younger writer that writing is a journey and a process. You never "arrive". You keep moving along learning as you go.
Terin Tashi Miller says
Wow. Provocative question.
I wish I had known how darn hard it really is to get a book published traditionally, after you've written it, revised it, found a literary agent who loves it, only to find the potential publishers already have a series in that genre, or aren't convinced there's a market for a story set in another country, or only want "best sellers" with other marketing possibilities (toys, movies, etc).
That's why P-O-D self-publishing via Amazon's arm has become a God-send to me.
That said, whenever I get frustrated about it, I remember complaining to my first agent about how much time and energy writing, trying to be published, and trying hard to write literary fiction well without compromising on my sense of it as an art form requiring dilligence and practice and study as well as execution like all the other arts was taking out of my life, and my marriage at the time.
His extremely sharp (he was a "tough love" type of guy) response: "who ever told you this was going to be easy?"
So. He, as almost always, was right. RIP, Ray-buddy. Thanks for your selfless devotion for the first decade of my trying to get published.
from Ira Glass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI23U7U2aUY
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.
But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste…is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you…A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit…
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions."
Lisa Ahn says
I think what you write hear about being too focused on the end result — that's where I am now. I have to get back to writing for the love of it. Thanks.
Dianna Zaragoza said…
I wish I had known that I didn't have to be perfect the first time…that there's lots of opportunity for do-overs. That, in fact, the do-overs (editing) is the part where the story really blossoms.
Couldn't agree more, Dianna. I kept trying to get it DONE… then I realized how much better the story became, how much more insight I gained, as the editing began. That was a golden revelation.
Multi-task over linear progression. When the rough draft of my novel was done I had it edited. I sat around for a week with nothing to do but wait. When it was done and did a second and third edit I just waited. Once that was done, then I looked into book covers. THAT took 4 weeks. Then all the ISBN, Printer, Format etc etc etc.
Now that I know first had what it takes, I would have started the book cover project right off. Split my work into five or ten chapter chunks to be edited while I was still writing. Had all the paper work etc done before hand to sell a book. I could have easily cut out 50% of the time it took from first word typed to holding a finished book in my hand by multi-tasking.
I wish I knew people would like what I write as much as they do. I wouldn't have quit for all those years, and I'd have a book or two out there already. Also, I wish I knew Kindle would come along as a safety net for those who fail with the standard publishing. It wouldn't have seemed like such an all or nothing tribulation.
Rebecca Kiel says
I wish I had known that my neighbor's mother was going to make her return my book for a full refund. In that case, I never would've toiled over producing a copy of my fully illustrated book about my dog. 1982. My driveway. The card table. Passing back two dimes and a nickel. Someone should've warned me!
What would I tell my younger self? Hmmm…
Self, writing is a process. It's not just tossing words on a blank piece of paper and then off to publish. You've been watching too many TV and movie plots that make it sound so glamorous. It's not. It's a job. And it's a process. Do yourself a big favor and learn. Read a whole hell of a lot. Then, write a lot more. And learn the process–writing, rewriting, polishing. And then rejection and trying again and again. And to always keep writing. Never stop writing. You have a beautiful road ahead of you and it's going to be a slog sometimes and a joy most of the time. But respect the process, respect the words, and respect the readers. THEN, you have a really good shot at it all.
I wish I had taken the time in the beginning to do all my research. That way, when it was time to go back and start the endless editing process, I could focus less on looking up all those facts I'd told myself I would "just figure out later."
Granted, I am still in the younger writer version of myself, but I wish I'd known the above while writing the first draft.
I wish I'd known to put the writing books down (I've read them enough) and to strive for honesty. To avoid holding back or trying too hard, because writing shows it.
So I'd say grab a beer, blast your favorite music and write about thing you keep trying to avoid–whatever scares you or makes you nervous– start there.
Pamala Owldreamer says
Nothing! Because if I had known then what I know now about writing novels, I am not sure I would have three finished novels and one partial.I'm not published yet,but I can't and won't stop writing.I may not be the next Nora Roberts,Anne Bishop,etc.But I plan to be the first ME!
Indu Nair says
I wish I had read a great deal more…I read next to nothing except my Engineering books at University, and during a two year long project in my day job. I wish I had realised much earlier that all I wanted to do was to write, and to make more time for it. I wish I had had more writer friends to compare notes on the art and craft of writing.
Those who can, write; those who can't, talk about it.
I wish I'd known writing wasn't what you see in the movies. It isn't easy, glamorous, or instant success. It's work, difficult but beautiful, and it's a job.
More than anything, I wish I'd known that finishing a manuscript has more to do with tenacity and stubborn refusal to quit than it does talent. It would have saved me a lot of heartbreak over the years.